Entries in Meals (3)


Elementary School Cafeteria Goes Vegetarian

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New York City elementary school cafeteria is one of the first in the nation to go meatless.

Students at P.S. 244, the Active Learning Elementary School, are being treated to eclectic fare, including black bean and cheese quesadillas, falafel and tofu in an Asian sesame sauce.

“It’s been a really great response from the kids, but they also understand it’s about what is the healthiest option for them,” principal Bob Groff told ABC News. “Because we teach them throughout our curriculum to make healthy choices, they understand what is happening and believe in what we’re doing too.”

When the school opened in 2008, they started serving vegetarian meals three days a week. The campus became a vegetarian test kitchen for the city, Groff said.

“We then started to try out recipes with small groups of students, see what they liked, see what they didn’t like,” he said.

The recipes were a hit, Groff said, prompting the school to expand its meat-free meals to four days a week and then adopting a completely vegetarian kitchen in January.

“The big thing I would like people to know is, this isn’t just about a vegetarian menu,” Groff said. ”It’s about living a healthy lifestyle and educating students on what options are out there.”

All meals have to adhere to USDA standards, he said, making sure students get plenty of nutrients, including protein, for their growing bodies.

That means nutrient-dense foods such as chickpeas, kidney beans and tofu.

If the herbivore-friendly grub doesn’t suit students, Groff said they’re always welcome to pack their lunch, including meat.

The school operates on an application and lottery system, meaning it’s not zoned to a particular neighborhood. It serves 400 students from pre-kindergarten through grade three.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Texas Prisons Cut Lunch to Save Money

Comstock/Thinkstock(HUNTSVILLE, Texas) -- Texas prisons are scaling back meals on weekends to cut costs -- a move that could leave inmate blood sugar levels low and tempers high.

Thirty-six prisons are cutting lunches on Saturdays and Sundays, forcing some 23,000 inmates to cram three-meals-worth of calories into an early breakfast and dinner, the New York Times reported. The cutbacks are part of a broader effort to save $2.8 million in food-related expenses, but some nutritionists are crying foul.

“With fewer meals, it’s difficult to get enough nutrients,” said Keith Ayoob, director of the Rose R. Kennedy Center Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “It’s likely to negatively affect mood in people who are used to having regular meals.”

The prisons usually serve “brunch” between 5 and 7 a.m. and then dinner from 4 to 6:30 p.m. In between, inmates will be able to buy chips and other snacks from prison commissaries, the Times reported.

“Going from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. without an authorized meal is too long,” said Ayoob, adding that inmates should be bridging the nutrition gap with healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts -- not chips.

Hunger can lead to fatigue, headaches and general crankiness -- symptoms that could be problematic in the close quarters of state prisons.

But prison officials said the plan won’t impact inmates’ physical or mental well-being.

“Extensive consultation with T.D.C.J.’s [Texas Department of Criminal Justice's] health services department and system dietitians prior to implementation of this plan have allowed us to avoid any medical issues,” Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told the Times in a statement.

It’s unclear whether inmates will get bigger, more energy-dense meals at breakfast and dinner to compensate for the cuts.

“If they can, I’d recommend they eat a large breakfast and make every calorie count nutritionally,” said Ayoob.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Family Dinners Linked to Less Risky Behavior in Teens

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Family meals are getting another big thumbs-up Thursday, this time thanks to a new study examining the link between dinnertime and lower rates of risky behavior in teenagers.

"Family meals are the strongest factor that we've come across in any activity that families do," said William Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota. "It really tops them all as a predictor and contributor of a wide range of positive behavior."

Compared to teens who ate with their families five to seven times a week, teenagers who had fewer than three family dinners a week were almost four times more likely to try tobacco, more than twice as likely to use alcohol and 2.5 times more likely to use marijuana, according to new information released by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

Doherty, who did not take part in the study, said family dinners conveyed a sense of belonging, gave teenagers security and stability, and provided them and their parents an opportunity to communicate.

"So much of the rest of the day, kids, especially teens, are spending with their peers by themselves," Doherty said. "They have a chance for talking and connecting at family dinners."

Three-quarters of teens who reported having dinner with their family at least once a week said the interaction and the togetherness were the best part of the meal. Those who spent seven hours or less per week with their parents were twice as likely to use alcohol and twice as likely to say they expected to try drugs, compared with teens who spent 21 hours or more per week with their parents.

Previous studies have shown that family meals have many benefits.

Female adolescents who ate family dinners at least most days were less likely to initiate purging, binge-eating and frequent dieting. Children who ate breakfast with their families at least four times a week were more likely to consume fruit and vegetables.

And findings have revealed that by making family dinner a priority, families with teenagers might enhance child-parent communication and ultimately promote healthy adolescent development.

Doherty had this advice for parents and caregivers who have given up on family dinners: Start on a Sunday night.

"I recommend starting one a week. The more you do it, the better," he said. "One is better than zero. It's quality, not quantity."

Doherty urged families to turn the television off, put all cellphones away and for parents not to use the sit-down meal as an opportunity to nag or scold.

"Make it a connecting meal. It's the quality of the connecting. Just try to have a good conversation," he said. "Don't grill them about their grades."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio