Schools across the country are cooking up new recipes to meet updated federal nutrition guidelines that go into effect this fall. The new regulations, created by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, require schools to serve students fruits and vegetables every day and only fat-free or low-fat milk. They must also serve more whole grains, slash their use of salt, saturated fat, and trans fat, and limit calories according to the age of children. So, for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, calorie limits for breakfast and lunch are set at 500 and 650, respectively. For high schoolers, those numbers increase to 600 and 850.
Some 32 million kids eat school meals, and many are already getting a taste of the healthier fare being dished out at schools. Lots of schools have gotten a head start on raising nutrition standards, as a result of grassroots efforts to boost children's health. In fact, more than 4,000 schools have already been certified by the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge, a voluntary program that rewards exemplary programs in fitness and nutrition.
Among the myriad efforts under way, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, for example, is working with local chefs to craft healthy meals sold in school vending machines. And in Vermont, the Burlington School District is seeing how kids feel about spaghetti squash in place of their pasta, says Diane Pratt-Heavner, media relations director for the School Nutrition Association. Plenty more examples can be found through the association's website: www.traytalk.org and on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website, which also provides sample menus.
Below, a snapshot of innovative dishes being served in schools around the country, according to the School Nutrition Association. All meet the new federal guidelines:
1. Knox County Schools, Tenn.
Pizza made with a whole-grain crust and reduced-sodium sauce using sweet potato purée
Spinach Maria (a local dish) or steamed broccoli
Locally grown melon slices
2. Shawnee Public Schools, Okla.
Chopped BBQ brisket-on-a-bun
3. Arlington Public Schools, Va.
Whole-grain cheese ravioli or turkey and cheese wrap
4. Highline Public Schools, Wash.
Beef barley stew
Rosemary wheat roll
5. Andover Public Schools, Mass.
Homemade chicken pot pie over a whole-grain biscuit
Oven-roasted butternut squash