Decoding Yogurt

by Richard Xiao
Real Food for Kids Intern
George Mason University, School of Nutrition and Food Studies

It’s time to get the scoop on yogurt (yoghurt if you’re international). It’s healthy, right? But what about all that sugar? Doesn’t that make it less healthy than it should be?


Let’s start with the basics.

First, what is yogurt exactly? It’s a fermented milk product made with cultured bacteria (usually lactobacillus) that converts the naturally-occurring sugar lactose into lactic acid. That’s what gives it its distinct texture and flavor. And that bacteria is good for a health digestive system.

Second, the naturally-occurring sugars in yogurt are lactose, glucose and galactose, but those won’t be broken out in the ingredient list. Instead you’ll see them listed as grams of “sugars.” Those sugars translate to carbohydrates. For example, a label might read:

  • 4 oz. whole milk plain yogurt
  • 69 calories
  • 4g protein
  • 4g total fat
  • 5g total carbohydrates
  • 5g sugars

Low-fat varieties often compensate for the loss of taste that come with the reduction in fat by adding in sugar. If you see sucrose or fructose on the ingredient label, you’ll see a corresponding bump in grams of sugar and carbs, such as

  • 4 oz. low fat milk plain yogurt (generic)
  • 71 calories
  • 6g protein
  • 2g total fat
  • 8g total carbohydrates
  • 8g sugars

And how about yogurts with added fruits or flavors to offset that distinctive tangy taste? Any syrups and honeys will contribute to the sugar and carb count as well, sometimes double or more.

Yogurt with added flavor…

  • 4 oz. low fat milk vanilla yogurt (generic).
  • 96 calories
  • 6g protein
  • 2g total fat
  • 16g total carbohydrates
  • 16g sugars
  • 194mg calcium

Yogurt with added sugar…

  • 4 oz. low fat milk fruit yogurt (generic)
  • 115 calories
  • 5g protein
  • 1g total fat
  • 22g total carbohydrates
  • 22g sugars

Unfortunately, there is no label that separates natural and added sugars yet. We’ll have to wait for the new nutrition labels to roll out in the coming years to see added sugars as their own unit. In the meantime, if you’re concerned about added sugars, take some time and compare the yogurt containers the next time you shop (if you see sucrose or fructose on the ingredient list it means sugar has been added). You’ll be surprised at the range of discrepancies. If you want a safe bet, buy plain and add your own toppings and sweeteners.


WELL FED: The Gift You Give Yourself

Ways to make the holidays less stressful

When the holiday decorations go up and gift sale flyers start arriving before Halloween, the surge in holiday stress won’t be far behind. I’m always amazed at how quickly a few simple plans can mushroom overnight and how our stress level balloons when we try to orchestrate it all. I’m one of those “leave-nothing-to-chance” planners so I’m often on overdrive. But part of my “plan” is also strategic self-preservation, which is what most of us abandon in our super-charged effort to make the most of the season.


You know you can’t effectively manage anything or anyone else in your life unless you are coping well. So here are a few ideas that might help.

Commit where it nourishes you…

Don’t load your calendar because of some unspoken expectation that you have to say yes to everything. Say yes to what fills your heart and keeps you focused on what the season is really about.

Be mindful of what sets you off…

Emotions can run high during the holidays. The abundance of sugar, alcohol and the short winter days can heighten emotional stress. Take some time now to anticipate what might derail you in the weeks to come and figure out what you can do to re-align yourself if that happens.

Eat mindfully…

There seems to be this “take no prisoners” attitude about holiday food, but those who play this way rarely make it to the finish line. Eat as if your health depended on it. Bake fewer cookies. Fill your plate once, with less. Choose the best options. Savor every single bite. Don’t just eat because it’s there – make it worth your while.

Don’t confuse sleep with rest…

You should aim for adequate shut-eye over the holidays, but don’t dismiss your need for downtime. Time-outs aren’t just for kids, and your cell phone isn’t the only thing that needs its batteries recharged. Plug yourself into whatever recharges yours.

Give thanks…

There are going to be moments when you feel you’re going over the edge. Use that moment to step away from the fray and count your blessings. Make a list of five things you are thankful for, however puny. Reflect on those until they make you smile, take a deep breath and head back for the next round. You may be surprised how the situation has changed when you come back looking at it through a lens of gratitude.


