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Black beans for brownies, burgers, and hummus: Game theory and nutrition

"These black bean brownies are healthy brownies that DO NOT taste healthy," says the September 6, 2012 recipe at the "Black bean brownies -- no flour required" site. But you want the fiber from the beans in your brownie to taste healthy, full of fiber and protein because for some people those brownies could be a meal. If you have left over black beans, you can also make black bean sweet potato quinoa burgers or black bean hummus.

When food tastes healthy, the ads should say so in order for people to realize that food that tastes healthy tastes good.
When food tastes healthy, the ads should say so in order for people to realize that food that tastes healthy tastes good.
Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company
Black beans for brownies
Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images

What you could add to your brownies are an avocado instead of oils or saturated fats or flax seed meal. You also could add dried fruit or applesauce as a sweetener instead of syrups if you get high insulin surges or too high blood glucose levels from eating sweets.

So yes, you want food that tastes healthy: Here's another vegan black bean brownie/chewy cookie recipe with no leavening, no added salt, and no liquid oils added to the batter

Black bean brownies in our home consists of mixing a pot of cooked black beans with a cup of oat bran, a half cup of oat meal, a handful of goji berries, 1/4 cup of raisins, 3 tablespoons of flax seed meal, and either the liquid the black beans were cooked in or some almond milk to make a rich, chocolate-colored consistency of paste. Then we line the cookie sheet with a spray of raw unsalted pumpkin seeds, followed by a sprinkle of brown sesame seeds and a sprinkle chia seeds. If you can't tolerate oat bran or oat meal, you could use quinoa flour, or garbanzo bean flour, or sweet potato flour or any other non-grain meal.

We pat down the black bean batter or mixture on top of the seeds and nuts on that ungreased cookie sheet until it's as thin as the average cookie or up to 1/2 inch high. Then we cut the 'dough' in squares like a tic-tac-toe board, horizontally and vertically into small squares. The mixture is then baked in the oven at 350 degrees F. until the brownies/chewy cookies are dry enough in the middle to taste good. No added oil, no added leavening such as baking soda or baking powder which adds more sodium, and the vegan brownies taste great. Instead of fruit to sweeten you also could use a pinch of stevia.

Too many young children from toddler years are told that if something tastes healthy, avoid it for what tastes good but is slowly clogging your organs and arteries. The problem with the sentence, "These black bean brownies are healthy brownies that DO NOT taste healthy," is that when kids hear the words taste and health in different ways, they begin to equate taste with foods not good for their bodies. Remember the ad a few years ago about fast-food turkey burgers that don't taste healthy but are?

Back in 2011, an advertisement was sent to numerous Sacramento homes advertising Carl's Jr. in Sacramento. But why did the advertisement mailed to homes have to read, "Our turkey Burgers don't taste healthy"? How is 'healthy' supposed to taste and look? It's time for game theory to be applied to nutrition.

The issue with food tasting healthy that is healthy is that a lot of vegans want a food to taste healthy and not give them acid reflux from too many sugars or fats, particularly we older vegans who are used to eating lots of raw foods. After all, those who followed Jack La Lanne remember his famous quote, "If it tastes good, spit it out." Well, what if it tastes good and healthy too? Since when has health become a sick word? Check out another recipe site, "Skinny Brownies," to see that applesauce is used as a sweetener, not sugar or maple syrup, in the brownies recipe at that site that uses other types of grain flours instead of black beans to make brownies.

In the "Black bean brownies---no four required" recipe site, that recipe calls for salt, instead of salt optional (for us salt-sensitive people) and as sweeteners, a choice of maple syrup, honey, agave, sugar, or stevia packs. But so many of those stevia packs are mixed with dextrose, a sugar, unless you're using pure stevia not mixed with dextrose or other sugar fillers. People on special diets who get low blood sugar tremors after consuming maple syrup don't need sweeteners. If a pinch of stevia isn't enough, then use dried fruit such as raisins or a few goji berries to sweeten your brownies.

The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of coconut or vegetable oil, but you don't really need oils if you're on a no-oils diet that permits flax seed meal instead, especially if you get acid reflex from oils or can't digest fats in the form of oils due to aging or a problem with low stomach acids.

