Highlights of the October 2004 Journal of the American Dietetic Association

September 30, 2004

Parental Attitudes Towards Soft Drink Vending Machines in High Schools

Concerns about the overall health and well-being of America's children continue to rise as the obesity epidemic continues to expand. Many nutrition experts say an increase in soft drink consumption among adolescents coupled with the easy access to soft drinks in school vending machines over the past two decades are contributing factors to excess weight among kids.

To gauge parents' thoughts on school vending machines, researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted focus groups, from which five major themes emerged (in order of importance):

  • Student control/choice: Parents saw high school as a time for teens to have more freedom in decision making and taking care of themselves.
  • Regulations: Most parents were supportive of schools' limiting access to vending machines. They wanted a wider variety of choices available to students with healthier alternatives.
  • Parental knowledge: Most parents did not know much about the soft drink vending machines at their children's schools.
  • The purpose of soft drink vending machines in schools: Parents generally did not know how much money vending machines generated for the schools but did agree that they would rather see the money go to the school instead of a supermarket.
  • Health impact of soft drinks: Parents agreed that drinking soft drinks, particularly in excess, has negative physical effects. However, parents did feel that the health impact of soft drinks was lower down on the list of priorities, below cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or even coffee.

    "As soft drink consumption increases among kids, so do nutritional concerns," says registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Patricia Vasconcellos. "Too often soft drinks take the place of more nutritious beverages such as milk and fruit juices. As your best guideline, encourage your children to enjoy soft drinks in moderation as long as they also consume other nutrient-rich drinks."

    Does Having a Salad Help in Weight Management?

    As a weight management strategy, most nutrition experts agree that along with regular physical activity, people should keep tabs on their portion sizes to help them manage the number of calories they consume.

    Researchers from The Pennsylvania State University examined whether eating a salad as a first course had any effect on intake of the main meal.

    The results of the study of 42 women showed eating a large salad (3 cups), compared with not having a first course, reduced the women's meal energy intake by 12 percent. The researchers concluded: "Consuming a large portion of a low-energy-dense food at the start of a meal may be an effective strategy for weight management."

    "In addition to calorie control, three cups of salad provide at least three servings of vegetables. Salads can help make it easy for people to reach the recommended goal of three to five servings of vegetables per day," says registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Lola O'Rourke.
    -end-
    The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is the official research publication of the American Dietetic Association and is the premier peer-reviewed journal in the field of nutrition and dietetics. With nearly 70,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Based in Chicago, ADA serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being. Visit ADA at www.eatright.org.

    American Dietetic Association

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