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School Lunches Are Getting Healthier


As a pediatric dietitian and mom of school-age children, I am continually encouraged by the improvements to the National School Lunch and SchoolBreakfast Programs.   First Lady Michelle Obama has been a champion for childhood obesity, and continues to make great strides in making school lunches healthier under the Healthy, Hunger-Free KidsAct.   New school food guidelines are coming to all schools that participate in the National School LunchProgram.   You should see changes by the second half of 2012.


Instead of weeding through all the USDA releases, I have highlighted the changes here:
School meals sample menu -before/after

(click to enlarge) ·          Double the amount of fruits and vegetables being offered, up from just ½ cup combined to a minimum of ¾ cup veggie and plus a minimum of ½ cup of fruit per lunch.

·          Weekly requirements of dark green, red/orange and beans/legumes, as opposed to no specific requirements before

·          Specific amounts of protein requirements by age group with younger children having smaller portions; as opposed to one set portion across the board for every age

·          Half of all grains must be whole grains, as opposed to them being “encouraged”

·          Milk must be fat-free (flavored or unflavored) or 1% (unflavored), as opposed to no guidelines before

·          Now, sodium levels set by age as opposed by no sodium levels established before

·          Minimum and maximum calorie levels set by age ranges

·          No trans fat in any food, as opposed to no limits before


If you want to read all about the changes including the press release, changes to the School Breakfast Program, new meal patterns and specific timeline rollout, go to the USDA’s page on Nutrition Standards forSchool Meals.

If your child attends private school, or if your child attends public school with a high socioeconomic distribution then your school may opt out of the National School Lunch Program.   Ask your school foodservice administration for their child’s school nutrition standards.

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