Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Change is Good: USDA's New Standards for School Lunches

On January 25, 2012 USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama announced new school lunch guidelines that will gradually be phased in starting in Fall 2012.  The changes reflect the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were released last January, and are a part of The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus on calorie balance, consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages, limiting added fat and sugars, limiting sodium, increasing whole grain intake, and increasing intake of fruits and vegetables.  The new guidelines for lunches follow these recommendations.  Schools will now offer children portion sizes consistent with their estimated calorie needs, provide a full serving of fruits and vegetables each day, vary the colors and types of fruits and vegetables, limit saturated and trans fats, limit sodium, and increase whole grains.   For more specific information on these changes you can view the USDA press release here.  Also, a sample menu depicting the changes can be viewed here.
About 32 million children in the United States participate in school lunch programs everyday and with about one-third of school school-aged children being classified as overweight or obese, these changes have the potential to help kids establish healthy eating habits.  For now these changes will only effect school meals and do not apply to vending machines or รก la carte items.  New guidelines for those foods will be released in the future. 
If you would like more information regarding the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans you can view the Executive Summary online here.
*Information adapted from the USDA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, and “Government requires more fruits,  veggies for school lunches” USA Today available at http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2012-01-25/Government-requires-more-fruits-veggies-for-school-lunches/52779404/1

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