And for chocolate, the original recipe calls for up to 2/3 cup of chocolate chips, which are loaded with sugar and fat in the chip form. Surely you can use unsweetened natural cocoa powder instead of fatty, sugary chips. If you're serving those fatty, sugary chips to people so addicted to commercial sweet chocolate, they won't know the difference, but if you're wanting a taste of brownies for your own health reasons, why add chocolate chips unless you want to break off those aging teeth on a hard as rock frozen or stale chocolate chip as found in various commercial chocolate chip cookies?

Cocoa powder will do just fine for health reasons if you aren't using chocolate chips. The chips are eye candy, used to get people to eat the brownies.

So if you're making them for yourself, you don't need to wolf down all that chocolate sugar fat in the chips. Try a handful of goji berries, raisins, chopped almonds, or sesame seeds instead of chocolate chips, at least for health reasons if you're on a diet that screams no oils, fats or sugars except for a few spoons of flax seed meal as the body and brain does need some omega 3 fatty acids. You might use an avocado for fat bulk rather than the 1/4 cup of oil in the original recipe.

At least the avocado, having a balance of fats adds more nutrition to the brownies. Another substitute for fats that's a sweetener is prunes. Chop the prunes and add them to the brownies as sweetener, since prunes substitutes for fats in baking and flax seed meal substitutes for eggs.

You can make substitutions as necessary for the original recipe, here below, found at the site, "Black bean brownies -- no flour required." It's on the blog known as "Chocolate-covered Katie: The Healthy Dessert Blog."

In this authors divergence from that original recipe, below, avocado is substitute for the oil, chopped prunes, raisins, and goji berries substitute for the sweeteners, the salt is omitted, and instead of quick oats, old fashion oats is substituted. Instead of chocolate chips, a few sesame seeds are sprinkled on the brownies, and if desired, optional, ground almonds are sprinkled on the brownies instead of chocolate chips.

You also can add a few sprinkles of unsweetened cocoa to the chopped almonds or add your favorite spices such as cinnamon. For mint chocolate brownies, a quarter teaspoon of mint extract is optional in this author's own recipe. The vital ingredient is the black beans instead of flour.

Notice in the original recipe, the can of black beans is stated. But why get the can lining contamination in your body from canned beans? Just cook the soaked black beans the day before and put them in a jar in your refrigerator. Sure you soak the original organic black beans you get from your food market, soaking them overnight in a jar of water in your refrigerator.

Then you boil and simmer the beans until they're chewable and soft. Let them cool and put them in a jar overnight. The next day you have cooked black beans. More time, yes, but you don't have to deal with getting the leached out stuff from the can linings in your beans. In any case, here's the original recipe. You may substitutions as needed for your own special diet adaptations. Just don't use white beans.

More black bean brownies recipes

Some recipes call for eggs, and some don't and are vegan. And other black bean brownies recipes are online such as, "Vegan Gluten Free Black Bean Brownies - Minimalist Baker." and "Black Bean Brownies Recipe : Melissa d'Arabian : Food Network." Remember, you're not competing in a brownie contest for taste. Most of the online recipes call for chocolate chips. So what you're really tasting are the melting chocolate chips in the brownie more than the beans.

Melt chocolate chips over any food, and it will taste good. For example, try melting chocolate chips over pizza crust or crackers. Same sensation of chocolate taste. The trick is to make a healthy brownie that uses unsweetened cocoa powder and enough herbs and spices, whether it's chili powder, cinnamon, or carmelized onions to bring out flavor without having to consume so much melted choclate chips that you end up with a root canal from the sugar in the chips.

You're adjusting recipes to create a special diet to tailor to your body's specific metabolic/genetic needs of making sure your body doesn't react to sweeteners as if the various sweeteners were sugar. The reason you're eating bean desserts is to avoid eating foods made with flour, commercial vegetable oils, saturated fats, and refined sugar.

Remember that maple sugar is made by removing the water from the maple sap to concentrate the sugars, salts and flavors into a syrup. Also see, "Making Granulated Sugar From Maple Syrup." Did you know that you can make granulated sugar from maple syrup? Sometimes what you see labeled as maple syrup in restaurants or in some stores is not real maple syrup. See, "TLC Cooking "How do they make maple syrup?"

