Good-bye hot dogs and Tater Tots. Hello fruits and vegetables.
Federal officials have unveiled new standards for school meals served to the nation’s children. The guidelines, aimed at improving the health of some 32 million kids nationwide, represent the first federal upgrade for school lunches in more than 15 years.
Among the new U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines are dietary changes that many parents are trying to adopt at home, including:
• Making sure students are offered fruits and vegetables every day of the week;
• Increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;
• Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties;
• Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and
• Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
“As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet," said First Lady Michelle Obama, in a press release accompanying the USDA announcement. "And when we're putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria."
The new standards for lunch take effect the next school year. Changes for breakfast will be phased in.
USDA based the standards on recommendations from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 directed the USDA to set new nutrition standards for all food served in schools. About one three American children are considered obese. The new rules apply to school meals. Regulations for foods such served in à la carte lines, vending machines and school stores will come later.