The Righteous Room

Eat Righteously

Kraft Singles with KidsEatRightShould you be ashamed to have Kraft Singles in your refrigerator? To eat righteously, must all such processed foods be eliminated from your pantry and fridge? Headline writers and humorists this week seem to think so. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics finds itself in damage control mode after becoming the butt of jokes by Jon Stewart.

All this is because of a promotion deal linking Kraft Singles to the Academy’s Kids Eat Right campaign as a “proud supporter.” The Academy took Kraft’s money and allowed them to put the Kids Eat Right logo on their processed cheese slices.

Stewart closed a segment on American junk food by skewering the Academy for this deal by saying “it turns out that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is an academy in the same way that this [a package of Kraft Singles] is cheese.”


The Academy already had a simmering controversy within its ranks about corporate sponsorship programs, so this surely didn’t help. The Academy’s CEO, Patricia Babjak, quickly sent an email to all members, saying:

Let me begin by apologizing for the concerns caused by the education initiative with Kraft. The Academy and the Foundation are listening. As a member-driven organization, the Academy’s staff and leadership hear your concerns and welcome your input.

It’s a good thing that Mr. Rogers, who encouraged our children to snack on a banana wrapped in a slice of American cheese, isn’t around to be attacked. Perhaps these crusaders for righteous eating would be shaming him for promoting junk food.

We are not so confident of possessing perfect knowledge about how to eat righteously. Some ideas about healthy eating have more to do with fashion than with nutrition science.

Click here to read more in the New York Times and here to read a statement from the Academy. In case the embedded video above didn’t work on your device, you can find it here.

The Righteous Room, photograph © Jeremy Brooks / flickr

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8 Responses to “Eat Righteously”

  1. March 20, 2015 at 8:08 am, Mary-Jo said:

    As an RD for 30+ years (many of those years devoted to being a pediatric RDN), I do get the jokes (I would’ve been surprised if Jon Stewart and his ilk didn’t jump on this!) and the controversy and of course, understand how many of my colleagues could be upset, but I strongly feel that this food item is okay in many cases to help provide a good source of nourishment for people, particularly children. Ok, it’s a ‘pr’ocessed’ cheese and product, but not all processed products are bad! This item provides an excellent source of calcium and a good source of protein and if used in moderation is ok. Of course, I would never recommend an ad libitum amount of it or any cheese or any food, especially for its sodium content, but it has a place, for goodness sakes! Adding a slice to baked beans over whole wheat bread or wrap, could really augment the nutritional value for a child at a low cost. I, as I know most, if not all of my AND colleagues, dedicate ourselves to looking for ways to optimally nourish people. This is a product that happens to exist that is tasty for many people (esp kids) and has good nutritional value for its calories and cost. I don’t know the particulars of the sponsorship/endorsement arrangement between the ADN and Kraft, and perhaps, that should have been made much more clear to us members and was the biggest faux pas in this whole situation, but I can only say that if Kraft has agreed to support kids’ nutrition programs and/or projects to help the ADN in its mission to optimally nourish folks, then why not get some of their corporate monies while giving them a nod in this way? I do agree that there are a few foods and beverages that really have no place in our diets as they have extremely minimal nutritional value in today’s diet and world, but even there, there could be circumstances where these items are helpful. For example, I once had a child with FTT who really benefited from the calories of sodas and juices and actually whetted his appetite and helped bring him back on the road to nutritional recovery. And believe me, I live in Europe and am the first person to encourage cooking from scratch and choosing farm-to-table and home-cooked meals and artisanal products, etc. but sometimes it’s cost-prohibitive or people have poor access to these items or don’t have time or any other host of reasons whereby items like Kraft singles could help nourish them. So I feel perfectly ok with the ADN’s decision. This is just my 2 cents. 🙂

    • March 20, 2015 at 4:29 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Mary Jo! I was hoping to get some really good perspective from a smart dietitian and you provided it.

  2. March 20, 2015 at 11:46 am, Janice McSherry said:

    So, I don’t have any ‘processed cheese product” in my fridge – at the moment – but there is nothing better for making the ultimate comfort food -a grilled cheese sandwich. And, I must say, it’s not as though cheese in general is that great for you, nutritionally. It’s a wonderful and indulgent treat. Just like potato chips. All in moderation!!

    • March 20, 2015 at 4:31 pm, Ted said:

      Amen, Janice. I was thinking of you as I wrote this because of the license to use the logo. I think I learned from you that such deals have lots of pitfalls. I.e., they often cause regrets.

  3. March 20, 2015 at 4:50 pm, Neva Cochran said:

    Thank you so much for posting this, Ted. It’s so nice to see a voice of reason amidst the craziness this issue has evoked. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and past Academy Foundation 4-year Board member and chairman, I was there when the first seeds of the Kids Eat Right program were being sown for what has become an amazing education initiative to benefit kids, families and registered dietitians. And I DO have fat-free Kraft Singles always in my refrigerator as I eat them daily on my sandwich at lunch that goes along with a huge salad with veggies and low fat dressing. I actually did a side-by side comparison of equal portions Kraft Singles with Kraft cheddar slices and the Singles comes out better on most nutrients. Processed is not a bad thing.

    • March 20, 2015 at 5:41 pm, Ted said:

      Thank you, Neva. It bugs me when people get into competitive self-righteousness about the foods they eat or don’t. I’m waiting for someone to equate American cheese with rat poison. Sheesh!

  4. March 22, 2015 at 4:00 pm, Amy Habeck, MS, RDN said:

    I don’t have a huge problem with people who prefer American cheese over other cheeses. I DO have a huge problem with the first (and currently, only) food that has gained the seal (read endorsement) from the Academy being cheese. Certainly, there are better choices.

    • March 22, 2015 at 4:54 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Amy. You’re right. Seal programs like this are fraught with problems, as this controversy illustrates quite well. But the sanctimony of people acting like American cheese slices are some sort of junk food kinda gets under my skin.