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With 15 percent of U.S. children age 6 to 19 overweight, children should be eating less sweet and fatty food, advocates say. But school vending machines make that a difficult challenge.
updated 10/31/2003 6:32:55 PM ET 2003-10-31T23:32:55

Campaigning to replace sodas, candy bars and sugary juices with fruit and granola bars in school vending machines, an advocacy group on Monday listed what it says are among the healthiest and worst snacks for children.

Among the worst, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, are Coca-Cola and Pepsi sodas, Hostess snack cakes, Kit Kat Big Kat candy bars, Chips Ahoy! and Oreo cookies and Starburst Fruit Chews.

Chocolate and other flavors of whole milk also made the list because they are high in saturated fat, the center said.

Margo Wootan, the center’s nutrition director, said schools should replace unhealthy snacks with items such as unsweetened applesauce, Nestle Nesquik fat-free chocolate milk, other lowfat and fat-free milk, bottled water, 100 percent orange juice, traditional Chex Mix, Nature Valley crunchy granola bars and raisins.

With 15 percent of children age 6 to 19 overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wootan said children should be eating less sweet and fatty food. A 20-ounce bottle of cola alone contains 250 calories, she said.

“Although physical activity is critically important to children’s health and to maintaining a healthy weight, a 110-pound child would have to bike for 1 hour and 15 minutes to burn off a 20-ounce Coke,” Wootan said.

A healthier choice would be a 20-ounce bottle of 100-percent orange juice, she said. But a table put together by the group acknowledged that the orange juice has 25 more calories than Coke. Even a 20-ounce glass of 1 percent lowfat milk has 5 more calories.

The food industry responded with assertions that there’s room in everyone’s diet for all foods, including sweets.

“There are no good foods and bad foods,” said Stephanie Childs, a spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America.

CSPI has repeatedly called for Congress to give the Agriculture Department authority to restrict food sold in school vending machines and a la carte lines in school cafeterias.

The industry has opposed that idea, saying such decisions should rest with local school boards and parents. Government restrictions would lead children to go to convenience stores for snacks, said Childs. Bush administration officials have echoed those arguments.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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