Schools Say No to Sugar Foods

By Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.

To boost student performance, some schools have declared themselves “sugar-free” — meaning they don’t allow sugar-laden foods, such as cookies, candies, birthday treats or sweet drinks. Some of these schools report not only improved school performance but also a decrease in disciplinary actions. The evidence supporting these results is mixed, but who can argue with reducing the sugar in kids’ diets?

Well, some parents dislike being told what they can and can’t pack in their children’s lunchboxes. And I’ll admit that I have some mixed feelings on the issue too.

Childhood obesity is an enormous problem, but diet is only part of the solution. We need to teach kids and families how to make healthy lifestyle choices about diet — and about physical activity. Children need to understand how daily physical activity fits into a healthy lifestyle, but unfortunately recess and physical education classes are being squeezed out of many schools.

Meals offered at school (or brought from home) need to be healthy and well balanced. But I don’t see the harm in allowing cupcakes on someone’s birthday as part of the celebration. Kids need to know that all foods can fit into a healthy diet when moderation is practiced. They need practice making healthy choices.

Funding for schools is limited, which further complicates the issue. Some schools feel forced into contracts with commercial food and vending companies to reduce costs or bring money into the schools. Constant access to such foods and beverages can promote unhealthy choices.

Parents, teachers and school administrators: Where do you stand on this issue? Do you have firsthand experience with sugar-free schools? What results have you seen? What do your children think? How do we get around the funding obstacles?



By Norma DeVault, PhD, MBA, RD, LD

As a parent, you may be bombarded with confusing information about what and how much kids should eat. Your infant, toddler or teen is in a constant state of growth. His diet must provide enough calories and nutrients to support normal growth and development. Building bones to last a lifetime and steadily increasing blood volume and muscle mass takes energy and specific nutrients.


What your child eats affects his physical growth. An infant’s birth weight typically triples in the first year. Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 years gain about 1/2 lb. and 0.4 inches in height per month, and preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5 years gain about 4.4 lb. and 2.75 inches per year. During the school years, your child will likely gain about 7 lb. and grow 2.5 inches in height, according to Judith Brown in “Nutrition Through the Life Cycle.” Doctors and dietitians use growth charts as one source of information in evaluating your child’s nutritional status and overall health.


Cognitive development increases dramatically in the toddler years with advances in gross and fine motor skills that enable walking, jumping, exploring and practicing new self-feeding skills. Children need a variety of foods that provide energy, protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals for optimal growth and development and the ability to learn. Skipping a meal, especially breakfast, can negatively affect math scores, tardiness, absenteeism and hyperactivity, according to Eleanor Noss Whitney, Ph.D., and Sharon Rady Rolfes in “Understanding Nutrition.”


Everyone needs carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, but specific needs and amounts vary by age, according to Infants get nearly everything they need for health in their first six months from breast milk or formula with a later addition of iron-fortified cereal, strained fruits and vegetables and pureed meat. Toddlers and preschoolers especially need calcium and fiber.

Elementary school children often begin choosing their own lunch from the cafeteria. Sugars, fat and sodium need to be limited. Calcium becomes most important for adolescents who are building their peak bone mass during the teen years. They need extra energy at this time, but often get it in the form of sweetened beverages that tend to displace calcium-containing, more nutritious foods and drinks in their diet, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity has increased dramatically in the past few decades.

Disease Risk

The eating habits and activity patterns that your child establishes early on may affect her risk of developing chronic disease later in life. The atherosclerosis that leads to heart disease begins in childhood and adolescence with fatty streak formation in the arteries and progresses to fibrous plaques that begin to clog the arteries in adulthood. Some health risk factors such as a diet high in total fat, saturated fat, obesity, high blood pressure and sedentary lifestyle may begin in childhood.


Encourage and support your child’s good nutrition decisions, especially eating a variety of healthy foods and controlling portion sizes. It is well worth the time and effort and need not be a frustrating, continual battle. Learn about essential nutrients and monitor your child’s growth. You can compare her growth pattern with that of other children of her age and gender by plotting her height and weight on growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“Eat your breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day!” Why are parents always saying that?

Well, imagine you’re a car. After a long night of sleeping, your fuel tank is empty. Breakfast is the fuel that gets you going so you can hit the road.

What Should You Eat?

Any breakfast is better than no breakfast, but try not to have doughnuts or pastries all the time. They’re high in calories, sugar, and fat. They also don’t contain the nutrients a kid really needs. And if you have a doughnut for breakfast, you won’t feel full for long.

