08/21/2012 | By Jennifer Lucas
“Fundraisers have traditionally been the child’s first chance to participate in the free enterprise system and experience the satisfaction that comes from achieving sales goals. Now we’re adding another educational benefit—a fun and exciting way for children to learn about active lifestyles and healthy eating habits,” said Ed Opler, chief executive officer of World’s Finest Chocolate.
“We share the growing concern about childhood obesity. It is a nationwide problem that is real and must be addressed. We also believe that education, not prohibition, is the route to a healthy, well balanced lifestyle.”
To communicate to students the importance of active lifestyles and healthy eating, World’s Finest Chocolate commissioned an educational video and original music to help make exercise and portion control synonymous with “the good life.” Additionally the music and video focus on seven lifestyle messages targeted specifically to youth audiences:
- Practice portion control. Eat smaller amounts and share treats, like candy, with others.
- Remember that chocolate is a treat, not an “always” food. Enjoy it for smiles, pleasure and happiness, but always in moderation.
- To be healthy and happy, be active for an hour every day.
- Live a balanced life. Study hard, play hard and eat well.
- Make the right choices. Choose the right foods at the right time in the right amounts.
- Set high goals and plan to achieve them.
- Use the fund-raising program to start a regular family walking program.
Moderation and balance are also recurring themes, but not just for dietary concerns. As a verse of a song on the video states, “It’s time to concentrate on making your world great. Get up don’t wait. It’s time to take the challenge to live your life in balance.”
Chocolate fundraisers provide resources that allow schools to provide opportunities for physical activities. As opportunities for exercise during the school day are decreasing, the amount of time young people spend in front of computers, televisions and video games is increasing. According to a report by the American Heart Association, many schools are cutting back on traditional physical education because of budgetary concerns. Opler noted that many of the funds raised through door-to-door sales are used to enhance or improve athletic and physical education programs which would otherwise fall victim to budget cuts. Plus, the fund-raising activity itself requires exercise, as children walk with their parents to sell chocolate to people in their neighborhoods.
Another benefit is the enhanced self-esteem that comes from successfully selling something for a good cause, according to Opler. “The young salesperson can witness the results of their work. When new bleachers are installed in a gym or new uniforms are purchased for the school’s band because of the funds raised, the student can literally see what they have accomplished. This balances practical experience with the theoretical lessons learned in the classroom,” he added. Opler stressed that children are not encouraged to consume more chocolate or treats during the fundraising events. The emphasis, he said, is on portion control, balance and physical activity.
He did say, however, that parents, teachers and administrators should consider findings of scientific research before ruling out chocolate as a product to sell.
He pointed to current dietary guidance that embraces the philosophy of moderation, which means consuming all foods within reasonable limits. Moderation has long been a tenet of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and supports the premise for the American Dietetic Association’s position on the total diet approach to communicating food and nutrition information.
Additionally, when eaten in moderation, chocolate has certain healthy benefits. In the world of snack foods, it is one of the healthier options.
- It is made from natural ingredients.
- High in antioxidants that protect cells from diseases.
- No bad trans fat. Contains cocoa butter, a naturally occurring “good” fat like olive oil.
- Low in sodium.
- Has stearic and oleic acid, which reduce bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.
- It is a source of protein, calcium and iron.
Over the past decade, studies examining the eating patterns of adults and their overall health over the course of several years suggest that those who regularly included cocoa products and chocolate in their diets maintained better cardiovascular health. Over the past five years, in various studies that examined the cocoa and chocolate eating habits of over 90,000 adults of mixed ages, ethnicities and genders over the course of multiple years, individuals who reported eating chocolate on some regular basis were less likely to develop a range of cardiovascular problems. A reduction in overall mortality and blood pressure was included in these findings.
“There is also no scientific evidence that chocolate consumption is associated with obesity,” the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in a separate article. “On average, chocolate has been found to contribute only 0.7 – 1.4 percent of total daily energy intake.”
"Food and Nutrition Research" published a study this year that examined 15,000 people. The study concluded that confection eaters tend to weigh less, have lower body mass indices (BMI) and waist circumferences, in addition to decreased levels of risk factors for heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
As stated by lead researcher Carol O’Neil, PhD, MPH, LDN RD, of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, “We certainly don’t want these results positioned as eating candy helps you lose weight.”
O’Neil continued, saying, “This study adds to the evidence base that supports candy’s role as an occasional treat within a healthy lifestyle.”