Mary Porter is Director of Programs for Real Food for Kids

A Gift with Impact


You may know us as the salad bar people…but it started with a 27-ingredient hamburger.

As you envision the impact of your giving this season, we hope you will consider donating to Real Food for Kids to support the ongoing success of programs that are truly changing the quality and culture of school food.

Six years ago, Real Food for Kids launched a campaign to replace the highly processed, additive-laden foods served in Fairfax County school cafeterias with food that was real, fresh and genuinely nourishing for students. We did it because, as parents, we knew that when you feed children good food they are fueled for good – intellectually, emotionally and physically.

  • By the end of this year, our efforts will have impacted more than 250,000 students in Northern Virginia.
  • Ninety-one percent of additives have been removed from the cafeteria menu in Fairfax County.
  • Six salad bars have opened in FCPS elementary schools; 12 more are on the way this year alone.
  • Loudoun County schools will have two made-from-scratch soups and homemade salad dressing on their lunch line.
  • 170 cafeteria staff from Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties are bringing the skills learned at our RFFK Chef Academy back to their school communities.
  • Dozens of PTAs and parents have been supported in integrating healthy celebrations and fundraising into their schools.
  • Our Culinary Expo in Northern Virginia now engages High School and Middle School students as well as teachers, parents and partners in moving the conversation about school food forward.
We are changing the quality and culture of school food. And we’re just getting started.

Moving forward, we will continue to:

  • Advocate for the removal of harmful additives, dyes and preservatives from every item on school food menus, so our kids can eat clean.
  • Expand our reach across the Greater Washington D.C. area and beyond, partnering with school systems in all districts to support the move to fresh, wholesome foods.
  • Build educational programs and resources to help students expand their understanding of food and nutrition and to help parents create a culture of wellness in their schools and their communities.
  • And collaborate with you to advance this mission.
Real Food for Kids is a nonprofit charitable organization and your donation is tax-deductible. As we move into 2017, we hope you will support us as we continue to grow our philanthropy program.  Monetary donations of every size are appreciated. Whether it’s small potatoes or a big fistful of greens – your donation means a better plate for the kids on our lunch lines. Please donate today. And know how much it is appreciated.

Giving Thanks…for all of you


In 2010, when what became Real Food for Kids was launched at a PTA meeting at Wolftrap Elementary School in Vienna, Virginia, there was no way to know that the change we set out to make could ever really happen.

But it has. And it is. Because of you.

Grassroots advocacy doesn’t ignite in a bubble. It catches fire when members of our community add their voices and their action to advance an important mission. At Real Food for Kids, we are incredibly grateful for the support of our community – students, parents, teachers, school administrators, school board members, county and state leaders, business partners and other organizations, for being there, right alongside us, working to improve the quality and culture of food in our schools.

Because of you, 18 Fairfax County elementary schools will have salad bars this year. Schools in Loudoun County will have homemade soup on their lunch line. Students in D.C. will be equipped to make better food choices because they are informed about the effects of excess sugar and salt in their diets. And maybe, just maybe, a dish created by a student this year at our Culinary Expo will make it on to the menu in your school.

There’s so much to be thankful for. And to look forward to.

Because of you.

Thank You.

Is School Food Good Enough for Restaurants?

Find out what’s on the menu at RIS.

How do you get three acclaimed DC-area chefs to change school food? Easy, have them make it good enough to serve in their own restaurants. That’s exactly what chefs Jamie Leeds of JL Restaurant Group (Hank’s Oyster Bar, Hank’s Pasta Bar, The Twisted Horn), Ris Lacoste of Ris and David Guas of Bayou Bakery did during the national launch of The Real School Food Challenge, a school lunch recipe competition that aims to answer the question: What does it take to get fresh, scratch-cooked food on the lunch trays of millions of school children across America…for $1.25 a student?


Chef Ann Foundation Board Member Bonnie Moore with Chef Jamie Leeds of JL Restaurant Group and Ris Lacoste of RIS at The Real School Food Challenge.

