Pamela Liuzzo DTR, CDM, CFPP
Originally Published: July 15, 2012 8:19 a.m.
Hello Simply Fit readers. I hope that you are all having a wonderful summer. Back-to-school planning is already in the works in the Liuzzo home. Clothes shopping, supply shopping, more and more shopping! One item that I am not planning on purchasing this year for my children is a lunch box. I don't think they even call them lunch boxes anymore but you get my point. The reason I'm not buying one for each of my children is because of the new standards that have been put in place to make school meals more nutritious. In the past, I have been a little suspicious concerning the nutritional value of the lunches being provided to my kids by the schools. My suspicions have been put to rest due in part to the new regulations that have gone into effect as of July 1, 2012. Schools that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs must follow these new standards which make significant improvements to the nutritional value of provided meals. I hate to date myself but back in my day (oh I sound so old) at Humboldt Junior High (now Humboldt Elementary), we were provided a tray of food at lunchtime. There were no choices, no 2nd, 3rd, or 4th entrée to choose from. We either ate what they provided, brought our own lunch or we just didn't eat. Today, schools offer a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and healthy entrees that aim to satisfy and nourish our school aged children. As a parent and a nutritional professional, I can now feel more confident that my children and yours will be provided a nutritious and delicious meal at school. Here's a look at old and new nutrition requirements according to USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Old Requirements K-12 Fruit and Vegetables: ½ - ¾ cup of fruit and vegetables combined per day Vegetables: No specifications as to type of vegetable subgroup Meat/Meat Alternate: 1.5 - 2 oz eq. (daily minimum) Grains: 8 servings per week (minimum of 1 serving per day) Whole Grains: Encouraged Milk: 1 cup. Variety of fat contents allowed; flavor not restrictedNew Requirements K-12 Fruit and Vegetables: ¾ - 1 cup of vegetables plus ½ -1 cup of fruit per day Note: Students are allowed to select ½ cup fruit or vegetable under Offer vs. Serve. (OVS allows students to decline some of the food offered in a school lunch or school breakfast which helps to reduce food waste in the school meals programs and permits students choices to select the foods they prefer.) Vegetables: Weekly requirement for: dark green, red/orange, beans/peas (legumes), starchy, other (as defined in 2010 Dietary Guidelines) Meat/Meat Alternate: Daily minimum and weekly ranges: Grades K-5: 1 oz eq. min. daily (8-10oz weekly max)Grades 6-8: 1 oz eq. min. daily (9-10oz weekly max)Grades 9-12: 2 oz eq. min. daily (10-12oz weekly max) Grains: Daily minimum and weekly range Grades K-5: 1 oz eq. min. daily (8-9 oz weekly max)Grades 6-8: 1 oz eq. min. daily (8-10 oz weekly max)Grades 9-12: 2 oz eq. min. daily (10-12 oz weekly max) Whole Grains: At least half of the grains must be whole grain-rich beginning July 1, 2012. Beginning July 1, 2014, all grains must be whole grain rich. Milk: 1 cup. Must be fat-free(unflavored/flavored) or 1% low fat (unflavored) Saturated fat: No more than Trans Fat: Zero grams per serving based on nutrition label Calories: Minimum and maximum calorie limits based on grade levelAfter reading this you might be asking yourself if favorites like chicken nuggets and pizza will be removed from serving lines. I can't speak for all school districts but in general the answer is no. Removing favorite foods as an option will only alienate students from lunch lines. Nutritious foods are only nutritious if they are actually consumed. The goal for most schools may be to modify the recipe of favorite foods in order to create a more nutritious item. An example of this would be to use a whole wheat crust, lower fat mozzarella cheese and a lower sodium tomato sauce to create a nutritious and delicious pizza. Again, nutritious foods are only nutritious if they are consumed. This is where you come in. If you are a parent, grandparent or guardian of a school aged child, encourage your child to try different foods that are offered at school. Have lunch with your child so that you can try the food yourself. If you are a school employee or volunteer, show your support of the schools lunch program. Let the students see you enjoying a meal from the cafeteria. It takes a village, people! Facts from the CDC Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6-11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12-19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period. In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes. Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.Long-term health effects: Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults. Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin's lymphoma.Prevention Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases. The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries. Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. Be a part of this nutrition evolution. Encourage your child to eat school lunch. Come to school and have lunch with your child. Attend nutrition/health workshops that schools offer. Get involved. "He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery."~ Former British Prime Minister Harold WilsonPeace!