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National Restaurant Association - Ask the Nutritionist: School meals make the grade

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Ask the Nutritionist: School meals make the grade

The National Restaurant Association's Director of Nutrition and Healthy Living Joy Dubost, Ph.D., R.D., provides regular commentary on the NRA News blog. In this post, she discusses positive changes in school meals.

It is hard to believe that summer is nearly over and kids are headed back to school. This year you may notice a positive change in school meals due to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which contains many provisions that improve child nutrition programs, including National School Lunch and School Breakfast to make options more nutritious. This has been the first major change in over 15 years, enabling school providers to make major improvements to school meals and align them with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Changes you will notice include:

• Fruits and vegetables are offered every day of the week.
• Whole grain-rich foods are offered more.
• Only fat-free or 1% milk is offered.
• Calories are limited based on age of children to ensure proper portion size.
• Reduction in unhealthy fats including saturated and trans fat, as well as sugar and sodium.

Ensuring our children have access to healthier options at schools is critical for their learning in the classroom. Keep in mind this is one part of the energy balance equation. Physical activity needs to be incorporated. However with these new meal standards, I believe we are not only teaching our kids good eating habits, but positively impacting the entire family.

Encourage your children to build a healthy plate at every meal. Discuss with your child what they ate at breakfast or lunch at school, and set a good example by following a well-balanced diet. And don't forget when dining out, look for our Kids LiveWell program which also provides nutritious options for children.

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