New Standards for School Lunches Hit High Note - FamilyEducation

New Standards for School Lunches Hit High Note

January 27,2012
Lindsay Hutton

Wow- school lunches have been in the news a lot recently, huh?

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, I suppose. Nearly 32 million kids eat school lunches everyday, and another 11 million eat school-issued breakfasts too, so it’s only natural that people want to know what is going into their kid’s mouths.

Unfortunately, though, when school lunches make headlines, it usually is not for a good reason. From Congress deeming pizza a vegetable to Jamie Oliver attempting to revamp menus one school at a time, hot lunches have gotten a pretty bad reputation as being loaded with salt (usually more that half of the recommended daily intake), full of unhealthy fats and fried foods, and lacking in healthy options like fruits and veggies (again- pizza? A vegetable? Um, no.)

Well, school lunches are again making headlines, but this time, it’s finally good news. The government recently released new nutrition standards for school meals that include dramatic changes, including slashing sodium, limiting calories and offering students a wider variety and larger portions of fruits and vegetables.

These changes raise the nutrition standards for school meals for the first time in more than 15 years.

Kids will still get pizza, but with whole grain crust.

French fries will still be on the menu, but will likely be baked and sprinkled with less salt.

And, each lunch will be required to contain bigger portions of fruits and vegetables.

It’s no surprise that First Lady Michelle Obama is a strong advocate for these new standards. She has long been outspoken about the need for better lunches, fresher fruits and vegetables, and overall healthier diets for American kids, especially considering the obesity epidemic that’s overtaking the country.

What are some other changes? Starting next year, the new standards will require schools to:

•Establish maximum calorie and sodium limits for meals.

•Serve a fruit and vegetable every day at lunch and in larger portions than offered before.

•Offer a minimum number of leafy green vegetables, red-orange vegetables, starchy vegetables and legumes every week.

•Offer students whole grains such as brown rice. Breads, buns, cereals and pastas must list whole grain as the first ingredient.

•Require milk to be either low-fat (1%) or fat-free. Flavored milk, such as chocolate, must now be fat-free. •Require that foods contain no trans fats. This is a major milestone for school lunches.

So long French fries and tater tots, hello vegetables and whole grains!

Obviously there is still the issue of vending machines and school stores to tackle, but this is a great first step to get healthier meals served to our nation’s kids.

Does your child eat lunch at school? How do you feel about these new standards? A great step in the right direction, or too little too late?

Don’t forget to check out our school lunch resources for great ideas for better bagged lunches, quick and healthy lunch ideas, and healthier choices for hot lunch.