Paving the Way for Healthier Schools Nationwide

shutterstock_152942660In 2012 Massachusetts was one of the first states to adopt ground-breaking nutrition standards in its public schools with the goal of reducing childhood obesity and promoting healthy growth and development. According to a new study led by Northeastern University in Boston, the Bay State has done an exemplary job of demonstrating how quickly others can adapt to health-driven initiatives.

The NOURISH Study (Nutrition Opportunities to Understand Reforms Involving Student Health) included nearly 75 schools in 37 districts across the state. Though the new standards have only been in effect for about a year, researchers noted significant improvements already in regulating unhealthy food and drink items. Compliance rates for the new standards increased from 13% to 69% in middle schools and from 28% to 80% in high schools.

Artificial sweeteners, white bread, and trans fats are among those items banned altogether in Massachusetts schools (fryolators are now prohibited), and additional restrictions have been placed on sodium, fat and sugar content. Perhaps most importantly, the new standards apply to so-called competitive foods—those foods and beverages sold in vending machines and school stores, or offered as à la carte items in lunchrooms.

In 2014 similar requirements went into effect for all U.S. schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (under the “Smart Snacks in School” regulation), but those requirements have been met with considerable resistance. Authors of this study hope their findings—published online this month in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—will help institutions across the country see how easy it can be to embrace healthier standards for children and teens.


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Make Your Own Sauerkraut!

SauerkrautWith all the good things we’ve been hearing about fermented foods lately, chances are you’ve been adding a few more of them to your grocery cart. Foods and beverages like yogurt, tempeh, kombucha, kefir, and cultured vegetables are rich in beneficial bacteria that help keep your gut in balance and support good digestion and health. Below is a super simple recipe for homemade sauerkraut you can prepare right in your kitchen!

Homemade Sauerkraut
30 minutes to prepare, 7+ days to ferment
Serves 16

5 tbsp. fine sea salt
1 quart purified water
2 heads red and/or green cabbage, cored and shredded

Combine 3 tbsp. salt plus water in a large bowl. Let sit until salt dissolves completely. Place cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle even with 1 tbsp. salt. Massage and squeeze cabbage thoroughly with your hands so the natural juices of the cabbage are released. Transfer cabbage and juices to ten 12-ounce wide-mouth glass jars or a 1-gallon crock, pressing the cabbage down tightly. The juices should completely cover the cabbage. If not, add brine to submerge. The liquid should be no closer than 1 inch from the lid. If the cabbage floats above the liquid, you will need to weigh it down with a plate or lid.

Leave jars or crock in a dark, warm place in your kitchen (such as a pantry or cabinet). Allow cabbage to ferment for at least 7 days, loosening and retightening the lid (if you are using jars) every 3 days to release pressure. Check regularly to be sure the cabbage remains submerged, adding more brine if necessary.

After 7 days, taste the sauerkraut. If it is not to your liking, wait another day and taste again, and so on until it reaches the desired flavor. At that time, move the jars to the refrigerator to slow any further fermentation and to set the flavor. If you’ve used a large crock, portion the sauerkraut into jars or glass storage containers to store in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat. Enjoy!

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