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How Can Athletes Cope with New School Lunch?

Kristi Spence MS, RD, CSSD

Kristi enjoys the outdoors and is an avid runner.

Recently revised school meal standards have raised eyebrows, spawned debate, and launched criticism. Should we have calorie limits? How do we balance a childhood obesity epidemic with kids who need extra fuel for sport? The new USDA guidelines are designed to align federally subsidized school meals with the latest installment of the dietary guidelines (released 2010). This makes sense. If the government provides nutritional standards for all Americans, then the breakfast and lunch programs they offer to students should mirror those standards. Here is quick run-down of the major changes:


  • The new school meal regulations aim to boost fruit, vegetable, and whole grain consumption
  • New meal offerings must reduce the total amount saturated fat and sodium
  • Flavored milk must be fat-free and white milk must be low fat.
  • While minimum calorie amounts were always part of school meals, the latest rule imposes acceptable maximum calorie levels as well. For high school students, the acceptable calorie range for a reimbursable school lunch is 750-850.

It is on this latter point that some student-athletes have raised concerns, suggesting that even the upper limit isn’t enough to get them through an afternoon practice or competition. It is absolutely true that athletes have greater calorie needs than their non-athletic counterparts. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines estimate that active 18-year old males require an average of 3,200 calories per day, while active 18-year old females require 2,400 calories per day compared respectively to 2,400 and 1,800 for non-active males and females. These are averages. Given the intensity of some high school sports, the elite level at which some students participate, and variations in personal size and metabolic needs, these estimates may be low. However, even the most active teen can properly fuel for intense training on an 850-calorie lunch. Part of the solution involves eating everything that is offered. Research has shown that since the new guidelines have been adopted, plate waste is up, indicating that more kids are choosing to forego what is on their tray.

In working with elite high school and adult athletes, I often recommend 3 meals plus 3 snacks during the day in order to properly fuel for intense training and competition. An afternoon meal that is too large may not sit well for an athlete trying to workout in the afternoon. For this reason, eating a larger breakfast and incorporating a substantial mid-morning snack is a must. Even under the previous school meal guidelines, I would always recommend that high school athletes come to school prepared with snacks. Popping a box of granola bars, a bag of pretzels, or a sports bar in your locker or gym bag is just good practice and offers a source of additional, quickly absorbed and easily digested fuel prior to training or competition. The new meal guidelines allow for unlimited fruits and vegetables, even at levels beyond the 850-calorie limit, so if an athlete has finished his lunch, he can always head back up to the lunch line for an extra serving of fruit or vegetables. Many schools also have a la carte lines where students can purchase additional food.

The new school meal guidelines are just that – new. It always takes time to adjust to change, work out the kinks, and adapt to new meal patterns. The conversation this has sparked is a good one. Improving school lunch, coming up with suggestions and encouraging kids to adopt a healthier palate is an important step in creating a healthier generation and it takes collaboration. As a sport dietitian, I am thrilled that high school athletes now have access to more nutrient-dense foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat dairy.

The secret to athletic success has not changed: performing well and maximizing athletic potential takes training on and off the field, and nutrition is a key component in that equation. Even an athlete with calorie needs nearing 5,000 per day can fuel adequately with an 850-calorie lunch. Learning to plan, prepare, adapt, and fuel is part of becoming a successful athlete – it starts in high school.

Below are tips for meeting calorie needs and maximizing performance for high school athletes:

  • Eat Breakfast – breakfast gets your metabolism going and sets the stage for a successful day (both in training and in the classroom). Athletes who don’t eat breakfast have a difficult time meeting their energy needs.
  • Bring a mid-morning snack – to meet their needs, athletes often need to incorporate snacks throughout the day. Here are some easy things to bring from home:
    • Yogurt or cheese stick & fruit
    • PB&J sandwich
    • Granola bar & fruit
  • Grab an extra piece / cup of fruit from the lunch line – the addition of these nutrient dense calories can help provide extra carbohydrate (muscle fuel) for an afternoon training session
  • Stash some snacks in your gym bag or locker for before or after practice/competition.
  • Refuel after training
How are you coping with the new requirements?

