This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
With the recent release of new standards regarding school lunches and their nutrition content, it won’t be long before the food on your child’s plate will be more colorful, more portion-conscious, and more nutritious than ever before. The changes brought forth by the National School Lunch Program, in connection with the USDA, feature the following in lunches at participating public and not-for-profit private schools as well as various child care institutions:
Minimum requirements for veggies and fruits, with more choices and an emphasis on color variety
More whole grains and less refined carbohydrates
Milk choices of either skim or 1%
Calorie ranges for different grade levels that promote portion control
Limits on sodium and fat content
To better illustrate the improvements being made as the guidelines were introduced, a “before” and “after” menu was provided for a typical day. Instead of pizza sticks, raisins, a banana, and whole milk, the choices were a chef salad with low-fat dressing and a whole-wheat pretzel, choice of raw carrots or cooked corn, a banana, and chocolate skim milk. The healthier menu is certainly more well-balanced, yet reasonably attractive to a child’s appetite.
Plans are in place for a movement toward healthier breakfast and vending machine options as well. With about 32 million children taking advantage of these school lunches in America today, it’s hopeful that the new guidelines will not only help kids be at their best both mentally and physically, but perhaps put a dent in childhood obesity as healthier food habits are instilled at an early age.