Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
The Rudd Center Health Digest

March 2011


Marlene Schwartz Discusses “One Dessert a Day”


In the February issue of Real Simple magazine, I was quoted in an article about smart eating strategies. My advice was placed under the headline: “Always eat dessert.” The same day the magazine started circulating, a parent in my town called and asked me to explain my quote. She knew I was a strong advocate of getting unhealthy snacks out of schools. This advice seemed like a contradiction, she said. The following day, a parent in another state wrote me that people were using my quote to advocate for cupcakes at school birthday celebrations. I immediately wrote back and told her that this was not the advice I was giving.

Clearly, a more detailed explanation was needed. Here is my logic.

I am the nutrition gatekeeper for my children. I teach them how to use their daily discretionary calories. Children between the ages of 2 and 8 can consume about 170 calories per day for treats such as cookies, candy, ice cream, and chips. When our children were little, my husband and I instituted the “one dessert a day” rule. The good news is you get dessert every single day; the bad news is you only get one reasonably sized dessert. Reasonably sized means two small chocolate chip cookies or one ice cream sandwich.

The benefit of this rule is that my children can enjoy sweets and other treats on a regular basis. At the same time, they learn that these foods are a small part of a daily diet. The concrete nature of “one a day” is much more helpful than the vague “everything in moderation.”

Sometimes we will see a candy machine or ice cream store when we are out. If my children ask for a snack, I tell them that they may have it, but I first remind them that this will be their dessert of the day. Sometimes they say that’s OK. More often, they opt to skip the random treat and have dessert after dinner with the family.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must share that we’ve negotiated over what counts as dessert. When chocolate is added to other foods, the categories get blurry. The verdicts: Chocolate chip pancakes at breakfast are not a dessert, but a chocolate chip muffin is. Chocolate milk counts as half a dessert. So, if you choose to institute this rule, be prepared for some interesting discussions.

Something else to consider: Your children will attend birthday parties where huge pieces of cake will be offered. Or, they will dine at restaurants with their grandparents and order an ice cream sundae that contains 170 calories in whipped cream and hot fudge alone. But those occasions are exceptions. If such events happen every couple of months, they qualify as “rare” to me.
On the bright side, as my children have gotten older, I do less monitoring. They have internalized the pattern. I was particularly proud of my oldest daughter after she came home from a recent high school party and told me that she scanned the dessert table and decided that the best item was the brownie. She had one, enjoyed it, and then went off to dance with her friends.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Front-of-Package Food and Beverage Labeling: New Directions for Research and Regulation

Nutrition-related labeling is a method used to inform consumers and encourage product reformulation. While the Food and Drug Administration is authorized to regulate nutrition labeling, manufacturers still have flexibility when making claims. The food industry recently created a labeling scheme to draw attention to specific qualities of their products. Since the inception of these confusing schemes, the federal government is reassessing regulations to ensure labels provide accurate and non-misleading information to consumers.

The research community can play a role in developing the proposed regulations. Strategies include gauging scientific validity and consumer comprehension, revealing the misleading nature of claims while supporting stricter regulations, and bringing false, deceptive, and misleading labels to the government’s attention, according to a paper recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Jennifer L. Pomeranz, JD, MPH, Rudd Center Director of Legal Initiatives.

Food Retailer Practices, Attitudes and Beliefs About the Supply of Healthy Foods

Non-supermarket food retailers can be a promising channel for increasing the availability of healthy foods in underserved communities, according to a paper recently published in Public Health Nutrition. The researchers analyzed retailer practices, attitudes, and beliefs about the supply of healthy foods before and after the introduction of new subsidies for healthy foods by the U.S. Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in October 2009. They examined retailer perceptions of supply networks, demand and profits for different foods, and barriers to stocking healthy foods.

The researchers followed up with retailers to assess their attitudes after the implementation of the new WIC packages. Retailers identified customer demand as the primary factor in stocking decisions. They reported observing a greater demand for certain healthy foods compared with unhealthy foods after the new WIC subsidies became available. Retailers other than supermarkets currently perceive little demand for healthy foods, but new WIC subsidies have the power to change these perceptions. Supply barriers could be overcome when policy changes generate new demand for healthy foods.

The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center’s Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD; Ann E. Middleton, MPH; Joerg Luedicke, PhD (ABD); and Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD; and Harvard School of Public Health’s Michael W. Long, MPH.

Rudd Center Summer Internships

The Rudd Center is seeking candidates for several full-time summer internships. Visit the position descriptions to learn more about the open positions and apply.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

March 14, 12:30 pm
Simon Capewell, DSc
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Division of Public Health, University of Liverpool
Evidence-Based Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Policies: Where Next?

March 23, 12:30 pm
B. Timothy Walsh, MD
Professor of Psychiatry, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University
Binge Eating Disorder: What Is It?

