For the first time in 15 years, the USDA has issued new school nutrition guidelines. Meals served under the National School Lunch program and other federally funded school meal services, which serve about 32 million children per day, have been updated to reflect the 201o Dietary Guidelines.

New restrictions (according to age group) will be placed on:

  • Calories
  • Sodium
  • Percentage of calories per meal from saturated fat

In addition, half the grains served will have to be rich in whole grains, and while tomato paste and potatoes still count under the new rules as acceptable vegetables, the foods that contain them (such as pizza and fries) will have to comply with the restrictions on sodium, saturated fat, and calories. Some of these changes will be phased in over time, such as those related to sodium and whole grains. Other measures are to be enforced to ensure healthier meals for school children.

The changes will cost $3.2 billion as they are implemented over the next 5 years, with that cost being offset by a 6-cent-per-meal increase and other federal reimbursements.

To give you a clearer idea of exactly how new school lunches will look, here’s a sample menu comparison from the USDA. I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

What do you think of the changes to the school lunch program? 

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