Lunch Programs Get a Back-to-School Makeover

October 23, 2012 | | Bites for Big Kids, Food for Tot | No Comments

School lunches are getting a healthier look this fall with new guidelines put out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA is not only pumping up the fruits, veggies and whole grains offered to students but for the first time is now setting much needed limits on calories, sodium and fat content of school meals.
Check out the basic changes below along with our Honest Mom thoughts on the new steps for improving the health & quality of our children’s lunches.


Fruits and Vegetables
Previous Minimum Servings- 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fruits and vegetables per day
New Minimum Servings- 3/4 to 1 cup of vegetables per day and 1/2 to 1 cup of fruit per day:
Additional Changes:
-Vegetables have weekly requirements for including at least one dark green, red/orange, beans/peas and starchy veggie per week
-Juice can now account for only half of the weekly fruit quota
Honest Mom Thoughts: By setting goals for variety with veggies children will now get a range of vitamins, minerals and most importantly cancer and disease fighting antioxidants at their lunch table. We also love the limitations on juice as this is often a beverage enjoyed in excess and can lead to weight gain.

Meat & Meat Alternatives
Previous Minimum Servings: 1.5 to 2 ounces per day
New Minimum Servings: 1 oz for kindergarteners to 8th graders and 2 ounces for high school students
Additional Changes: None
Honest Mom Thoughts: No bonus changes here, but they have done a great job in portioning out proteins more appropriately for the age ranges

Previous Minimum servings: 1 serving per day (8 servings per week)
New minimum servings: 1 oz daily or 8-9 oz per week for kindergarteners to 5th grade, 1 oz daily or 8-10 oz per week for 6th to 8th graders and 2 oz daily or 10-12 oz per week for high school students
Additional Changes: At least half of the grains must be whole grain-rich beginning on July 1st 2012. Even better… by July 1st 201, all grains must be whole grain rich!
Honest Mom Thoughts: Such a big step for getting kids on fiber and vitamin-rich whole grains!

Previous Minimum Servings: 1 cup
New Minimum Servings: No change at 1 cup per day
Additional Changes: All must be fat free or 1% low fat unflavored or flavored milk.
Honest Mom Thoughts: This move to all low fat dairy is great for lowering the saturated fat content of children’s diets which is excellent for cardiovascular health.

Previous Recommendations: None
New Recommendations: Slowly wean down sodium content of school meals to optimal levels by the 2022 – 2023 school year
-Sodium Limit for 2014/2015 School Year- decrease to 1230 mg per lunch kindergarteners to 5th graders, decrease to 1360 mg per lunch for 6th to 8th graders and 1420 mg per lunch for high school student
-Sodium Limit for 2017-2018 School Year- decrease to 935 mg per lunch kindergarteners to 5th graders, decrease to 1035 mg per lunch for 6th to 8th graders and 1080 mg per lunch for high school students
-Sodium Limit for 2022-2023 School Year- decrease to 640 mg per lunch kindergarteners to 5th graders, decrease to 710 mg per lunch for 6th to 8th graders and 740 mg per lunch for high school students
Honest Mom Thoughts: High sodium intake and processed foods can go hand-in-hand, we love that the USDA is setting firm limits on the sodium content for our children’s lunches for promoting heart and vascular health.

Previous Recommendations: Saturated fat was required to be no more than 10% of the calories per meal
New Recommendations: The limitations for saturated fat remain the same, however trans fat which previously had no recommendations are now required to be 0 grams per serving.
Honest Mom Thoughts: The addition to trans fat to the USDA requirements is a fantastic step- this fat is extremely unhealthy for our cardiovascular health and we are happy to see it’s leaving the school lunch table.

Previous Recommendations: Only minimum calorie levels were set
New Recommendations: Calorie ranges for minimum AND maximum levels are set for each grade range
Kindergarteners to 5th Graders 550-650 calories per lunch
6th to 8th Grade 600-700 calories per lunch
High Schoolers 750-850 calories per lunch
Honest Mom Thoughts: We love that not only the nutrient content of meals are being addressed, but that a cap has been put on the amount of calories allowed per meal. True, there are different children that may require more or less calories per meal dependent on their personal health needs, but overall the calorie ranges appear appropriate.

What are your thoughts on the new lunch guidelines? Has your little one noticed any of the changes at the cafeteria? We’d love to hear your Honest Mom thoughts on these new changes!


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