Also see, the sites, "Black Bean Brownies (Gluten-Free) | My San Francisco Kitchen," and "Double Chocolate Black Bean Brownies - Yeah...imma eat that." At the "Skinny Brownies," recipe site, instead of sugar, the recipe calls for two tablespoons of unsweetened apple sauce, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and instead of black beans, almond flour, and oat flour. The 1/2 of baking powder is in the recipe along with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. But if you're on a no added salt diet, if you leave out the leavening and salt, you still can get a flatter brownie that takes longer to bake, but still has the taste of a brownie or chewy cookie. The skinny brownie recipe calls for honey.

You don't need this much sweetener of honey if you use prunes, goji berries, and raisins to sweeten or a pinch of stevia. The skinny brownie recipe doesn't mention chips or beans. Instead it directions you to combine in a separate bowl, the almond flour, oat flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk together until well combined (the batter will likely look a little lumpy from the almond meal/flour). Note that almond flour is ground almonds with all the fat found in fresh almonds.

You can check out the other ingredients. The recipe concludes with pouring the batter into the prepared baking dish and using a spoon to spread the batter evenly to all corners. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing. So it's your choice whether to use those high-fiber black beans or flour to make brownies.

Some use unsweetened cocoa powder and others have to have the taste of melting chocolate chips full of fat and sugar to satisfy the taste for brownies. Then again, some people's taste buds don't taste the intenseness of chocolate chips and can get along find with unsweetened cocoa powder as their chocolate flavor, for health's sake...just like some people need fats and oils and others can get them from flax seed meal and mashed prunes or an avocado added for thickness and creaminess to any recipe from a smoothie to a brownie.

Game theory and nutrition: If it tastes healthy, there's a good chance for a feeling of wellbeing

One reason why healthy has become a bad word in the restaurant/eatery/fast-food arena is because the fattier, saltier, creamier, and sweeter the comfort food--the more in the long run some people pay in health costs, which in turn makes doctors and dentists a living as well as the pharmaceutical companies. And one way to remedy the reputation of healthy food without being sassy or cute is to use game theory applied to nutrition to make healthy eating fun for kids at school.

How would you like to bring nutrition fun through game theory to public or private school cafeterias? Are you tired of kids lining up for a breakfast of corn dogs, pizza, or burgers and fries in public schools? Help kids learn how to substitute healthier ingredients for the familiar, traditional but unhealthy foods they presently are eating by habit in school, home, and in public places.

One of the most interesting aspects of presenting nutrition information by using game theory is that it can be a way to encourage better eating habits by substituting healthier ingredients for more familiar foods that are harmful to the body

You can change your brain to change your body, it has been said in numerous books. Game theory when applied to nutrition can be a system to help people master the rules of competitive or cooperative behavior when it comes to buying, preparing, or eating foods that are good for the individual's body or genetic signature and expression.

For example, how do you motivate people as a group in how they approach their eating habits? How is food used for the purpose of making decisions, examining how people learn to trust, or whether the body is hardwired for eating habits based what was fed in childhood? Can people be convinced that through culinary choices that the body is designed to heal itself?

How do you inspire people about their individual eating habits for example? Some people use extra virgin olive oil and others bake cookies with rendered chicken fat. But do people learn what foods are harmful by the way their relatives respond to such foods--such as obesity, diabetes, or hardened arteries and other issues of inflammation or diseases linked to the way individual bodies respond to specific food choices?

You're dealing with abstract, intangible situations that focus on trust

In business, you usually deal with the tangible, such as organizing files or closets. Trust when it comes to food choice is based on factual information in business. What kind of organizing is based on balancing healing tools?

One of the most interesting types of organizer is the person who organizes others to trust either in a specific healing tool, a power over nutrition within the the self, or mastering the rules of competitive behavior. The organizer who specializes in teaching or training clients in game theory, shows others, usually in a business environment, about how to make more rational decisions.

