Childhood obesity and overall poor health have become a huge problem in the United States. Not only do children suffer from the consequences of bad eating now, such as having low energy, but poor eating habits lead to much worse issues later on in life, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Here are twelve student foods that should be illegal.
Hamburgers, turkey and gravy, and ham and cheese sandwiches are all popular foods for children and are often seen in school cafeterias. But that meat could contain a muscle enhancer called ractopamine, which is given to cows, turkeys, and pigs. Ractopamine is actually banned in Russia, Mainland China, and Taiwan, but is still found in a significant portion of meat sold in United States grocery stores and possibly also in school lunches. It can cause hyperactivity or extremely high blood pressure in humans.
2) Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese are often part of school lunches and popular for kids at home, especially boxed mac and cheese that is easy to make. But mac and cheese contain harmful food dyes like yellow #5, which can cause cancer, migraines, blurred vision, and anxiety. Yellow #5 is already banned in Austria and Norway and comes with a warning label in Europe.
In addition to having no real nutritional benefit and a lot of sugar, Jell-O also has a lot of colored dyes as well, including red #40, which comes from coal tars. It causes hyperactivity in children and also increased their risk of cancer. Jell-O is only one of many foods that contain this dye.
4) Fat-free chips and french fries
A lot of students try to avoid gaining weight by choosing potato chips and french fries marketed as fat-free instead of regular ones. But these are really bad. A lot of fat-free chips and french fries contain Olean or Olestra, a calorie-free fat substitute. Olestra is far from healthy, however. Studies have shown that not only does it not prevent weight gain, but it also prevents the body from absorbing fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, K, and E, causing deficiencies in the human body. Olestra is banned in the United Kingdom and Canada.
One of the classic and most recognized staples in school lunches is the half-pint milk carton that comes in skim and 2%, and maybe even strawberry or chocolate as well. While cow’s milk is often touted as being part of a well-balanced meal and healthy diet, milk cows in the United States are often given artificial hormones like rBGH to increase milk production. rBGH can increase risk in humans for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer. It is banned in Austrailia, New Zealand, European Union, and Canada because of the harmful effects to both cows and humans.
Soda has always been popular among children and used to be sold in school vending machines and the cafeteria until most schools banned them. Even now, soda is often marketed to kids and is sold within walking distance of most schools.
But soda has no health benefits or nutrition to speak of. However, it is full of a lot of calories, dyes, artificial flavorings, and high fructose corn syrup. The calories do not satisfy the human body, however, so soda drinkers end up consuming more calories. Drinking a lot of soda can lead to severe dental problems, obesity, pancreatic cancer, fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
7) Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are popular among teenagers. While these drinks are geared towards athletes and aspiring athletes, studies have found kids drink them regardless of if they live active lifestyles or not, even if they are mostly sedentary.
Sports drinks have no benefits to people unless they do an intense amount of exercise every day. Otherwise, the artificial sugars and colors do a lot more harm. They can lead to weight gain and dehydration. The sugar corrodes the teeth and can cause cancer, depression, and obesity. The dyes are also harmful and might even have yellow 5 and red 40 which is discussed earlier.
Even students in school sports should avoid sports drinks. They are better off drinking plain water or if they really need electrolytes, coconut water.
8) Hot Dogs
Hot dogs are a popular food for a lot of kids to have at school and during special occasions like at barbecues or a baseball game. But like a lot of processed meats, they are not good for you. Hot dogs often contain preservatives like MSG and nitrates, which increases the risk for cancer. A lot of them use mechanically separated meat, which is a high-pressure system that turns the meat into a paste as it separates it from the bone. This leads to some animal by-products like fat and skin ending up in the hot dog.
A lot of the candy marketed to children, like gummy bears and ring pops, are extremely unhealthy. They are full of cancer causing food colorings and high fructose corn syrup, which is just another form of sugar. They can cause hyperactivity in children, cancer, obesity, and depression while also stuffing students full of empty calories instead of something that has nutritional benefit.
10) Cracker and cheese packages
A staple for snack time and lunchtime for kids is packages of cracker and cheese sandwiches. But these overly processed snacks have very little nutrients and are full of white flour and sugar, despite not being a “sweet” snack. To make matters worse, they are often full of trans fat, which is an artificial fat that is not found in natural foods. Trans fat is a solid fat that does not break down easily. Because of that, it stays in the body for a long time, clogging arteries and increasing risk of heart disease and other health issues.
11) Packaged lunches
Lunch packages like Kids’ Cuisine and Lunchables are easy for busy parents to buy at the store and give to their kids for school lunches. But these lunches are full of preservatives like MSG that are harmful. They are not healthy and can increase the risk of cancer.
12) Sugary Cereal
A lot of cereals are marketed towards children. They pretend to be part of a balanced breakfast while also offering Box Tops for education, which attracts the parents of students to get this for their kids. But a lot of these cereals, like Cap N’Crunch, Trix, and Cocoa Puffs, are little more than flavored chemicals. A lot of them have harmful dyes and colors and all of them have artificial sugars which increase hyperactivity and can lead to obesity. Some cereals like oatmeal or plain Cheerios are not bad. But most of the flashy cereals marketed to kids barely have enough nutritional benefit to be considered food.