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Back to School: Lunch Has a New Look

New federal guidelines will impact what your child eats at school for breakfast and lunch.

As another school year begins, school lunch will have a very different look in most schools. This fall new guidelines for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program took effect. These changes mean familiar items like pizza and fries may still be on the menu but they will likely have a different look and they definitely have a different nutrient profile.

In an attempt to help teach children about good nutrition and to develop palates that enjoy healthier options, school lunch and breakfast meals must provide more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while offering low-fat or fat free milk and fat free flavored milk only. In addition to these changes the amount of saturated fat, found predominately in animal foods, must be limited as must total calories and sodium.

School food service Directors have worked to shift recipe preparation to allow for the addition of whole wheat flour to pizza crusts, the baking of fries and chicken tenders and the inclusion of more fresh produce on menus. For some schools these changes go along with more collaboration with local chefs to incorporate produce from area farms, another way to educate children about food.

Making food more familiar makes it easier to introduce new types of produce to school menus and it helps children consume the recommended one to two pieces of fruit and one to two cups of vegetables they need each day.

This school year school meal programs are offering flavored milk that is not only fat free but it is lower in calories  and added sugar. Flavored milk provides all the nutrition of unflavored milk and is often preferred by children resulting in more children consuming milk. With a recommended intake of three cups per day for kids nine and older, children four to eight need two to two and a half cups per day, drinking milk at school is an important part of meeting daily recommendations

The US Department of Agriculture, who oversees the school lunch program, issued a sample menu to show school lunch before and after implementation of the new guidelines. You can view that menu by clicking here .

Next time you visit your child’s school pop into the school cafeteria to see how the menu has changed.

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