Game theory is the scientific study of interactive, rational decision-making

Organizers who specialize in game theory help other people to understand how and why we make decisions. Game theory also provides insights into endeavors in which people either cooperate or they compete.

This can refer to helping a couple engaged in a power struggle or in business, politics, economics, or science at any career level. Game theory also can help people who are struggling with retirement issues.

How organizers teach or train people in game theory is by exploring the field using easy-to-understand language. No jargon. You start by investigating classic games. You then move to real-world applications in business, war, or deciding to choose a religion or human service instead or both. You study competition and encounter the greatest minds and the exciting theories they churned out. But they are still theories.

One of the most intriguing ways Sacramento organizers can help other master the rules of competitive behavior is to look at food habits learned in early childhood. You can apply game theory to anything from nutrition habits and how they form to auctions and who wins the bidding at auctions. Or you can work with groups of dieters, classes for weight management, blood sugar control workshops, or any other health issue where the topic of food choices is mentioned in a group setting and your goal is giving information where people can find out where and how to check the facts.

To organize nutrition groups trying to understand foresight, insight, and hindsight, you can start with looking at food habit changes as a healing tool. Or you can start with organizing trust. First you analyze. Then you organize.

If you can't trust your healing tool, how will you heal yourself and others? The body is designed to heal better when there is trust. And when there is trust, there is calmness instead of anxiety. When it comes to eating, is the human brain is hardwired, probably in the right front lobe of the brain to relieve anxiety about the fear of non-existence, pain, and panic by a mechanism that can be switched on for healing and calming? Do people use food to change the brain chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA?

Nutritional choice can be a form of game theory, that is, about mastering the rules of competitive behavior. Is the way our bodies respond to food all predestined in our genes or is it a random walk?

So all the world's a game within a game universe, within a game of many universes? And are they all trying to master the rules of competitive behavior?

When it comes to changing eating habits, Is belief in changing traditional foods that are familiar since early childhood more about trust--necessary for health--and about credibility, deterrence, and compellence? Or is eating about dealing with chance events? Tailoring foods to our genes is still a science in its early stages.

Are we a result of nonzero-sum games, competition, or commitments? And is our goal the persistence of memory as in repeated games? Does the will of the people count when it comes to trust?

Is it all game theory--how interactive, rational decision making heals and helps us trust and understand how and why we make decisions or choices? Is the purpose of life to find insight into endeavors in which we cooperate instead of compete--such as in research?

Is nutrition about games people play--game theory? Are the culinary arts solely classic games? And the nature of the game has a purpose--self healing and the preservation and expansion of life through smart foods.

After all, nutritional choices may be inside the human brain rather than outside the body. When a baby is not handled, fed, and soothed by a caregiver that is perceived as bonding, the baby suffers from failure to thrive.

In order for the human body to heal and thrive, it is genetically hardwired to turn to a caregiver for comfort. Ideally, the caregiver, to relieve anxiety about separation, must be healthy, preferably immortal and everywhere at the same time to serve all. Food becomes the caregiver to adults when others appear to be unable to give the type of nurture that focuses on healthier nutritional choices.

Without having a caregiver to turn to, a human baby suffers failure to thrive. So to turn on the built-in healing tool in the human body, the anxiety must be calmed. And the only way to turn on this epigenetic switch in the genes to heal, is to be free from the anxiety of non-existence. Food becomes a substitute for a marriage in which one spouse feels the other complains to strangers about the spouse's shortcomings in career or communication.

You can see it when a female neighbor crosses the street to talk to a man, but when the man's wife appears, he doesn't invite his wife into the conversation he's having with a female neighbor, and the female neighbor doesn't turn her back to invite the wife into the conversation either. That type of behavior can drive the wife to eat for emotional reasons.

The child inside, nutrition, and taste

When in fear, many people will call out, "mommy help me." It's the child inside that longs for the family, the parent who can soothe and heal with a loving touch. It's the skin hunger of an infant that longs for a healing massage, nurturing food, and the water of life. These items are not symbolic. Clean water is necessary. Wherever there is water, there is life, even if one-celled. It's the perfect mother search that drives people to make emotional eating a habit, especially eating of soft, comfort foods such as ice cream and puddings.