Kristi Spence is a registered dietitian and certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Kristi is the VP of Communications for the Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada. She loves spending time with her family, cooking, running, hiking, and connecting people with farmers. Check out and follow Kristi on Twitter @Kristiruns & @DairyUTNV


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Eatocracy: Forward-thinking farmers are preventing another Dust Bowl

Posted on Eatocracy

2012 farm drought could be worse

After a very wet spring in 2011 that delayed planting, the 2012 crop season looked promising as planting conditions were optimal. The outlook was refreshing as it meant few setbacks on the crop. However, the good conditions during planting quickly turned as our family waited and waited for moisture. Unfortunately, when the rains did arrive, they were few and far between.

This has turned into the worst drought our family has seen in generations. And more importantly, the drought this year is not isolated to my local community – our nation has not faced a drought this severe since the 1930s when the Dust Bowl completely devastated American agriculture. July temperatures reportedly broke records set during the Dust Bowl. During the 2012 crop year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated roughly half of all U.S. counties – 1,496 in 33 states – as disaster areas because of the drought.

Our current hot and dry conditions are unlike what our country has experienced for decades. And it’s true that it is significantly impacting farmers’ and ranchers’ livelihoods. It’s also true that for some types of food, the American people could feel it in our wallets in the coming months (or years), with the USDA predicting that consumers can expect to pay up to 4 percent more for groceries in 2013.

But the impact on consumers, overall food prices and the toll on our daily lives are minimal compared to the devastating hardship that Americans faced during the 1930s. This drought – while difficult for some farmers and ranchers who are suffering severe crop losses and faced with selling livestock they have been building for generations – may be only minor for most Americans. Why?

Read the full article on Eatocracy



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Science, Emotion, Food Choices & Agvocating

Jan Hoadley

So often when consumers disagree with something we do, we respond with a scientific study. When they don’t respond well we get defensive and accuse them of being emotional. Wait…who got *emotion* involved…defensive is an emotion! They state a preference, maybe for reasons we don’t agree with but a preference.

Farmers are often passionate about what we do -from the truck we drive to the tractor paint to the cattle in the barn. Yet we respond with science because that’s what we make so many decisions on.We can playfully argue John Deere/IH or Holstein/colored cows or Dodge/Chevy for hours, but few take that as a personal insult.

So picture this – you sit down to a meal that smells heavenly. It’s been a long day and you’re hungry. You take a bite and as the flavors melt together do you think “this tastes *efficient*?” This has all the proteins, amino acids, carbs and everything I need and therefore is a balanced ration? It has X grams of fat, protein and salt. No – it’s emotion. It tastes awesome. Someone made the meal special.You enjoy it.

How many sit down for their morning coffee at the local cafe – there’s a new waitress and she asks if you want cream. Do you jump in her face and say how dare she drink her coffee differently than you? Some might, but probably won’t be welcome at the cafe very much! Difference of opinions is not personal. Why do we take difference of opinions personally?

If someone chooses to not eat dairy products, or doesn’t prepare eggs in the home, or avoids GMO produced foods why is it a means of attack that they have a food choice? None of us need the majority of the market, so if we truly support food choices why then criticize those who choose organic? Why criticize those who spend $250 on a heritage breed turkey? Why criticize those who surf the clearance shelf in the meat section to decide what they can afford to serve this week? All are making food choices!

Some time ago I ran across a poll that I did a blog post on – it was who do you like better, Madonna, Lady Gaga or neither. Over 68% said neither. 20% and 12% chose one or the other. 12% of the population has made Lady Gaga a superstar with millions of dollars. Some might call that a niche market! Neither waste any time on the 75% of the public who don’t like them.

The public chooses food and yes it’s emotional. Farmers may be large or small, dairy or hogs, niche market or futures market…but we’re all emotional! We all need to survive and there’s little more emotional than feeling like we’re being criticized for doing the best job possible. If you choose a Chevy truck is Ford insulted? No. You choose on what you need, what you prefer and, perhaps, what you *like*…emotion!

Perhaps we all need to show a little more emotion. We like to show the good stuff of course. A positive image – look how great we take care of our animals and environment. And most farmers do! But then instead of a pat on the back we get someone who just read a bad report in the news and imperfectly ask a question that sounds like accusing…and off to the defense we go.

