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Should School Lunch Menus Display Calorie Counts?

A North Carolina school district is testing new technology aimed at fighting childhood obesity. The schools have licensed food boards resembling those at fast food drive-thrus, but in the place of prices are calorie counts.

The school board realizes that providing the calorie counts alone won't do much to make a positive change, so teachers will devise lessons for the classroom to help kids make healthier choices. Crest Middle School principal Amy Jones commented, "We really don't want to make them afraid to even pick up anything and put it in their mouths, but we also want to make them educated, that's our job."

It's important for kids to understand how their food choices affect their bodies, but I can also see how providing calorie counts for kids could be sending a confusing message. What's your take on this experiment?

Join The Conversation
HollyJRockNRoll HollyJRockNRoll 6 years
School lunches need to be healthier! Salads, fruits, tofu, 7 grained bread and veggies. Not fried chicken, french fries and things of that nature. Its disgusting how unhealthy we are! and its criminal allowing our children to be unhealthy.
pink-pirate pink-pirate 8 years
For high schools, I think it would be a good idea. For younger students I think it's better to send something home to parents so that they can educate their children. I don't think an 11 year old should be choosing lunch based on calorie counting.
genniboo genniboo 8 years
Yes and no. I think its a good thing to make kids aware of what they're putting in their mouth but I'm not convinced purely listing the amount of calories in the different options is gonna help anything.. Healthy eating is more than just counting calories, its about _where_ those calories come from that matters the most! If you get the majority of your calories from carbs and fats you're on the wrong track. I think the school meals should put less emphasis on grains and increase the amount of veggies and protein sources!
PurpleFairy3 PurpleFairy3 8 years
I think that calorie counting will not make much of a don't care about how many calories they have, so it would be a waste of time. Well, maybe for secondary students...but elementary kids should not be burdened with calorie consumption, but should be provided with healthier choices.
kleatherman1017 kleatherman1017 8 years
instead of investing in calorie counts, why don't they prevent child obesity by replacing the food they serve with healthy choices? Don't leave room for them to choose something unhealthy with fat and sugar. Its that simple.
reesiecup reesiecup 8 years
I think it's a good idea to serve healthier foods or at least provide those options. Students should learn about nutrition for promoting health benefits rather than aesthetic reasons.
almostloli almostloli 8 years
maybe not the calories.. but more to the nutrition content, both macro and micro.. or just provide healthier mix of food
honeycreepshow honeycreepshow 8 years
i think it is pointless. if a young girl is at risk for an eating disorder, the school posting the calorie counts for all it's food is not going to hinder or help her. you dont need to count calories to have an eating disorder. in the same vein, a kid who is going to eat badly is going to eat badly. if a child is obese, it had to start somewhere, most likely at home. and if a child is being fed bad foods at home and being taught by their parents that eating like that is okay, something at school is NOT going to change their mind. most kids just don't let the things they're told at school affect them that much. i personally am in high school and i KNOW that posting calorie counts would not affect anyone on either end of the spectrum, from those with disordered eating behaviors to those who are obese. kids just dont CARE that much. maybe if it came from another source, outside of school. but they will generally blow off anything they're told at school about how to live their life.
meg21k meg21k 8 years
its a great idea. kids need to start learning about nutrition at a young age.
lilxmissxmolly lilxmissxmolly 8 years
i think calories are a bad idea. why not just provide a variety of foods in the correct portions? a kid should definitely be allowed to have, say, cookies, but if they're provided maybe 2 small cookies and no more, that would teach them moderation.
death-by-chocolat death-by-chocolat 8 years
AlexandraEva- actually, almost every instance of clinical eating disorders begin with what most people consider "normal" dieting behaviors. Such as counting calories. While it is a mental disorder, it is very much a learned behavior. Also, the middle school has nothing to do with Crest the dental health company.... it's the school's name.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I don't think it's a good idea. At a time when a lot of tween/teen girls think they're "fat" when they are a perfectly normal weight, they could potentially develop a really serious eating disorder by trying to eat foods with very few calories. Why not just stop serving crap like pizza and hot dogs and serve REAL food so kids and teenagers can eat a normal lunch and not have to worry that it'll make them obese?
AMP AMP 8 years
Never too young to learn about what kind of food is good for you and what is not!
AlexandraEva AlexandraEva 8 years
Okay let's get something straight: An eating disorder is a mental illness. Anything can trigger it in someone who is already predisposed, but counting calories will not cause a healthy individual (that would be the other 99% of individuals) to develop anorexia. Anyway, I trust nothing that comes from Crest, especially when it comes to children. These were the same people who distributed fun little toothcare kits at my elementary school containing colored and flavored fluoride tablets! To this day I wonder what kind of damage ingesting that did to my developing brain. The whole health attitude needs to change in this country. It's just become another gimmick for companies to market their patented crap. See, you can't patent an apple, but you can patent aspartame. I really couldn't care less if dumb adults can't see that raw, natural food the answer, not Diet Coke... But targeting children who don't even have the capacity to know better yet (not to mention in schools, where parents can't really control what they do) crosses the line of ethics and morality in my book. I will never forget reading about this new school for obese kids and teens than teaches them to eat "healthy" as part of the curriculum. What were they teaching them to eat, you ask? Why Diet sodas, reduced fat yogurt, Splenda, etc. Ridiculous!
notinthemood notinthemood 8 years
Agreed, Aimeeb and tatsauce! Focusing on calories when kids don't even know what they are is just asking for trouble... If the schools would stop serving fried foods, electric-yellow nacho cheese and wonder bread pizzas and start spending time making real sandwiches, good salad bars etc, there wouldn't be much need to tell the kids how many calories were in their food.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I'm with tatsauce. Just serve healthy food and you won't need to display the calories.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
in most cases i'll say yes that they should share the calorie information - but the reason that i would say no is because once you reach a certain age (girls at least) there's a tendency to develop and Eating Disorder and i think that if there's opportunity to minimize the number of cals you have then i think that's just giving a tool to them. not that this is the case with everyone, but i remember back when i was in high school and there were soo many times that i just wouldn't eat because i was trying to diet or not eat more than like 200 cals a day - and this would have been even more of a reason for me to be compulsive about it all
KAT0002 KAT0002 8 years
i don't think kids understand the per serving thing, just cause something says 110 calories, there might be like 3 servings. I developed an eating disorder in high school from calorie counting. i would rather see them offer more healthy food then put calories on everything
syako syako 8 years
Tweety I was just wondering if the school board had actually talked to any RDs before spending tens of thousands of dollars on this. Maybe you (or a professor or student group) should email this school district and give them your "professional" opinion. From the linked article, the lady that seems to be in charge is Cleveland County health director Denese Stallings. It couldn't hurt. :shrug:
tweety21 tweety21 8 years
oh and offering healthier options & portions would be a good idea too.
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