Campaigns against obesity waged locally and beyond

DONNIE BRYANT?donnie.bryant@empiretribune.com
Registered dieticians, Laura Lively and Ellen Wells, spoke to 6 th grade PE students Thursday about healthy eating habits. DONNIE BRYANT/E-T

Donna White, Texas A&M AgriLife's extension agent in charge of family and consumer sciences, teamed up with registered dieticians Laura Lively and Ellen Wells to speak to 6th graders in Mary Pack's class at Gilbert Intermediate. Their focus was to encourage children to make healthy food choices at home and away. It was a kickoff activity for the Fuel Up To Play 60 program being implemented in Stephenville's elementary schools. The three of them demonstrated making orange smoothies.

“We want to show them how easy it is to make a smoothie full of calcium and vitamins instead of drinking empty calories that are found in soft drinks,” White said.

Their's was a message in keeping with news coming from New York City this week. For citizens of the Big Apple, the era of the super sized cola came to an end when the NYC Board of Health approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the size of sodas and other sugary drinks to 16 ounces when sold at restaurants, delicatessens and movie theaters.

However, doctors and nutrition experts reported the success of NYC's new regulation may hinge on more than just the number of calories it might slash from people's diets.

Dr. Jeffrey Mechanick, a professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, has studied the effect of government regulations on the obesity epidemic.

“Obesity is not just a disease of people drinking too much sugary soft drink," he is quoted as saying. "Just attacking one thing, individually, isn't going to do much."

While it is true there are many foods contributing to the nation's obesity rates, some experts believe soft drinks deserve a greater share of the blame, in part because the body doesn't scream, "I'm full!" when someone downs a 32 ounce soda, despite having nearly as many calories as a fast food cheeseburger.

Lively believes moderation is the key, stressing the importance of treating sodas as a treat.

“A twelve ounce can of soda contains 11 teaspoons of sugar,” she said. “And there's no nutrition in it at all. Do we really need that much sugar?”

Also reported this week was the unveiling of McDonald's own spin on the fight against obesity. Beginning Sunday, the restaurant chain will post calorie counts on its menu and start testing a host of new healthier options.

“Posting nutrition facts on the menu helps the consumers make better decisions about what foods to feed themselves and their families,” Wells said.

Roshanda Hawthorne, the communications manager handling the restaurant chain's announcements for the western division of the franchise, explained McDonald's agenda in making nutrition information readily available to its patrons.

“One of our goals is to be transparent for the consumer, and menu labeling will help us to do that,” she said. “We want the customer to make an informed choice.”

White praised the menu makeover.

“Showing consumers how much fat, sugar and calories are in fast foods is beneficial,” she said. “It's about empowering families and helping them to make the best health decisions.”