Friday, January 14, 2011

School Lunches Are Finally Changing

Finally.  Our nation's school lunches are about to change - and for the better.  It's about time.  

If you are like me and have a child in public school, then get ready for some of the biggest changes we've seen in 15 years.
The USDA just announced yesterday new federal standards that will apply to all federally-subsidized school lunches (and breakfasts).  These regulations come as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Obama last month.

And the overall goal of these changes?  To help reduce America's ever-rising childhood obesity rate and to begin teaching our kids how to eat healthy.  

Should America (and the government) be concerned about our kids' health?  Yes.  Today, about 1/3 of all children and adolescents are obese or overweight.  That's 25 million kids at risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and early death.  

Yes.  We should all be concerned.  Concerned for their personal health and the future health of our country.

And guess what?  Our kids eat on average 30% to 50% of their daily calories at school.  If they see what a healthy meal looks like at school, the hope is they will make better choices throughout the day and at home.

So yes, I am sitting at my desk celebrating.  If you are a follower of my blog, you know this was something I mentioned in my 2010 Nutrition Trends post last week - the sorry state of many of our public school lunches and how this year, they will finally get some attention.  

This to me is a huge step.  The first in what I hope are many more changes to come. 

So what can we can expect?  In a nutshell:
  • Putting calorie limits on every school meal (for the first time, I might add - can you believe there are no limits on how much kids should eat?)
  • Reducing sodium content over the next 10 years
  • Reducing trans fats
  • Increasing whole grains (for example, using whole grain pasta or whole grain rolls instead of refined wheat)
  • Increasing fruit and veggie servings per meal each day
Translation to the cafeteria?  Less french fries, less starchy veggies like potatoes, serving only fat-free or 1% milk, offering a bigger variety of fruits and veggies (like salads), decreased portion sizes, and limiting desserts and treats, to name just a few.

Check out the latest article from USA Today for more info about the new regulations.  And let me know what you think.

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