Stop. Listen. Verify. Listen. It’s not personal…it’s choices.

So the idea of telling a less than appealing story based on emotion can seem horrifying. But guess what – animals die. Machinery breaks down. Things happen that aren’t pleasant and we deal with it and go on. I think it’s important to transparency to show the good of course, but don’t necessarily cover up the bad or how transparent is it?

“So and so has a good farm – they never have animals die on their farm!” Really? I think everyone large and small, indoor or outdoor, grass or confinement, occasionally has animals die. But do people assume it doesn’t happen if you don’t talk about it? Do they assume that because we’re transparent that all is rosy and sunny days?

There are over 308million people in the USA and every one of them makes a food choice three times a day or more. From the homeless veteran on the street to celebrities to the wealthy everyone needs food and everyone has a choice what that food will be.

And for all the organic, heritage, heirloom, grass fed, conventional, modern farms out there there are farm choices to fill those food choices. Too often we look short term – it’s competition. Look again at the network around us folks!

We’re a small peon in the food choice wheel at SlowMoneyFarm. We aren’t condemning those larger farms because we can’t feed the food choices they do! We’ve had some look down and insult us for “efficiency”, but offer more choices because of flexibility than many can. Choices. We could offer larger farms choices, if some worked with the smaller places. Corn, feed, hay has to come from somewhere and we don’t have land at this point to make it happen. So the farm willing to work with those smaller than them, as well as those larger, is an important link in the food chain.

We often say farmers are consumers too, but forget that when we get defensive. We forget that we’re all in the same network, and we can all work together. And we can do a better job of it to insure food choices – to allow and defend food choices. If someone chooses rabbit this weekend instead of beef, rest assured it’s not going to change the beef industry.

It’s just food choices.

Jan Hoadley runs SlowMoneyFarm, a direct sale operation supporting food choices. They have a focus on heritage and heirloom varieties/breeds, including Giant chinchilla rabbits for show and meat.

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Good People Make Great Teams

Just Farmers is a team of many people from the editors to the guest authors everyone has a role and everyone yet remains their own person.

Today we celebrate one of our first team members and wish Mike Haley Happy Birthday! Mike is a leader who constantly challenges the rest of the team to continue thinking and has helped us all become better representatives of Agriculture.

Mike and his Donkey "Jenny"

Along the way there have been some memorable occasions the one that is most vivid is the day Twitter said #Moo. On Mike’s Birthday in 2009 his wish was for #Moo to become a Twitter trend. Little did we know the amount of work it would take to carry out the feat. In the end not only did #Moo trend many great friendships grew from that day.

Happy Birthday Mike from the Just Farmers Team!

Please feel free to share your Birthday wishes to Mike by adding a comment.

Related Articles:

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Dear Secretary Vilsak and the USDA

Dear Secretary Vilsak,

We would like to thank you and the USDA for responding to the ‘Meatless Monday’ issue so quickly.  It was reassuring that the passage had been included without the proper clearance and that the USDA supports personal choice. After this unfortunate experience I am hoping you take the time to share with the agricultural community how the department plans on preventing this type of issue from occurring again.

As you are most likely aware, in recent years, there has been a growing community of farmers who have been making time to “know their customer,” by engaging in conversation’s both on and offline in an effort to have a constructive conversation about how food is grown.  Your department had a firsthand experience in getting to ‘Know Your Farmer.’ It is exciting to see the increased participation of farmers and ranchers involved in social media platforms.

We are encouraged through your actions, that the USDA is listening. It is our hope that we might be able to continue a positive dialogue moving into the future. Being able to provide a diversity of healthy choices is one objective we can all agree on.

In closing, it may be beneficial for your entire staff to challenge themselves to review the most current projects and studies related to agriculture, so as to be able to represent those that they serve to the best of their ability. Addressing this particular issue are two studies by Dr. Bauman, Cornell University and Dr. Capper, Washington State University titled “The Carbon Footprint of Beef Production” and “Efficiency of Dairy Production and It’s Carbon Footprint,”

We appreciate your time, effort and service.



Jeff Fowle, Mike Haley and Ray Prock

Just Farmers

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