The human egg will even repair a slightly defective sperm before accepting it to form a human being. And the only way the human body can heal itself, repair slightly defective imperfections, or fight invading microbes is to switch on that healing tool which is based on total trust that something inside the human body cares enough to repair a slight defect, defend the cells against invasion, or calm the anxiety of nonexistence.

When people choose foods, sometimes it's done for emotional reasons to use food as a healing tool, as a caregiver and nurturer rather than to thwart hunger. Not many people eat or choose foods specifically for the goal of lengthening their telomeres so their cells can keep reproducing for many more years. Some people eat to fill up an emptiness instead of eating as a healing tool by choices small portion sizes and several meals a day instead of three large meals.

Perhaps we should eat to preserve our genetic signatures which is our history. For deeper thinking, check out the new series on the Science Channel TV (Dish Network) has this month, called Through the Wormhole: Science Channel.This program explores the deepest mysteries about thinking and questioning. Also, for further information on mastering the rules of competitive behavior, you might enjoy Games People Play: Game Theory in Life, Business, and Beyond. It's a course on DVDs.

Tired of sausage pizzas and corn dog breakfasts at Sacramento Elementary Schools?

Kids are lining up daily for breakfasts of sausage pizzas and corn dogs at Sacramento elementary schools, according to the April 18, 2010 Sacramento Bee article, by Melody Gutierrez, "Sacramento area schools try to serve healthier food."

If the only place parents and teachers have to look is the U.S. Senate, then the nutrition guidelines pending there currently may be a step toward getting salty, fatty, and sugary processed foods out of public school lunch menus in Sacramento. You have to contend with what kids eat for breakfast in school and what they eat for lunch.

School meals are a big issue with the government. Michelle Obama has been traveling across the USA or broadcasting on television for schools and families to take some action to prevent or reverse childhood obesity. Our children will be the first generation to develop chronic diseases related to diet and lifestyle at an earlier age than our grandparents did in the 1940s.

You can't turn on your TV set without seeing reality shows about school cafeteria workers or comments about the quality of food served in public schools. It's going to take people with the power to change standards to make any improvements in the local nutrition standards of what's served in Sacramento's elementary school cafeterias.

Instead of serving choices of raw food diets or lots of fruit and vegetables other than fried potatoes or battered zucchini and fried corn hush puppies, in most of the local and national elementary schools a large number of packages of frozen, processed foods arrive with the only cooking being done is a batch of salty, processed foods full of fat, salt, and sugar getting warmed up in an oven. Who's really cooking meals in the public school cafeteria kitchens?

Many of the commercial foods are processed.

Once the food is processed, it's dead food. It's not sprouted grain, and not green leafy vegetables that are raw or balanced. It's food that has lost most of its nutritional value and taste. On one hand, you have Sacramento City School's Healthy Foods Task Force looking at standards.

On the other hand, you have parents objecting to the processed corn dog breakfasts kids are getting in Sacramento elementary schools where finger food like hot dogs on a stock and fried corn batter is convenient. The corn dogs are heated and served.

Time is saved from having to prep raw vegetables or slice fresh fruit. Who's planning healthier breakfasts for kids? If the parents are working and don't have time to cook, and the schools are serving heated processed food that arrived frozen, not many people are taking the time to cook from raw materials and live foods. Are kids eating white bread or whole wheat made by adding caramel coloring to flour instead of eating flourless no-yeast bread made from sprouted lentils and grains?

You've heard it before, the adage, "the whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead."

If you work as a school cafeteria cook or server, you know what the answer is: there's not enough money or equipment in school cafeterias. And without resources and staff, you're as limited as the government is when it comes to inspecting food that is imported. So both cafeteria workers and government inspectors are strapped for resources, money, and staff, let alone time.

What is good about schools is that there are salad bars, but they're not at all schools. And when you look at costs, what's really in those salad bars? Is it iceberg lettuce that has little nutrition? Or is it Romaine lettuce with more nutrition and salad greens, including spinach, arugula, and some of those colorful purple lettuce that you see on supermarket produce shelves?

