Food News Today transcripts for the week of June 4th, 2012

June 08, 2012

A school lunch update, the real price of fruits and vegetables, and glasses that make your food bigger, and why!

Good morning, Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting, and unbiased food news.

Last week, I visited the White House to visit the White House Garden to chat about school lunch. As the school year comes to a close it seems that recent news and new legislation in Congress have put a brighter spotlight on school meals.  Some stories have suggested that pizza is now a vegetable in school cafeterias, leaving parents and the public with questions about the nutrition of school meals.  I asked Frank DiPasquale to share his insights:

he told me that “Parents should know that starting this fall, school cafeterias will meet strong new standards requiring that school meals offer students a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat milk, and healthy entrees.”  And that “The debate about pizza is how tomato paste is counted under the new rules, but regardless, (and what many of have forgotten is that) schools will still offer kids an assortment of produce choices.  We’re seeing farm to school and harvest of the month programs that teach students about healthy choices in the cafeteria, and encourage kids to try new vegetables.  Schools are offering salad bars or grab-and-go salads and some are even allowing students to take as many fruits and vegetables as they like.”

What can we expect the new school year to bring? DiPasquale tells me that “School cafeterias have also turned kid favorites, like pizza, into healthy choices using leaner ingredients, more whole grains, baking instead of frying and even using to herbs and spices to season foods instead of salt.  These days, school pizza is made with a whole grain crust, low-fat cheese, reduced sodium sauce (a great source of lycopene) and often topped with (antioxidant rich) vegetables.  With these healthy ingredients, school pizza delivers students a great source of calcium, fiber and protein.  And since school meals always offer age-appropriate portion sizes, and fruit and vegetable sides, students learn how pizza can be part of a well-balanced meal.” 

>From the school cafeteria we head to the Far East. Where a team at the University of Tokyo has developed a new tool for dieters, a pair of glasses that make food appear up to 50 percent larger than it really is! The team, led by University of Tokyo professor (Michitaka) Hirose, has developed an image processing system that enlarges the food’s size when you pick it up to eat. Interestingly, and here's the technology breakthrough, the glasses do not change the size of your hand, utensil or the surroundings - just the food itself. The objective is to trick us into believing that we are eating more than we really have – hopefully making us feel fuller. Does it work? Their test group of 12 men and women ate 9.3 percent less cookies than normal when seeing through the glasses a 50 percent enlarged image. Conversely they ate 15 percent more cookies when the glasses were set to reduce the cookies' size by one third. Seeing IS believing. 

>Conventional wisdom tells us that Healthy Foods are More Expensive. And perhaps that wisdom is wrong. The USDA says that it all Depends on How You Measure the Price.  Fruits and vegetables are painted as being more expensive than less healthy foods. But when price is expressed per edible gram or per average amount consumed, the story changes. The USDA’s Economic Research Service, using a 2004 USDA database of over 4,000 foods and their prices, calculated that fruits ranged from 13 cents to $1.65 per average amount consumed, and vegetables from 6 cents to $1.27, while less healthy foods ranged from 2 cents to $3.04.   The USDA's researchers found that, foods low in calories for a given weight appear to have a higher price when the price is measured per calorie. For example, vegetables and fruits, which are low in calories, tend to be a relatively expensive way to purchase food energy. I.E. a fast food burger is a less expensive way to buy calories than purchasing the same amount of calories in produce.When the price of edible weight or price per portion were used to determine the costs, the researchers found healthy foods like toasted oat cereal (grains), vegetables, fruits, and low-fat milk and plain, low-fat yogurt were more affordable than most protein foods including roast beef, chicken, or canned tuna, and the same for other less healthful foods that typically pack in an excess amount of saturated fat, added sugar, and/or sodium.

I hope you'll log on to Food News Today DOT com 24/7 to access our broadcast archives and downloads. Thanks for watching!