The #ThanksMichelleObama campaign by teens on social media is quite revealing as to the state of health and nutrition in this country, but in ways that may not be quite so obvious at first glance.
|If you puke, save it, |
someone else will have it
Click here for a sampling from BuzzFeed.
Should these hot messes really be blamed on Michelle Obama though? Now granted, it was her initiatives for policy change and regulations on school lunches that cut down your portion of processed meat-paste nuggets from six to three, but we have to take a step back for a moment and take a look at the bigger picture here in what she was hoping to achieve.
The USDA guidelines, implemented over the last few years, include limits on calories, fat, sugar, and sodium for all food and drinks sold during the school day for 100,000 schools across the country.
That doesn't sound like a bad idea at all actually. The obesity epidemic is now costing the world over $2 trillion annually, not to mention other health concerns from poor nutrition and eating habits, or the countless lives that are being lost. So how do we make sure that students (and people in general even) are eating better to cut down their risk of obesity and illness? Cutting out the "bad" stuff sounds like a good start. Of course there is even debate as to what is actually bad for you. Some say there is really nothing wrong with salt, sugar and fats, but we can save that debate for later.
|Where's the beef?|
When you look at these trays, it seems pretty clear that these students have been put on what is basically a starvation diet. While a mystery meat nugget on a bun and some applesauce might meet daily guidelines for fat, calorie and salt intake, while providing a balance of meat, grain and fruit, that tray is clearly not a proper meal. Especially for growing kids. That is not going to be enough to sustain you through that mile run in gym class and four more periods of what should be intense brain activity. It's little wonder why kids aren't focused, and don't have the energy to get out of their own way. The lack of energy, of course, will only wind up setting the stage for obesity all over again too.
Despite the First Lady's best intentions, those lunch trays are clearly not a path to better health for America's youth, or a lesson in healthy eating for the rest of us to follow. While that tray may meet "healthy" guidelines set by the FDA, it is missing one very critical component. Nutrition. The actual reason we eat in the first place. Now that really comes to the crux of the whole obesity issue, nutrition, or a lack thereof.
That chicken patty and applesauce tray does not provide real nutrition. Hyper-processed breaded meat paste and flour may fill your stomach for the moment, but it won't sustain you. The apple-flavored corn syrup mush is loaded with calories, but again, has no real vitamins, minerals, or proteins. It just looks healthy because it tells your brain "apple." So despite the fact that you got recommended levels of meat, grain fruit and calories, you still didn't get what you actually needed, nutrition. Now you have two choices. Starvation or obesity. That is basically what the Michelle Obama initiative has brought to light, looking at these trays. You can go hungry, or you can steal that patty bun from the kid sitting next to you violating the FDA "healthy" guidelines. You can starve, or you can over-eat and get fat.
Even with a second sandwich, that is probably not enough real nutrition for a person. So now they have over-eaten and "feel" full, but will still wind up foggy-headed and lethargic from lack of nutrition. Rinse and repeat, and there you have it folks. Fat people who are starving to death. You could eat all the Crisco-covered cardboard and boot leather in the world, but that won't keep you from starving to death. While we blame obesity for the gambit of health problems and diseases, we overlook the fact that being fat is not really a cause at all, but rather an effect of poor nutrition.
So what should we actually see on that Obama-lunch tray? Well, by cutting out that corn-syrup re-branded as applesauce, that would cut out a lot of calories right off the bat, which could be used by more nutrient dense foods. Home-made applesauce would be a much better choice, or perhaps even some sauteed apple slices with a few raisins and a little bit of unrefined brown sugar. Fewer calories, more nutrition. But we don't really have to put a dessert on a lunch tray anyway, and try to call it "healthy fruit." A small, fresh salad or vegetable might be a better option at lunch time.
How about that main entree? Instead of a hyper-processed breaded meat-paste puck on a hyper-refined white flour bun which offer essentially zero nutrition, an actual chicken sandwich on a whole grain bun would be a far better option. Free-range organic chicken having the most nutrients of course. (And less chance of chemical poisoning than the ammonia-soaked meat from and tortured, electrocuted birds.) A little bit of lettuce and a slice of tomato on there would be a tasty, healthy addition too. Since we have saved calories now by replacing overly refined and processed products, we can either serve a larger portion, or perhaps a second side dish such as a handful of mixed nuts, some yogurt perhaps with a bit of fruit, something actually healthy and nutrient rich while being much more filling as well.
So we see here that it's not really about cutting out fats or sugars, it is about choosing more nutrient-dense foods instead. Our bodies need fats, sugar, and salt just as much as vitamins minerals and protein. Cutting out certain components and simply feeding kids less is not a solution. It is starvation. Instead of taking things away, we need to add more nutrient-dense foods to the lunch menu.
This presents another problem though. School lunch programs run on a strict budget and have to put out whatever they can with the budget they have, and now too within the constraints of these FDA guidelines. So in Michelle Obama's attack on obesity, and within those budget constraints, this is the best that the schools could come up with. A starvation diet, as we can plainly see. Schools simply cannot afford to put out free-range grilled chicken sandwiches with a fresh garden salad and sauteed apples. They can't afford to serve a nice piece of balsamic-glazed salmon with some wild rice and roasted brussels sprouts salad. Or even if the schools could afford it, a lot of students would not be able to afford to pay what they would have to charge. Not in public schools anyway.
Now we see too, why not just young people are increasingly being swallowed up by this obesity epidemic, but the poor as well. What we are seeing here dispels the ignorant myth of poor people being gluttons, who "should stop eating so much if they are so poor." People living in poverty are living on a steady diet of nutritionally void foods like ramen, dollar store packs of hot dogs, and 3-liter bottles of generic soda-pop. This is why they are fat and have heart-disease, not because they are gorging themselves on Lindor truffles foie-gras.
And again, all of this exposes the fact that obesity is really masking a horrible truth about the world today. We are, quite literally, starving to death. Obesity is just a mask for mass starvation, on a core nutritional level. We just don't think of it this way. We don't see it, because of the incongruous nature of what we think about starvation historically, compared with a fat person in front of us on line at the supermarket. We imagine starving people to be war prisoners in death camps, or the bony little beggar children on the streets of India. There is one constant though, the poor and the voiceless are always first in line to starve. We see that here too with the obesity epidemic. The poor are the most likely to fall prey to this insidious and historically unprecedented cycle of nutritional starvation. while also taking the blame at the same time.
You can read more on obesity and what we eat at the following links, where some of my older material has been hosted:
Let Them Eat Cake: The Tale of American Nutricide
Fat Tax: The Socio-Economics of Obesity
Fascist Food and Nutrition Nazis