Friday, January 14, 2011

USDA Announces Healthier School Lunch Guidelines

The USDA announced new school lunch guidelines for the first time in 15 years on Thursday.

"In that time, childhood obesity rates in this country have risen yet more.

Here's an example of a current school lunch:

Breaded beef patty on a roll
Fruit popsicle
Low-fat milk

And here's what a meal might look like under the new rules:

Baked fish nuggets
Whole wheat roll
Mashed potatoes
Skim milk

"The more we can reinforce the right set of choices and encourage the right set of choices, the greater the chances are that we will get a handle on obesity," [said] U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

The underlying requirements are based on an Institute of Medicine study: reduce saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Increase whole grains. Serve both fruits and vegetables daily. And, for the first time, set maximum calorie counts in addition to minimum ones.

"This doesn't mean that we are going to eliminate treats, not at all. But it is a circumstance, situation where treats have a special meaning, a special occasion, a special circumstance that we celebrate with a treat," Vilsack added.

Children consume more than half of their calories at school.

"Schools are supposed to set an example of many, many values of society and one of them ought to be eating well," said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at NYU and the author of "What to Eat". "The schools that I've been in that have the best school lunch programs work with the kids very closely on how the foods taste, get the kids involved in cooking, talk about where the food comes from and make the school lunch program part of the whole educational program. " -

Organic Fresh Fingers applauds the UDSA's proposal, which calls for:

-- A decrease in potatoes (those french fries), corn and other starchy vegetables to one cup a week.

-- A gradual reduction in sodium levels over the next decade.

-- Serving only unflavored milk with a 1 percent fat content or fat-free flavored or unflavored milk.

-- Creating calorie minimums and maximums for the first time.

-- Introducing children to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. A serving of fruit would be offered daily at breakfast and lunch and two vegetables would be available for lunch. Green and leafy vegetables, orange vegetables, beans, starchy vegetables and others must be served over the course of the week so students get one of each.

-- Requiring for the first time that half of the grains served be whole grains.

-- Serving only foods with nutrition labels that show zero grams of trans fat per serving.

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