Yesterday, NPR ran a story about instant soup (like Cup Noodles and other forms of ramen) and the safety risk that’s posed by placing Styrofoam cups brimming with boiling water in the hands of children. And while it’s true that scalding liquid in flimsy disposable vessels is clearly unsafe, just-add-water noodles and soups, which are often offered at elementary and middle schools as lunch options, are dangerous for another reason–they’re horribly, horribly unhealthy. Can we can Cup Noodles already?
The average instant soup cup, which contains noodles, flavoring, and occasionally a few flakes of dehydrated veggies, is much larger than what a serving for any child (or any human, for that matter) should be. On a strictly caloric front, they contain a decent number for a lunch–around 300–but it’s the sodium and saturated fat that’s truly concerning. Each instant soup delivers around 60% of an adult’s daily sodium intake, and about a quarter of their fat for the day, most of which comes in the form of saturated fat.
And yet, for all its fat and salt, Cup Noodles is pretty lacking, nutritionally. Sure, it offers a little bit of protein (from the meat fat) and vitamin A, but the “meal” provides little else that kids need–like, say, fiber or calcium. And because of its high carbohydrate complex, Cup Noodles and the like are a meal that will leave kids feeling hungry again in a shorter period of time than they would if they’d eaten something more complex.
Instant lunches like Cup Noodles–which could, in theory, be made healthier with a reduction in sodium and the addition of vegetables–are a staple in many school cafeterias and commissaries, where kids learn about how to make choices and feed themselves. Offering a food item that’s both risky and horrible for their health seems like a no-brainer…but it still takes the risk of third-degree burns to even get people talking about it.
In the hunt for healthy things to feed children, Cup Noodles isn’t the inexpensive solution Congress is looking for. It’s not only dangerous because of its burn risk, it’s dangerous because it’s terrible for children. At least pizza provides vitamins and calcium.
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