New this year, schools will offer fruits and vegetables with every school lunch.
The USDA has implemented new requirements for lunch for the first time in 15 years, thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010. New regulations for breakfast will be phased in starting July 2013. The updated nutrition standards are based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine in response to concerns over childhood obesity. Kids will see more fruit/veggies and whole grains as well as low fat or fat free choices.
What’s New In Our Kid’s School Lunches?
Fruits and vegetables are considered separate components and each must be offered daily in increased quantity. The next school year will see increases in the fruit offering at breakfast. Juice (100 percent) can fulfill no more than half of the weekly fruit requirement. Vegetables are divided into subgroups (red/orange, dark green, beans /peas, starchy or other) with weekly requirements. Half of grains offered during the school week must be whole grain, starting July 2014 all grains must meet this criteria.
There are daily minimum requirements with weekly ranges on grains and meat/meat alternatives. Milk is offered in non-fat (flavored or unflavored) or low-fat (unflavored only). There are also new guidelines regarding reductions in calories, sodium and saturated fat specific to grade (elementary, middle or high school). Zero grams of trans fat per serving are allowed for all age groups. Vending machines must follow the guidelines as well.
Do Our Kids Like These New Lunches?
My own nine year old veg loving daughter noticed the changes last year. It has been a mixed reaction. The broccoli with cheese dish grew on her. The Caesar salad was not so good, the chicken on it looked “gross.” My 6 year old son prefers “speedy lunch,” PB & J or cheese sandwich with yogurt and carrots.
The schools obviously still have some some tweaking to do but its a good start. There are still favorites found on the menu like chicken nuggets, pizza and macaroni and cheese. It looks like a typical school lunch. Lunch has come a long way from the unidentifiable meat substance on a bun that I remember! Also a step up from last year when lunch consisted of chicken fries and chocolate milk.
While kids may object first, if you consistently offer healthier choices, they will try them and maybe even like them. It is a first step in starting a dialogue with our children about nutrition.
What do you think of the new standards? Do they go too far or not far enough? Do you prefer to pack your child’s lunch?