Washington, D.C., United States (AHN) – The U.S. government on Wednesday released new nutrition standards for school meals that mandate dramatic changes.
Among the changes, sodium will be slashed, calories will be cut and students will be offered a wider variety and larger portions of fruits and vegetables. These changes raise the nutrition standards for school meals for the first time in more than 15 years.
The quality of school menus have been the subject of some heated debates for years. Sparking the debates is the growing number of overweight or obese children in the United States. The latest tally put the number at one-third.
The changes are designed to improve the health of nearly 32 million children who eat lunch every day at school, and the nearly 11 million who eat breakfast. Overall, kids consume about 30 percent to 50 percent of their calories while at school.
Among the new standards:
Establish maximum calorie and sodium limits for meals, The sodium limits are phased in over 10 years.
Require schools to serve a fruit and vegetable every day at lunch and in larger portions than offered before.
Require schools to offer a minimum number of leafy green vegetables, red-orange vegetables, starchy vegetables and legumes each week.
Require that after the two year implementation, all grains offered to students must be rich in whole grains. Breads, buns, cereals and pasta must list whole grains as the first ingredient.
Require milk to either be low-fat or fat-free.
Require that foods that are served contain no trans fat.
The new standards for lunch take effect starting with the next school year. Changes for breakfast will be phased in.