March 30, 12:30 pm
Stephen P. Teret, JD, MPH
Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Law and the Public’s Health
Innovative Legal Strategies for Food Policy

April 6, 12:30 pm
Dawn Sweeney
President and Chief Executive Officer, National Restaurant Association
Today's Restaurant Industry: Empowering Consumers with Healthy Choices and Nutrition Information

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive reminders of upcoming seminars and schedule changes.

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Stephen P. Teret, JD, MPH

TeretStephen P. Teret, JD, MPH, Professor of Health Policy and Management and Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Law and the Public’s Health, and Associate Dean for Faculty and Education of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, will discuss innovative legal strategies for food policy during the Rudd Center’s Spring Seminar Series on March 30.

Dr. Teret has been a full-time faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health for more than 30 years. His work focuses on research, teaching, and public service in the areas of injury prevention, vaccine policy, preparedness, obesity, and health law. He also holds joint faculty appointments at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, and is a Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.

Dr. Teret is an author and frequent lecturer. He has served as a consultant to the President of the United States, the U.S. Attorney General, Congress, federal agencies, and state legislatures. He has received multiple awards for his work, including awards from the American Public Health Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

Georgia Bill Campaign on Childhood Obesity: Suitable or Stigmatizing?

A series of billboards in Georgia aimed at reducing childhood obesity may be stigmatizing and hurting children instead, according to a recent article by Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. The billboards, launched by Georgia’s Children’s Health Alliance, show overweight and obese children next to stigmatizing captions.

The article is the latest in a series by Dr. Puhl on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Timothy Cipriano
Executive Director of Food Services, New Haven Public Schools
Healthy Foods in Schools

Eric Mar
Supervisor, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
San Francisco Child’s Menu Toy Ordinance

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U and through an RSS Feed.

Front Burner News

Calories on Front of Beverages

The American Beverage Association recently announced that soft drink companies will display calorie information on the front of their bottles, cans, and other containers by the end of the year. Read more.

Soda Tax Proposed in Sacramento

A soda tax was proposed in Sacramento, California to fight childhood obesity and fund city recreational programs such as summer and after-school youth leagues. The tax would also fund city employees working in recreational programs at schools. Read more.

Group Rallies to Get Flavored Milk Out of Schools

In an effort to rid school cafeterias of flavored milks, a group of parents and activists delivered gallon milk jugs filled with sugar to officials who run the Los Angeles school food program. The gallon jugs represented the amount of sugar a child would consume in a year if he or she drank two cartons of flavored milk every day. Read more.

Massachusetts Limits Junk Foods in Schools

Public health regulators in Massachusetts have approved regulations to limit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages, junk food, and white bread from all public schools. Read more.

Safeway Supermarkets Launch Labeling Program

Safeway Supermarkets recently launched a shelf nutrition tag program that aims to fill a void left by the Smart Choices labeling system of food manufacturers. As competing labeling programs move into more stores, they may only create confusion for shoppers unless the government sets a standard, according to the Rudd Center’s Christina Roberto. Read more.

Calorie Ranges Needed for Effective Menu Labels

An ideal range of calories is needed on menus with calorie listings to lower children’s consumption, according to the lead researcher of a study recently published in the International Journal of Obesity. A longer follow-up after repeated exposures to menu changes may also be needed to see a difference, noted the researcher. Read more.

First Lady Focuses on Restaurant Nutrition


First Lady Michelle Obama and her team of advisers have reportedly been meeting with the National Restaurant Association to get restaurants to adopt her goals of creating smaller portions and healthier children’s meals. Read more.

California Soda Tax Bill Introduced

A bill was introduced in California that would tax consumers one cent per teaspoon of added sugar on sugar-sweetened beverages. The excise tax could generate $1.5 billion in revenue a year and could be used for city and school health programs, according to the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Read more.


Group Challenges Ronald McDonald

Advocates with the Corporate Accountability International group asserted that Ronald McDonald helped cause a massive rise in childhood obesity and compared the clown to tobacco’s Joe Camel – both deceptively lovable symbols used to lure in children. Read more.

Ferrero Sued for False Advertising of Nutella

A California mother filed a class action lawsuit against Ferrero for advertising its Nutella product as “nutritious” and “healthy.” The Rudd Center’s Jennifer Harris noted Ferrero is doing what many other companies are – highlighting the positive aspects of the food but not communicating the bad. Read more.

Sports Celebrities Linked to Increase in Junk Food

Parents are more than twice as likely to buy junk food for their children if it is endorsed by a sports celebrity, according to an article recently published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. Read more.


America’s New School Lunches

Forty-six states currently have farm-to-school programs, an initiative in schools to create healthier meals for children using produce from local farmers, or in some cases, gardens the students create and maintain. Read more.

Reactions to New Dietary Guidelines

Since the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, FoodNavigator-USA, a newsletter for the food industry, has been collecting reactions and examining how the guidelines are likely to affect food and beverage companies. Read more.

Soda Politics


The American Beverage Association has created commercials to sway consumers’ opinions about the beverage industry. One commercial states that the government is too involved in our personal lives while the other aligns itself with the First Lady. Read more.