Launched by the Chef Ann Foundation, founded by Chef Ann Cooper, The Real School Food Challenge has been peaking the interest of restaurant chefs and home cooks alike, prompting the kick-off on September 29 in Alexandria, Virginia. The challenge? Who can create the best school lunch recipe that meets the nutrition standards of the National School Lunch Program? The catch? The food cost must be at or under the average budget schools have to spend per lunch: a measly $1.25.

Despite the small budget, amazing creations came out of the kitchen. Leeds turned out a mouth-watering veggie packed macaroni and cheese, Lacoste a sophisticated crown of cauliflower on a bed of spaghetti squash, and Guas a soulful red beans and rice over collard greens. All under $1.25? “This was definitely a challenge,” commented Chef Guas, “and really opened my eyes to what schools are dealing with on a daily basis.”

David Guas of Bayou Bakery creates the “Big Salad” at Real Food For Kids’ Food Day 2014 at Mount Eagle Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia

So were these dishes good enough for fine dining? Ris Lacoste thinks so. She’s already added her cauliflower and spaghetti squash creation to the menu at RIS.

The foundation also hosted a home cook version of the challenge in Boulder, Colorado on October 7, where Ann Cooper is Food Service Director for the Boulder Valley School District, serving 13,000 scratch-cooked meals each day. Christy Vaughan, Marketing and Communications Director for Banville Wine Merchants, the winner, commented that it wasn’t easy, but they all pulled it off. “I know schools can do it too.” The key takeaway for competitor Jim Moscou, co-founder of Spiffly digital platform, “is that schools need more money and support when it comes to feeding our kids.”


Christy Vaughan shows off her winning entry, Mediterranean Sliders

These are exactly the kinds of insights Chef Ann hoped the challenge would evoke. “Events like this, and this is the start of doing events all over the country, will help not only inform and educate people about the food we have in schools and how much it needs to change, but also understand what happens when you’re talking about making a complete meal for $1.25.”

Through the Real School Food Challenge, the foundation is calling on chefs, and good food advocates across the country to help them speed up change and bring attention to the school food issues our country faces. 30 million kids eat school lunch every day in America, and many schools continue to serve highly processed heat-and-serve food, a practice that reinforces bad eating habits that contributes to chronic health conditions like childhood obesity and other diet-related diseases.

chefannfoundation_60x54For more information on The Real School Food Challenge, including how to host and compete in these events, visit the Chef Ann Foundation website:


About Chef Ann Foundation

Founded in 2009 by Chef Ann Cooper, a pioneer in the fields of school food reform and child nutrition, Chef Ann Foundation is a national non-profit that provides school communities with tools, training, resources and funding to create healthier food and redefine lunchroom environments. To date, they’ve reached over 7,000 schools and 2.6 million children in all 50 states. To learn more about their healthy school food programming, visit

The School Behind the Lunch Line

RFFK Chef Academy Trains School Staff to Prep
Fresh Foods


During three, week-long sessions this past summer and early fall, more than 100 kitchen managers participated in the Real Food for Kids’ Chef Academy program at Willowsford in Ashburn, Virginia. The academy, funded through a $30k grant from the Life Time Foundation, is designed to help school cafeteria staff learn how to best prepare fresh-from-the-farm ingredients that now play a more significant role in their breakfast and lunch menus, reducing the number of processed foods that have been traditionally served.


In partnership with Real Food for Kids, Bonnie Moore, Willowsford Culinary Director and RFFK board member, developed the Chef Academy along with Dr. Becky Bays, Director of Loudoun County Public School’s School Nutrition Services. Including this class, the program has reached nearly 400 school culinary staff members. The course includes hands-on sessions in creating salad dressings, spice blends and soups, as well as knife skills and recipe development. One salad dressing has been such a success with staff members that it will be used in place of packaged varieties this coming winter in all Loudoun County Public School cafeterias.


