February 2018 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

Study Calls for Improved Labeling of Toddler Drinks, Which Lack the Oversight of Infant Formulas

Misleading labeling on formulas and milks marketed as "toddler drinks" may confuse parents about their healthfulness or necessity, according to a new study by researchers at the NYU College of Global Public Health and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, examines how U.S. policies and regulations can support clear and truthful labeling of toddler drinks, given that international and U.S. health experts and pediatricians do not recommend them. To foster healthy toddler diets, the researchers recommend that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provide guidance or propose regulations to ensure appropriate labeling of toddler drinks.

The Right Drink in Preschooler's Lunch Can Pack A Healthy Punch

Parents who pack lunches for their young children can dramatically improve the nutrition quality of the meals by including a healthy beverage - either plain milk or 100 percent fruit juice, according to a new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut and the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health in Austin.

"One of the most important things we found is that it is much easier than parents may think to pack a healthy lunch," said Maria Romo-Palafox, a UConn Rudd Center Postdoctoral Fellow and lead author of the study. "The simplest way to improve the nutrition quality of the lunch is to include a healthy beverage."

The findings of the study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, have important implications for reducing childhood obesity nationally. Approximately 12 million children (61 percent) spend an average of 33 hours per week in early care and education centers away from home, where they consume two or more meals and snacks each day, and receive 50 percent to 67 percent of their daily calorie requirements.

State Laws Promoting School Lunch Make a Difference in Local Practices  

Changes in school meal programs stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 have increased interest in strategies that expand student participation in school lunch and reduce the amount of wasted food. However, it is not clear what factors are associated with schools' use of such strategies.

A new study by researchers from several universities, including the UConn Rudd Center, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that schools in states with laws promoting school nutrition are doing more to advance school meals and increase student interest in school lunch than schools in states without such laws. The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The researchers examined two types of school meal-related practices that are both associated with consumption of healthier items - promotional strategies such as taste tests, announcements, and posters; and providing students adequate time (at least 30 minutes) to eat their lunches.

"The results showed that these practices are more likely to be implemented at schools in states with laws encouraging or requiring schools to use these approaches," said Lindsey Turner, Research Associate Professor and Director of the Initiative for Healthy Schools in the College of Education at Boise State University, and the study's lead author. "Strategies like taste tests, seeking input from students, and inviting families to try school meals can all help increase student interest in school lunch, and this study shows that state laws are a promising way to support those changes."

Rudd Center in the News

The study focusing on misleading labeling of "toddler drinks" received widespread coverage in numerous media outlets, including Futurity, Science Daily, CafeMom, ABC News and NPR - The Salt: Toddler Milks: Filling a Nutritional Need or a Marketing Niche

A Feb. 15 USA Today article - McDonald's plans to make Happy Meals healthier worldwide by 2022 - included comments from UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives Jennifer Harris. "If you're in a restaurant and your child smells french fries and sees the soda, it’s very difficult for kids to get the healthier choices," Harris told USA Today. "It increases the perception that these are healthy places, so it's OK to bring your kids there, but once inside, the whole environment is pushing unhealthy options..."

The Deseret News (Utah) also featured the comments from Dr. Harris is a Feb. 15 article: McDonald's announces major changes to the Happy Meal. Here's what to expect. And a Feb. 16 article in People - The Healthiest Kids' Meals at Fast Food Chains - linked to the results of our center's Fast Food FACTS report.

UConn Today and Topix featured the study on the nutrition quality of lunches packed for preschoolers and how beverage selection affected nutrition: Healthy Drink Can Pack a Punch in Preschooler’s Lunch

CafeMom carried a Feb. 23 piece - Fat-Shaming Is the Norm in Our Kids' Favorite Shows & It's Making Them Hate Their Bodies - that links to the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement addressing weight stigma. The statement was co-authored by Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl and published last November in Pediatrics.

A Feb. 19 article in She Knows - School Lunch in the Trump Era: What Parents Need to Know - links to a 2015 study by Rudd Center Director Marlene Schwartz showing that students ate more fruit and threw away less food after healthier school meal standards took effect in 2012.

What's Simmering With Our Friends

Glimmers of Progress on Childhood Obesity

In recent years, some cities, counties, and states have started to see their childhood obesity rates go down. Check out this new feature from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on stateofobesity.org to see stories of progress from more than a dozen places across the country.

News to Chew On

A bitter legal fight over a Philadelphia soda tax could decide the future of sugar taxes in the US
My Journal Courier
Fat-shaming still a thing, but also still not OK
No Downturn in Obesity Among U.S. Kids, Report Finds
The New York Times
In Sweeping War on Obesity, Chile Slays Tony the Tiger
NPR - The Salt
Trump Administration Wants to Decide What Food SNAP Recipients Will Get
UK Supermarkets To Ban Energy Drinks For Shoppers Under 16