School Lunch Nutrition

by Rachelle on December 10, 2012

Do you remember standing in the lunch line in the crowded school cafeteria when you were younger? You were starving and ready for something delicious only too often to find when you made it to the front of the line that some unidentified food item was slapped on to your plate?

School lunch nutrition has come quite far in the last few years, but is still a huge focus these days due to the lack of nutrition most lunch rooms provide. The problem that parents and faculty are trying to solve is how to offer better nutritious options for kids to help them feel full longer and teach them healthy eating habits.

School lunch was thrown into the spotlight a few years ago as the children obesity rates started (and still are) to spike. Around 32 million children eat lunch provided by the school cafeteria and almost 11 million eat breakfast, which means that 30 – 50 % of those children’s calories are consumed during school hours. And up until recently there were little to no school lunch nutrition standards. As the obesity rates continue to rise, the school lunch nutrition facts were thrown into the spotlight as parents started to realize that the food their kids were being fed were worse, in some cases, than most fast food restaurants. This stemmed not only from the available choices that were offered, but the large amounts of sodium and trans fats that were found in most of the menu options.

The USDA is in charge of the National School Lunch Program. Schools can voluntarily participate in this program which allows them to feed students each day. The schools that participate are reimbursed with cash subsidies and receive commodity and bonus foods which basically means they get meats and produce at a discounted rate. The program also includes an audit every five years to evaluate lunch room recipes, kitchen set up, etc. Despite these 5 year audits, it seems that the actual nutritional values of school lunch seemed to go unnoticed, until recently.

This past school year, all of the rules have changed, in the hopes of helping kids eat healthier and maintain a healthier weight. Some of the new school lunch nutrition requirements are:

-Establishing maximum calorie and sodium limits of meals.

-Require schools to serve a fruit and vegetable every day at lunch, in larger portions than before.

-Beyond the one serving rule, schools have to offer a minimum number of leafy green vegetables, red-orange vegetables, starchy vegetables and legumes each week.

-Schools have two years from  implementation to ensure that all grains offered to students are rich in whole grains. So brown rice instead of white and all breads, cereals and pasts must have whole listed as their first ingredient.

-Milk must be low-fat or fat-free

To help schools reach these new standards, the government is giving them an extra 6 cents per lunch and schools will only get the full reimbursement if all the new rules are followed. Although these changes will take time, it is a program that will help children find healthy options during school.

It is hard as a parent to completely control what our kids eat for lunch, especially as they get older, even if we pack their lunch. It is comforting to know that the options available, but that doesn’t mean our job as parents is done. Just because the options are available, doesn’t mean our kids are going to actually eat them.
It all starts by example – think of the old adage ‘actions speak louder than words.’ If we want our kids to eat healthier, we have to do it ourselves. By teaching them the importance of eating a balanced meal and by making those types of meals for dinner, we are helping them develop healthy habits that they will carry with them to the lunch room. Show your kids that you enjoy eating  fresh fruits and vegetables. You can create simple dishes that make eating them more fun by combining them with greek yogurt and peanut butter.

Lunch is an important meal for most of us, we have to rely on our children to make the best nutritious decision for this meal. The new regulations and programs being implemented in schools are going to help our kids make better choices, but it is also important that we do the same.

Rachelle

Rachelle

Health Contributor at Creative Bioscience
Hi I'm Rachelle, or "Elle" for short. I am a busy body, but always been a plus sized kinda girl. I've learned that my curves are sexy, and I can feel good about how I look without looking like a stick! I'm a work-a-holic and stay as active as I can with lots of projects, so I have to prioritize my health choices. Working for Creative Bioscience has opened my eyes to what you can do to supplement your diet, and manage things in a natural way. The advances that are being made in the health arena are so exciting, and we are on the front lines bringing the best of the best. Rachelle's favorite product is hCG 1234
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