Just like with other meals, try to eat a variety of foods, including:

  • * fruit
  • * vegetables
  • * grains ( make at least half your grains whole grains)
  • * protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dry beans, nuts, and seeds)
  • * dairy products ( lowfat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt)

Breakfast Ideas

First, the traditional ones:

  • * eggs
  • * French toast, waffles, or pancakes (try wheat or whole-grain varieties)
  • * cold cereal and milk
  • * hot cereal, such as oatmeal or cream of wheat (try some dried fruit or nuts on top)
  • * whole-grain toast, bagel, or English muffin with cheese
  • * yogurt with fruit or nuts
  • * fruit smoothie, such as a strawberry smoothie

And now some weird (but yummy) ones:

  • * banana dog (peanut butter, a banana, and raisins in a long whole-grain bun)
  • * breakfast taco (shredded cheese on a tortilla, folded in half and microwaved; top with salsa)
  • .country cottage cheese (apple butter mixed with cottage cheese)
  • * fruit and cream cheese sandwich (use strawberries or other fresh fruit)
  • * sandwich — grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or another favorite
  • * leftovers (they’re not just for dinner anymore!)

Skipping Breakfast

Some kids skip breakfast because they sleep too late or because they think it’s a way to stay thin. But skipping breakfast doesn’t help people maintain a healthy weight. In fact, someone who skips breakfast tends to eat more calories throughout the day.

If you find yourself skipping breakfast because you’re too rushed, try these quick breakfasts. They’re easy to grab on the way out the door or can be prepared the night before:

  • * single servings of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal
  • * yogurt
  • * fresh fruit
  • * whole-grain muffin
  • * trail mix of nuts, dried fruits, pretzels, crackers, and dry cereal

Need More Convincing?

Just in case you need more evidence that eating breakfast is the way to go, kids who don’t eat breakfast are less able to learn at school, get less iron (an important nutrient) in their diets, and are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI), which is a sign they may be overweight.

On the other hand, kids who eat breakfast do better in school, are more likely to participate in physical activities, and tend to eat healthier overall. So tomorrow morning, don’t run out the door on an empty stomach. Fuel up with a healthy breakfast!

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD



Avoiding foods with gluten and sugar is essential if you have a wheat intolerance or a hypoglycemic condition. But people who are sensitive to gluten and sugar, such as those with celiac disease or diabetes, are not the only ones who can benefit from a diet that eliminates these elements. Health and vigor is important for everyone and most people will benefit from staying away from foods loaded with gluten products and sugars. A strong immune system is one that does not have to struggle with foods that ask our digestive systems to work overtime, which sugar, for example, can do.


Vegetables are naturally free of gluten and processed sugar, as corroborated by the both the Vegetarian Society and the Celiac Society. Cooking them can often compromise their purity. Frying veggies in flour that contains gluten or adding sauces that contain wheat or barley as a filler or thickener should be avoided. Steam, sauté or lightly boil vegetables, and if you want to get the very most out of them, eat them raw. Some excellent examples of healthy veggies are artichokes, arugula, avocado, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, beans, cucumber, lettuce, mushrooms, sweet potato, squash, and spinach.


Natural uncooked fruits are gluten and processed sugar-free. Choices such as acai, apples, bananas, cantaloupe, cherries, figs, dates, apricots, grapes, lemons, lime, oranges, mangoes, papaya, peaches, pears, watermelon are packed with essential vitamins. Dried fruits are also good choices and add extra energy when nibbled on as snacks.

Grains and Flour

According to, anything made from wheat, barley, rye is off limits if you are gluten sensitive. Natural oats are fine as is almond flour, amaranth, arrowroot, besan, bean flour, brown rice, buckwheat, cassava, corn meal- flour – starch, cottonseed, flaxseed, manioc, millet, polenta, potato flour, quinoa, rice and rice flour, soy flour, tapioca, taro, tef, and yucca.

Dairy and Eggs

Dairy is naturally gluten-free. Butter, cheese (except for blue cheese), milk, plain yoghurt are fine. Eggs are also free of gluten and sugar.

Poultry and Meat

As long as you do not fry or bread poultry or meat using flour that contains gluten, you can eat these foods easily. Make sure when you are preparing them, however, that you do not use a surface that has been exposed to gluten products. Grilling, broiling, roasting, and stir frying are the best ways to prepare poultry and meats.

Other Foods Ideal for Gluten and Sugar Free Diets

Nuts and seeds, soy products such as tofu, vinegar, herbs, and spices are all gluten and sugar free. Pure water is ideal as a beverage, as is unsweetened teas and coffees along with natural fruit and vegetable juices. If you need to use a sweetener, use Stevia, which is a plant that tastes exceptionally sweet and is completely alkaline, rather than acidic as is sugar. All legumes are excellent choices, such as pinto beans, split peas, lentils, black eyed peas kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, and white beans. Oils such as olive, canola, and grape seed are also free of gluten and sugar.

Prepared Foods

Many food companies are becoming aware of the need to produce gluten and sugar free products. Here is a partial list of some that cater to customers with gluten and sugar intolerances:

• 1-2-3 Gluten-Free
• Authentic Food
• Barkat
• Cause You’re Special
• Chebe
• Cravings Place
• Deboles
• Don Pancho
• Dr. Schar
• Ener-G
• Glutano
• Gluten-Free Pantry
• La Tortilla Factory
• Pamela’s
• Perky’s Natural Foods
• Rustic Crust
• Yummy Earth

A Word to the Wise

Before you buy anything, make sure to check all labels. Never take any packaged food for granted, even those that you find in health food stores or in special sections in your local grocery.

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