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How to Change School Lunch Meals to Reduce Obesity Risks

Updated on November 15, 2016
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Dr John uses his Biochemistry & Physiology research background (PhD) to develop authoritative reviews of dieting, weight loss, obesity, food

Finally after a lot of debate and several hiccups the long-awaited revised rules for government-subsidized meals at US schools have been released. The new guidelines and rules reduce the amount of salt and trans fat in foods, and adds more green vegetables and fruits to breakfasts and lunches.

Earlier proposal to restrict the amount of potatoes and other starchy foods in meals, and to stop schools from classifying tomato paste added to a slice of pizza as a vegetable, were not included. Under the revised rules, there is no restriction on potatoes and starchy foods, and tomato paste can be counted as a vegetable serving.

The rules changes are the first in fifteen years to the $11 billion school lunch program, and will increase the costs of the program by about $3.2 billion. The details of the new rules have been published.

Nutrition experts and food industry representative generally praised the new standards.

Food Pyramid for Kids - Both Kids and Parents should be educated about this
Food Pyramid for Kids - Both Kids and Parents should be educated about this | Source
Educating children about food is very important
Educating children about food is very important | Source

The new rules focus on the levels of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat fluid milk, sodium, trans fat, saturated fat in school meals and redefine calorie in meal requirements for children of various ages.

The rule changes were designed to provide meals with high nutrient densities and low calorie densities for school children to improve their health.

Major Features of the new Rules

  • The revised school meal nutrition standards match the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines focus on restricting the intake of sodium, solid fats, added sugars, and refined grains. It emphasizes nutrient-dense bever­ages and foods - fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free liquid milk and other milk products, lean meats and poultry, seafood, eggs, peas and beans, nuts and seeds. Calories consumed from foods and bever­ages should not be excessive, and only enough to meet their basic needs and that required for physically activity, with people encouraged to be more active.
  • The rules will double the quantities of vegetables and fruits children are served in schools at breakfast, and will increase them substantially at lunch. Students are required select both a fruit and a vegetable serving for each meal, and both fruits and vegetables will be available every day, at every meal.
  • A minimum number of vegetable servings would be required from each of 5 vegetable subgroups.
  • The rules require that initially 50% all grains served are whole grains, increasing to 100% after two years.
  • All milk served must be fat free or low fat products
  • The rules set limits on levels of salt in meals and aim to progressively halve the salt content over 10 years.
  • Meals must be prepared with ingredients or food products, so that there is zero grams of trans fat in each serving, and less than 10 percent of total calories in the serving derived from saturated fat.
  • The new rules offer meals that meet specific minimum and maximum calorie ranges for each age/grade group for breakfast and lunches. The calorie requirement ranges (Grades K-12) for breakfasts is 350-650 calories, averaged over a week, and for lunches is 550-850 calories. [see summary table for details]
  • Schools must plan all meals with the goal of meeting the dietary specifications for sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and calories.

Best Ever Ideas for a Healthy Lunch Boxes

  • Add a chilled bottle of water and limit juice.
  • Use snacks that are really healthy - check the labelsEnsure at least one item changes each day to ensure variety
  • Keep it fresh - pack the lunch box with a cold or frozen drink
  • Add cherry and other tiny tomato varieties which are very healthy
  • Always include fresh fruit and vegetables, but vary the selection.
  • Use low fat dairy foods (cheese and yogurt - flavorsome varieties.
  • Use avocado as a spread for sandwiches instead of margarine or butter.
  • Offer a variety of breads and crackers - whole grain breads, pita bread, rolls and flat breads.
  • Kids need a serve of protein at lunchtime - lean meat, peanut butter,beans, egg, chickpeas or tuna.
  • Cut fresh fruit and vegetables into bite size pieces, provided they do not go brown cut fruit and vegetables into ready to eat pieces. Fruit salad is the ideal, because its colorful, tasty easy to eat and full with vitamins. But check to ensure these is no added sugar

Do You Agree that the New Rules and Guidelines are Useful?

See results

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • daleamy profile image


    6 years ago from Spring Hill, TN

    Yes, at least it's better!

  • DeborahNeyens profile image

    Deborah Neyens 

    6 years ago from Iowa

    Daleamy, I'm not seeing where the government is taking away good fats. What is being limited is saturated fat and trans fat, which are "bad" fats. While added sugar is not specifically addressed, the calorie limits as well as the increased requirements for fruits, vegetables and whole grains may serve to displace some of the added sugars. But, agreed, it would have been nice to see some attention to paid to sugar. The schools will still serve flavored milk, albeit low fat milk, and probably many of those additional fruit servings will be in the form of juice with added sugar. (And don't even get me started on what counts as vegetables.) But at least this seems to be on the right track.

  • daleamy profile image


    6 years ago from Spring Hill, TN

    What about the sugar content in these foods? Am I missing it, or is the Gov't only concerned with taking away good fats and lowering sodium, while not removing sugar, which is responsible for so many attention problems?


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