Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Monday 5/10: Hot Dog

The menu reads as follows: Hot Dog on a w/w bun, Baked Beans, Corn, Fruit.

What they got: Hot dog on a white bun, baked beans, canned corn, a fresh orange and milk.

The most obvious discrepancy is that Chartwells states they are serving the hot dog on a w/w bun...I'm just not sure if they meant white wheat or whole wheat. The beans looked home-made with bits of ground beef in them, sort of like a chili but without the kick. Personally I would have opted to keep the baked beans vegetarian. It is possible that they had to add the ground beef component to the beans so they could meet the recommended daily allowances as set by the National School Lunch Program. Compliance means they qualify for reimbursements as does participation. Interestingly Stephen O'Brien (NYS Department of Education-Director of Food and Food Support) stated that they were able to increase participation in their SchoolFood program because the quality of food went up  Better quality = higher participation. I believe the Hoboken School has definite room to improve.

Honestly though, I am not so much worried about the white bun and beans as I am about the actual hot dog. Hot dogs are high in sodium and saturated fats-  typically one hot dog contains 513 mg (or 21% DV) of sodium!  Basically 1/5 of your sodium intake is in that one hot dog! Never mind the sodium in the beans and the corn. The FDA  states that anything above 20% for sodium is considered high. They recommend trying to select foods that provide 5% or less for sodium, per serving.  Seems like an unattainable feat when talking of school lunches though. I wonder what the total sodium intake is for every meal?  I would actually like to challenge the food service company to make that data available to parents.

Too many reports have come about warning us about the dangers of consuming nitrites. Why would hundreds of educational institution knowingly serve processed meats that contain nitrites to our kids?  The American Institute for Cancer Research has advised that we avoid processed meats: 
Research is ongoing to determine which mechanisms are most strongly implicated in cancer development, but scientists point to three primary agents. Risk may be related to the nitrites that are often added to maintain color and prevent bacterial contamination. Once eaten, these nitrites can be converted within our bodies to nitrosamines, compounds found to cause cancer. Furthermore, processed meats frequently contain high levels of salt and many are smoked as well; both of these processes may increase cancer risk. Finally, products made from pork and beef (red meats) may pose a risk due to their heme iron content. In the U.S., reduced-fat processed meats made with chicken and turkey and, more recently, nitrate-free processed meats are becoming more common. However, until we know more conclusively where the risks from processed meats arise, you are best advised to avoid frequent use of these products as well. 

I have to agree with the last sentence...until we know more, better to not eat a lot of processed meats! Believe me, this makes me sad! I love sausages and smoked hams and salami's and bacon, but knowing what I know makes it easier to resist them...most of the time! :) 


  1. Plus, keep in mind that %DV is passed on an adult male. So for a child the percentage of sodium is way higher than 21%.

    I don't see why school food providers don't have to provide full nutrition information for the meals. Most restaurants must provide it when asked.

    Hot dogs are definitely not good on a regular basis, but a sometimes treat? Fine.

    By the way, were they all beef hot dogs or some other kind?

  2. You are absolutely right about %DV being for an adult.

    I have no idea what type of hot dogs they were and neither did the lunch lady. Obviously if we had some ingredient transparency we would not be questioning it!

    I don't have a problem with hot dogs being served occasionally. Its really the cumulative effect of all the sodium and saturated fats, which they consume daily and that come with processed foods that's the problem. In the case of the hot dog or steak-ums, nitrites are an added danger!