The Life Time Foundation, a non-profit created by Life Time Fitness, is devoted to helping schools eliminate seven harmful ingredients, including trans fats and artificial additives, from the foods they serve.  “Since 2010 we’ve been working hard to remove highly processed and artificial ingredients from school food menus,” says Barbara Koch, Executive Director, Life Time Foundation. “We see great alignment working with the Real Food for Kids’ culinary education program to train cafeteria staff to prepare school food using fresh, wholesome ingredients and nourish our children’s bodies and minds. Ultimately, said Koch, the foundation is excited that the work done over the three weeks at Willowsford with school staff will affect over a quarter million students this year, directly impacting their health and well-being.


The Chef Academy is part of Real Food for Kids’ Healthy Habits initiative which works with public schools to help students learn about the importance of eating whole foods, limiting highly processed foods in their diets and incorporating healthful activity into their daily lives.

Terre Centre Elementary Launches Salad Bar

“I’m so glad we have this salad bar!”


Chicken, cheese, oranges and greens, with a splattering of Italian dressing, were on the plate of this Terre Centre ES student, one of the first through the line for their new salad bar which opened November 2. Cafeteria staff were delighted to see plentiful amounts of greens, fruit and vegetables on the trays of students moving through the line for their hot entrée. FCPS Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) has teamed up with Real Food for Kids to pilot these salad bars and will proceed with a full elementary school expansion.

Terre Centre is the fifth of 18 salad bars opening this school year in FCPS elementary schools, following Vienna, Lynbrook, Mount Vernon Woods and Gunston. Aldrin is slated to open November 16 and Riverside before the Winter Break. Within five years, all elementary schools will have salad bars, thanks to the vision of new FNS Director, Rodney Taylor (see related story below).


Prior to the official launch, students spend some time with Christie St. Pierre, a member of the FNS staff to be trained on how to use the salad bar. While that may seem a no-brainer, the students need to become familiar with a few safety rules – one squirt of hand sanitizer before you get your tray – use the tongs, not your fingers – don’t take more than you think you will really eat, because you can’t put it back.


“I’m so excited we have this salad bar!” exclaimed one student as he squirted dressing on his apples and chicken. Similar enthusiasm was heard around the room, including delight from one gluten intolerant student who is now able to self-select foods she can eat. A number of brown-baggers chose to buy lunch at Terre Centre’s launch following the training so they could check it out “for real,” and were very pleased with the choices.

The New Good Food Guy at FCPS

Rodney Taylor is Changing up the Lunch Line at Fairfax County Public Schools


Rodney Taylor and Real Food for Kids share the belief that when kids eat better, they do better. Since being named Director of Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) for FCPS in 2015, Taylor has been tossing aside old notions of pre-packaged, preservative-laden school food to introduce items that are fresh, local, and appealing to even the pickiest eaters, supporting the science that there’s a direct correlation between food, behavior and learning. And he’s just getting started. Here are some highlights:

Real Food for Kids Salad Bars have opened in five elementary schools (see related story above), with a total of 18 planned by the end of the school year. By 2020, all 142 FCPS elementary schools will have salad bars brimming with colorful fruits and vegetables beckoning students as they enter the cafeteria.  Salad bars are compliant with the National School Lunch Program and can be chosen as a full meal or supplement to a hot entrée.

A Signature Line of salads and sandwiches was introduced over the summer and now provides FCPS employees with the opportunity to order affordable, high quality meals that are delivered to their school or central office location.

Pink Polystyrene is out and Environmentally Friendly is in. The pink lunch trays have been replaced with eco-friendly versions, reducing the school system’s carbon footprint and supporting a healthy planet on which all those great new fresh fruit and vegetables are grown.

Stay tuned to the RFFK Blog and social media for ongoing developments.

BREAKING NEWS: 1st RFFK Salad Bar Opens – 140 More to Come!

It was a packed house at the Vienna Elementary School cafeteria on May 23 for the opening of the first Real Food for Kids elementary school salad bar in Fairfax County. Kevin Concannon, Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services at the USDA was on hand for the ribbon cutting celebration.  (Watch the video now!)

“Fairfax County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services Department is excited to be teaming up with Real Food For Kids™ to launch the first of 141 elementary school salad bars,” said Rodney Taylor, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Fairfax County Public Schools. “The RFFK salad bar will serve as the catalyst for transforming school food throughout FCPS.”

Additional salad bars are expected to roll out at elementary schools across Fairfax Country during the 2016-2017 school year. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting program and how you can help!