Friday, July 11, 2008

British government minister calls for children to be locked in school to stop them buying junk food

Children should be locked inside school grounds to stop them buying unhealthy food from shops and takeaways, a minister said yesterday. The proposal comes amid new evidence that the Jamie Oliver-inspired drive to make school kitchens offer more nutritious meals is being shunned by pupils in favour of junk food. The number of secondary school children eating school meals has plunged by 400,000 to barely a third.

Children's minister Kevin Brennan said secondary pupils should be barred from leaving the premises during breaks after research found they were spending their money on snacks with high levels of salt, sugar or fat.

Backing a plea by the renowned cook Prue Leith, who chairs the School Food Trust, Mr Brennan said: 'Some schools have a stay-on-site policy for 11 to 16-year-olds but let the sixth form go off- site. I'm very strongly supportive of that approach.

'I would like to see more schools operating some sort of stay-on-site policy because its advantages are shown not just in improved uptake of school meals, but also improved behaviour and community relationships.'

Yesterday's research underlined quite how unhealthy the snacks being bought by children during breaks in the school day are. Some of those who buy their own food during breaks are consuming their entire daily allowance of fat and sugar in one sitting.

A team from London Metropolitan University studied pupils at two large comprehensives - one in a deprived urban setting and another in a well-off suburban area.

The inner-city school allowed all pupils to leave the premises at lunchtime, while the suburban school allowed only sixth-formers the same privilege.

Children's Minister Kevin Brennan has called for secondary school children to be locked inside school grounds during breaks to stop them buying unhealthy food

In the school where pupils were allowed out, just 15 per used their canteen. Even in the school which kept them inside the grounds, less than half (44 per cent) bought food from the canteen, usually sandwiches or wraps, with many buying food on the way to school.

Virtually all the children who were allowed out bought food from local shops, mainly fizzy drinks, chocolate, sweets, crisps, cakes, biscuits and chips.

The researchers found it was not the healthy menus in school canteens that were deterring the pupils so much as long queues, poor facilities and high prices.

They said schools considering keeping children on the premises ought to address these issues first, a finding backed by Oliver last night. 'If you look at what's going on in schools where the catering staff have got the right support and where a "dining culture" is developing, that's where it's working,' he said. 'But there's a big divide between these schools and the many where there are still problems.'

The pitfalls of 'lock-ins' were illustrated at the height of the Jamie Oliver campaign in 2006 when two mothers of children at Rawmarsh Comprehensive in Rotherham started their own takeaway delivery service in response to curbs on pupils' trips to local shops.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: 'Much as schools would like to keep children on site at lunchtime, the number of exits in some - as many as 20 - make this almost impossible.'


Eating slowly can help you slim, study finds

There could be something in this

YOUR mother was right when she told you to take the time to chew your food. Eating slowly, research suggests, can encourage people to eat less, and enjoy the meal more. Researchers found that when they had 30 young women eat a lunch of pasta, tomatoes and cheese, the diners consumed an average of 70 fewer calories when they ate the meal slowly and chewed the food thoroughly.

The findings give scientific support to a long recommended weight-control tactic, the researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The theory has been that a leisurely dining pace allows time for the body's natural fullness signals to kick in, explain Ana M. Andrade and colleagues of the University of Rhode Island in Kingston.

Stomach distension and changes in several appetite-related hormones, for example, alert the body that it's time to stop eating. But these processes take time, so a rushed meal could theoretically cause overeating.

But there has been little evidence as to whether slow eating really does trim calorie intake.

Ms Andrade's team tested the idea by having 30 women eat the same pasta meal on two separate occasions. On one day, the women were told to eat the meal as fast as they comfortably could, with no pauses between bites.

On the other day, they were instructed to take small bites, put their spoons down between bites and chew each mouthful 20 to 30 times.

On average, the researchers found, the women ate nearly 70 fewer calories when they slowed down. They also felt fuller and more satisfied after the meal.

There are several potential reasons for the findings, according to Andrade and her colleagues. Besides allowing more time for the body's fullness signals to start working, savoring a meal's flavors, textures and aromas may help people feel more satisfied with fewer calories.

Similar studies are needed in men and obese adults to see if the current findings hold true for them as well, the researchers note.


Splurging Is Good for Your Health

Buying overpriced indulgences may feel good in the short term, but you pay the price later. Or at least that's the conventional wisdom. But a study by a couple of business-school professors says splurging now makes you happier later. Even more surprising: Not splurging now gives you pangs of regret later. Anat Keinan, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, and Ran Kivetz, a professor of marketing at Columbia Business School, make their case for the vice lifestyle in an article in the Harvard Business Review.

One of their studies polled college students and alumni on the subject of spring breaks. Regret about not having spent more money or traveling during breaks increased with time, whereas regret about not having worked, studied, or saved money during breaks decreased with time. The authors write: "We saw a similar pattern in a study of how businesspeople perceived past choices between work and pleasure. Over time, those who had indulged felt less and less guilty about their choices, whereas those who had been dutiful experienced a growing sense of having missed out on the pleasures of life." (As the old saying goes, nobody dies saying "I wish I'd spent more time at the office.")

The authors also did a study of mall shoppers, asking about their regret about buying an expensive item of clothing. Those who anticipated short-term regret bought less-expensive items, while those who anticipated long-term regret splurged. "Thinking about short-term regret drives consumers to be virtuous, while thinking about long-term regret leads them to be extravagant," the authors write.

Luxury-goods makers, of course, will eat this up. I can see the slogan now: "Luxury: It's Good for Life." Or "Cartier: You'll be sorry you didn't." Whether luxury is good for your finances is another matter. (Nobody goes bankrupt saying "I wish I'd spent more on Gucci bags).


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