District aims to provide healthy alternatives to “empty calories”

CUSD standards aim to eliminate unhealthy options and add nutritious foods to cafeterias around the district.

Soda, sport drinks, and other sugary drinks are known to be called “empty calories”. But other popular food dishes like pizza, ice cream, cookies and french fries also fit into the category of empty calories. Teenagers are bombarded by fast food restaurants, schools and grocery stores’ advertising these extra calories. This epidemic is leading to an increase of childhood obesity.

Empty calories are solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats are found in food like
fried chicken that has been deep fried in shortening or pastries that are filled with high amounts of saturated and trans fat.  Regular sodas even diet sodas are added sugars along with candy. Most children and teens consume empty calories as a main part of their diet.

According to the Centers for Disease and Protection, empty calories…contribute to 40 percent of daily calories for children and adolescents aged 2–18 years, affecting the overall quality of their diets.

With empty calories being a big impact on a child’s diet, it increases the risk of childhood obesity. The lack of exercise and eating more calories than burned off lead to weight gain.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that kids and adults intake no more “empty calories” than between 8 percent and 19 percent of their daily calorie maximum. But it is impossible to achieve this maximum when teenagers are surrounded by empty calorie sources.

Sources of empty calories are prevalent in many schools, grocery stores, and fast food restaurants. According to Food Product Design, children’s consumption of empty calories amounted to approximately one third of their average intake at each location–stores, schools, and fast food restaurants.

In Perry’s own cafeteria, administration have eliminated empty calories from food choices. “Our cafeteria has changed over the years, their nutritional requirements meet new requirements. You notice they don’t sell regular sodas and other stuff like that,” said principal Dan Serrano.

CUSD has changed their food requirements to provide healthier and safer food to all
ages. The district has developed a wellness policy to focus on improving health and preventing childhood obesity.

Sophomore Kelli Ferre’ said, “It is great that they got rid of soda because I think it is really unhealthy.”

There are many food choices that are still delicious but don’t have empty calories. For
example, low fat cheese, unsweetened applesauce, baked chicken breast without
skin, are all healthy and tasty.

Switching daily foods with empty calories to healthier, more nutrient dense foods will
provide a balanced weight and stable lifestyle.