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Healthier options in the lunch line

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Call the Communications Office at (518) 695-3255, ext. 1245 for more information on this story.

september 14, 2012

As Schuylerville students returned to school, they may have discovered an even greater variety of nutritious food choices in the cafeterias. The changes come as the result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, new federal legislation that requires schools to offer certain healthier foods. The goals of the new national standards include combating childhood obesity and encouraging healthy eating habits in children. While Schuylerville has been steadily increasing its healthy food options over the last several years, this is the first legislated change in the last 15 years that’s been made in the $11 billion school lunch program. The program serves around 32 million students in the United States.

 

What’s new on the lunch tray?

Here are highlights of the changes required under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act:

square bulletStudents must choose at least one serving of fruits or vegetables and they’re encouraged to choose more. Previously, students didn’t have to take any fruits or vegetables as long as they opted for enough other types of foods.

square bulletVegetables must be served daily and the amount has increased.

square bulletFruits must be served daily and minimum amounts have increased.

square bulletThere’s more emphasis on offering the healthiest types of veggies more often. This means there will be weekly offerings of healthy dark green and red/orange vegetables, as well as beans and legumes.

square bulletThere are maximum limits on the number of grains that can be served and at least 50 percent of all grain foods served must be whole-grain rich.

square bulletMeals will average less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat and every item will contain zero grams per serving of trans fats.

square bulletSchool cafeterias will only be serving fat-free or 1% unflavored milk or fat-free flavored milks.

square bulletSchool meals must limit sodium content.

square bulletMaximum calories per lunch will be 650 for grades K-5, 700 for grades 6-8 and 850 for grades 9-12.

 

“These changes require more work and careful planning as we all get used to the new requirements,” said Food Services Manager Kristy Wilbur, adding, “We also realize that students will take some time to become accustomed to the new offerings. After all, changing eating habits takes time. Parents can help by encouraging children to try fruits and vegetables they may not have eaten before.”


What else can parents do?

While school meals play an important part in children’s overall health, there are important steps parents can take at home, including these recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

square bulletFill half your child’s plate with vegetables and fruits;

square bulletMake at least half the grains you serve whole grains, such as oatmeal and brown rice;

square bulletServe fat-free or 1% milk and water, rather than sugary drinks;

square bulletWhen buying pre-packaged foods, choose those that are low in sodium;

square bulletDon’t serve oversized portions.