Salad pickings

If you don't have money to buy those foods for school salad bars, then plant the green salad pickings in back of the school instead of just having lawns? You need a small, sustainable community garden at elementary schools. The students can plant the vegetables that eventually end up in the school's salad bar. It's part of the slow-food, urban community gardens in the schools movement.

Local farmers also can supply schools with greens for their salad bars, if the farmers find a way to get the produce to the schools. Is transportation being provided? Or are the vegetables rotting in local farmer's fields while school kids are dining on processed foods?

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 had put the burden on the federal government to give grants that would help to pay for vegetables and fruits from local farmers

Why import vegetables or fruits frozen from another country, when local farmers are eager to find ways to get their produce to markets, such as public schools? What parents want for school children is food that's safe and nutritious.

You can research the local Davis Farm to School Programs -- According to its website, the farmers’ market salad bar, called “Crunch Lunch,” of the Davis Joint Unified School District is a daily buffet-style array of in-season fruits and vegetables sourced from local farmers.

The salad bar is offered daily as an alternative to the regular hot meal. The program was started in 1999 as a way to link the district’s already thriving school garden program. DJUSD works in partnership with the Davis Farm to School Connection in order to implement and maintain the Crunch Lunch salad bar at each school site.

The program got off the ground in 2000 with a $46,235 grant from the USDA Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. Additional money was received from the California Department of Education’s Nutrition Services Department for development of links between classrooms, school gardens, and food service and from the California Integrated Waste Management Board for vermi-composting, waste diversion, and recycling.

Other organizations also received money to pay for for program evaluation, farm tours, and program expansion throughout California. Supplementary funds were sought out and received for ongoing support of the program. Start-up equipment costs totaled nearly $10,000 for three schools. In the first year program costs were $23,609, with the help of grant funding, the salad bar program was able to run at a profit its first two years, according to the Davis, CA, Farm to School Programs site.

No matter what public elementary school in Sacramento your child attends, the school districts are serving the same menu items at all the elementary schools in this area. Some schools offer salad bars, and some do not.

If your child attend an elementary school that is classified as a "poor" school, the child qualifies for free and/or reduced lunches. A lot of kids depend on the school meals for most of their nutrition such as breakfast and lunch and come home to a dinner of take-out foods, fries, or macaroni and cheese processed foods at home, particularly if the parents are trying to stretch food budgets.

Other children from Sacramento's poorer areas rely on school food as the only food they get each day. You can research the websites of organizations such as the School Nutrition Association. According to the Sacramento Bee article, Davis Joint Unified has one of the most acclaimed nutrition programs in the country. The district serves fruits and vegetables from local farms. The teriyaki chicken and Moroccan pork for $3.25 are cooked as slow-food.

These foods aren't a 2010 version of the frozen 1950-style TV dinner that your grandparents used to heat up for dinner. How difficult is it to raise enough money to have food made from scratch instead of serving kids deep fried formerly frozen chicken nuggets?

How much money can you raise by fundraising? It took thousands of dollars from fundraising efforts to serve many of the foods cooked from scratch at Davis Joint Unified schools, according to the Sacramento Bee article, "Sacramento area schools try to serve healthier food." Check out another article, Greening the Plate of School Lunch. See some slides from a presentation of the whys and hows of starting a Farm to School program.

What do Sacramento school lunches serve?

Have you looked lately at the local menus of junior high school-middle school lunches? Is it burgers and fries, chicken, grilled cheese, fries, or anything at all like the lunches kids take to school such as avocado and grated carrot nori sea vegetable rolls with brown rice, sprouted corn tortillas filled with Parmesan and spinach, wild-caught canned salmon, celery, carrots, and grape seed oil mayonnaise or sardines? Check out what Sacramento middle schools serve for lunch. See, Sacramento City Unified School District 2009/2010 Secondary Menu [PDF]. How about spicy chicken sandwiches and cheeseburgers? Also see, Folsom Cordova Unified School District.

Now, you can't say the school lunches caused your child's obesity. But a new study links middle-school lunches in general to obesity. Why? What's the link? Your child's lunch menu can be found online. Check it out. Or perhaps your child's school lunch looks like fast food with barbeque chicken and sauce, lettuce, and fries or burgers with sliced onion and pickles?

