Effective the 2012-2013 school year, the USDA raised nutrition standards for school lunches for the first time in more than 15 years. These new guidelines are based on recommendations from an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine and will result in healthier meals for school children. Now students will receive a variety of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables with every meal, more whole grain-rich foods, age-appropriate calories to ensure proper portion size to maintain a healthy weight, and limited amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium.

These changes mean the look of the lunch plate will shift, reflecting the latest USDA Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Americans. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, these guidelines are summed up with the My Plate image.

Choose My Plate Graphic
Fruits and Vegetables:
Half of the “plate” will be nutrient and fiber rich fruits and vegetables. Considering that school-aged children should eat at least 1.5 cups of fruit and about 2 cups of vegetables per day, our new lunches will help them get there.

Large portions of refined grains such as white bread and pizza crust, white rice, flour tortillas, and pasta have been exchanged for smaller portions and more whole grains, giving kids sustainable energy to get them through the school day.

Including a healthy protein source with each meal helps regulate blood sugars and appetite and helps maintain focus for sharp minds at school. High quality protein sources in our lunches include chicken, beans, and dairy. The portions are regulated by USDA standards to ensure adequate protein and overall balance of nutrients without exceeding age-appropriate calorie limits.

All USDA lunches must offer 1% or non-fat dairy. In keeping with the calorie limits, chocolate milk may only be offered as non-fat, since the added sugar adds calories. For plain milk, the PTA is offering 1% organic milk.

Putting the Nutrition Guidelines into context:
The estimated calorie needs for children ages 4-8 years old is 1200-1400 calories per day, for ages 9-13 is 1600-1800 calories, and for ages 14-18 is 1800-2200 calories per day. Moderately active kids will require approximately 200 extra calories per day and very physically active kids will require 200-400 extra calories per day. Based on these estimates, the USDA established calorie levels for lunch meals for grades K-5 are 550-650 calories and for grades 6-8 are 600-700 calories. The USDA regulations and State Regulations (SB12) also require specific amounts of protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy to achieve optimal balance of nutrients, with limits on sodium, saturated fat, trans fats, and added sugar. Our lunches satisfy these requirements and much more.

The new PTA lunch options focus on great nutrition and great taste. The poultry is antibiotic and hormone free, and the fruits and vegetables are largely organic and local. In keeping with our mission to keep our planet healthy as well, Bacich lunches will be served in reusable plastic containers, and Kent lunches will be served with compostable utensils and paper products.
This is all great news for our community!

Online Resource to help support these healthy changes: Be a Healthy Role Model

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