With everyone back in school after a nice summer break, what better time to discuss school lunches, especially as they relate to healthy choices. The USDA (Department of Agriculture) has just issued new national guidelines for school lunches which will begin this school year. The new guidelines include calorie and sodium limits for foods served on the school lunch line and are age dependent.
The new guidelines also include the recommendation for more whole grains, and dark green, orange or red vegetables (color on the plate). Students buying school lunches must choose at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal. Portion sizes may also be smaller as well.
These changes are all geared at helping students understand the importance of healthy eating and making good nutritious food choices. It is hoped that as students get used to seeing and eating healthier school lunches, the choices that they make at home may become better as well.
Students will also be able to choose from fat-free, low-fat and lactose-free milk and will be required to have 1 serving a day. Flavored milk will be required to be fat free.
Lastly, half of the grains served in a school lunch must be whole grain and by 2014 school year all grains must be whole grain rich.
So, if you are planning on packing your child's lunch this year, remember these guidelines as well. I think that a combo of packing healthy lunches on some days, while letting your child buy a school lunch on other days seems to be the perfect balance. Let your children help pick out healthy food choices to put in their packed lunch and they might even pick up a few ideas from the new school lunches this year too.
You can find the new guidelines at http://1.usa.gov/Qzd5Z7