Take your pick of school lunches. Some are good and some might be linked to obesity. Check out what's cooking in Sacramento middle school cafeterias.

Students who regularly eat school-furnished lunches are more likely to be overweight and have higher levels of cholesterol than those who eat meals brought from home, a new study found. But studies like these have been going on for years. The latest survey of middle-schoolers found that 39 percent of those who always or almost always had cafeteria meals were overweight or obese, compared with 24 percent of those bringing food from home.

Overweight and the studies on school lunches?

Check out the study done by researchers, from the University of Michigan Health Systems in Ann Arbor. The scientists presented their findings March 13, 2010 at a meeting of heart specialists in Atlanta. Read the study's results. See the March 13, 2010 University of Michigan study's press release, Children who eat school lunches more likely to be overweight.

What you need to understand is that scientists didn't specify that school lunches caused the children to be overweight. What the study found, according to the survey results, focused on added evidence of unhealthy diets and lack of exercise in the same group that regularly went through the lunch line. Still, the research adds to evidence that some schools don't do enough to fight obesity in American youths.

The question in nutrition, is do parents blame children's obesity on genes inherited from one or more family members? Or on food habits that are difficult to change? Are food habits based on taste? Do bad food habits change the way the brain perceives the taste of vegetables? Or do family members blame obesity on what the children eat in school, out of school, or on lack of exercise in favor of video games, computers, TV, or even too much homework?

Do families make the connection between familiar foods or traditional meals made with unhealthy ingredients compared to what substitutions could be made at home or in schools?

For example, before a slice of toast topped with butter and cheese or bacon is given to a child, does the school (or the family member) think maybe a healthier substitution for a familiar food could be made?

One example would be instead of margarine on bread, how about a drizzle of olive oil spiced with minced garlic or sliced tomato? Or instead of a smoothie of milk and ice cream like those 1950s familiar malts, how about putting into the blender a handful of spinach tossed into a cup of pomegranate juice, a few almonds, some flax seeds, a serving of whey or rice protein powder, a tablespoon of psyllium husk, a tablespoon of whole wheat germ or if allergic to grain, a spoon of sesame or flax seeds, and 3/4 cup of blueberries?

Blend it all into a smoothie, and taste it. Do you really need that milkshake or malt when you could substitute fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and no-sugar added fruit juice?

The current study reported March 13, 2010, found that middle school children who regularly eat school lunches are more likely to be overweight or obese, develop poorer eating habits and have high levels of “bad” cholesterol compared to those who bring lunches from home, according to new University of Michigan Health System research presented March 13 at the American College of Cardiology’s 59th annual scientific session.

Although previous studies have looked at the nutritional content of school lunches, this is the first study to assess the impact of school lunches on children’s eating behaviors and overall health—a critical issue amid skyrocketing rates of childhood overweight and obesity, which can set the stage for future heart disease and premature death.

A team of U-M Cardiovascular Center researchers collected and analyzed health behavior questionnaires completed by 1,297 sixth graders at Michigan public schools over a period of almost three years. They discovered that children who consume school lunches were more likely to be overweight or obese (38.8 percent vs. 24.4 percent) than those who ate lunches brought from home.

Children who ate school meals were more than twice as likely to consume fatty meats (25.8 percent vs. 11.4 percent) and sugary drinks (36 percent vs. 14.5 percent), while also eating fewer fruits and vegetables (16.3 percent vs. 91.2 percent).

Researchers also found these children had higher levels of low-density lipid cholesterol (or “bad cholesterol”) than their home-fed counterparts. Students reported on what they consumed throughout the day—not just at lunchtime.

“This study confirms the current and escalating national concern with children’s health, and underscores the need to educate children about how to make healthy eating and lifestyle choices early on,” says Elizabeth Jackson, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Health System. “Although this study doesn’t provide specific information on nutrient content of school lunches, it suggests there is a real opportunity to promote healthy behaviors and eating habits within the school environment. This is where kids spend a majority of their time.”

In addition to gathering information on dietary habits, researchers looked at sixth graders’ self reports of physical activity, involvement in sports, and sedentary behaviors such as watching TV or playing video games.

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