Let's face it: Kids love cheese, and they seem to love it most when it's in day-glo orange form. Stacks of packaged processed slices, and gritty mac-and-cheese powder are staples in many American homes. But with childhood obesity rates skyrocketing, should we really be calling this stuff healthy?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation thinks the answer is "yes."
The group recently launched a Kids Eat Right initiative to "end childhood obesity within a generation." Part of that effort is educating families about healthy food choices for their kids.
And - you guessed it - Kraft Singles were the first product to receive the new Kids Eat Right label.
After articles in The New York Times, the Huffington Post and other publications questioned the health merits of processed cheese, the foundation released a statement saying the label isn't an endorsement of the pre-packaged cheese product after all — just a recognition of Kraft as a "proud supporter" of Kids Eat Right.
There's no doubt the campaign is laudable. Childhood obesity is growing issue in the United States. More than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Being overweight or obese in childhood increases the risk of developing serious health problems including diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis, according to the CDC.
But experts argue that the label on Kraft Singles is deliberately misleading. Food labels can have a profound impact on consumer behavior, which is why the Food and Drug Administration regulates the claims that manufacturers can make on their labels. Kraft isn't even legally able to refer to its singles as "cheese" because they contain less than 51 percent real cheese — these plastic wrapped slices have to be called "pasteurized process cheese food."
Whether or not you agree with the Kids Eat Right label, there are better, healthier choices out there for your family. Starting with real food, with a small number of ingredients you can pronounce, is always a good choice. You can skip the processed cheese product and try some of the healthy and kid-friendly foods, snacks and juices available on Thrive Market.
UPDATED April 1, 2015—3:57 p.m
After an uproar from health-conscious consumers and members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the academy announced that Kraft would remove the logo from it's packaging, according to The New York Times.
“The academy and Kraft are in discussions to terminate the contract for our pilot program,” the organization said in an email to the Times.
Some shoppers still might see the processed cheese product with the Kids Eat Right logo on store shelves, however. Kraft told the Times that so much planning had gone into the program that it couldn't be avoided.
Photo credit: Krista via Flickr