A Question for Your School: Got Milk?

Cathy Arnst

Some goods news on the fight against fat from New York and Connecticut. The New York City school system, the largest in the country, has banned whole milk from its cafeterias. It will only offer skim or 1% from now on. They are also serving chocolate skim milk, which I'm not wild about, but at least it's skim. The only other beverage the school system serves is water. In Connecticut, meanwhile, the governor and state legislature have just agreed to ban sales of all soda and sugary drinks from public schools. Remarkably, this makes Conn. the only state in the nation with such a comprehensive ban.

Plenty of us parents must be dismayed that, no matter how hard we try to keep our kids on the straight and healthy at home, they are exposed to all kinds of junk food at school. Some school districts are getting the message, as detailed in this from 2004. Whenever possible, we parents should step up the pressure. A simple change like switching to skim milk from whole can cut some 75 calories per glass (for a full explanation of the benefits of skim vs whole milk, click here). I know lots of people complain about the taste of skim milk, but after drinking it for a while you likely won't be able to tell the difference. I have been giving nothing but skim to my daughter since she was two, and she has never complained. And I don't even like the taste of whole milk anymore, it seems almost greasy.

As for soda, I know you know it's evil, but do you know how evil? Study after study has shown that soda is one of the biggest culprits behind childhood obesity. One, a Harvard study from 2001, found that for each serving of soda a day, the risk of obesity in a child was significantly increased--and adolescent males were drinking an average of 20 ounces of soda a day. There is abolutely no reason to ever give your child soda. Even artificially sweetened sodas are bad, because they just accustom your child to drinking something sweet. Switch your kids to milk or water whenever possible. Not only will it be better for their weight, milk is critically important for growing bones and teeth. Here's one way to make water a treat: Whenever we're in a restaurant, my daughter asks for water with a few maraschino cherries in it. Not sure how healthy the cherries are, but she doesn't eat them, she just likes how festive they look.

So start getting the right drinks into your kid at home, and complain loud and long if they aren't getting them at school. Anyone have any tips on how they got their school to serve healthier food--or got their kids off soda?

Nicholas Kristoff did an excellent op-ed column in the New York Times the other day about some other things we can do to help our kids on the path to healthy eating. He starts out with the disturbing observation that the most common vegetable eaten by our kids eatis french fries. You can't get at his column unless you have a paid subscription, but DrHealthBlog summarizes it very well (check out the rest of her blog while you're there, lots of useful info).

BTW, I promised a healthy recipe each week. Here's another one from the Mayo Clinic cookbook that I made last night: Ginger Chicken Soup with Noodles. It took about a half hour, and my daughter loved it. This one calls for soy milk, which I discovered both in the dairy section and on the shelf where grocery stores keep Parmalat and other boxed milks. The recipe also calls for edamame, Japanese-style soy beans that most kids love. You can buy them in well-stocked supermarkets frozen, but since I didn't have any I used chopped up fresh green beans. Frozen peas would also work.

Ginger Chicken Noodle Soup

3 oz buckwheat soba noodles
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine
2 tbsps chopped fresh ginger
4 cups chicken broth (I used fat free)
2 tbsps low sodium soy sauce
1 pound boneless chicken breast, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 cup edamame or peas or green beans
1 cup soy milk

1) Boil some water, add the noodles, cook for 5 minutes until tender and then drain and set aside
2)heat the olive oil, add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes
3) stir in the carrots and ginger, cook until soft, about another 4 minutes
4) stir in the garlic, cokk for about 1 minute (don't let garlic brown)
5) add broth and soy sauce, bring to boil
6) add the chicken and edamame, boil until cooked through (abut 5 minutes)
7) lower heat, add soy sauce and noodles, cook until heated through, then serve.

Would be a great meal with a salad and one of my favorite desserts, Jell-o fat free chocolate pudding snacks, made with--what else?--skim milk!

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