Goodbye hot dog. Hello whole wheat spaghetti.
On the menu
As part of the new nutritional standard for school lunches, U.S. Department of Agriculture included ways traditional school lunch menus could change. Here is a week’s worth of examples:
Bean and cheese burrito with mozzarella cheese, applesauce, orange juice, 2 percent milk
Submarine sandwich (with turkey, low-fat cheese on a whole-wheat roll), refried beans, jicama, green pepper strips, cantaloupe wedges, skim milk, mustard, reduced-fat mayonnaise, low-fat ranch dip
Hot dog on a bun with ketchup, canned pears, raw celery and carrots with ranch dressing, low-fat chocolate milk
Whole-wheat spaghetti with meat sauce, whole-wheat roll, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, kiwi halves, low-fat milk, low-fat ranch dip, soft margarine
Pizza sticks with marinara sauce, banana, raisins, whole milk
Chef salad (with romaine lettuce, low-fat mozzarella, grilled chicken), whole-wheat soft pretzel, corn, baby carrots, banana, skim chocolate milk, low-fat ranch dressing, low-fat Italian dressing
Breaded beef patty with ketchup, wheat roll, frozen fruit juice bar, 2 percent milk
Oven-baked fish nuggets with whole-wheat roll, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, peaches, skim milk, tarter sauce, soft margarine
Cheese pizza, canned pineapple, tater tots with ketchup, low-fat chocolate milk
Whole-wheat cheese pizza, baked sweet potato fries, raw grape tomatoes, applesauce, low-fat milk, low-fat ranch dip
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new standards for school lunches that would boost the amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables school children are offered and scale back on fat and salt. The new standards will be phased in over three years starting next school year. And, from what Lawrence public schools food services supervisor and registered dietitian Lindsey Morgan has seen, she doesn’t expect much to change for local schools.
“For the most part, we are in good shape looking toward next year,” Morgan said.
The new USDA standards call for lunch menus to offer:
- Fruits and vegetables every day of the week.
- More whole-grain foods.
- Milk that is fat-free or low-fat.
- Meals with adjusted calorie counts for each age group.
- Foods with less saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.
The USDA stated that many of the proposed nutrition changes are ones parents are already trying to make at home. And, they are similar to the changes the school district has been implementing over the past several years.
The district’s own guidelines call for half of all grain to be whole grains, at least four fruit and vegetable choices daily and one low-fat entree for lunch that has less than 480 mg of sodium. The policies also calls for as little prepared food as the budget allows.
Already, the district spends an extra $15,000 a year on whole-grain bread products. They provide only low-fat or skim milk. And, the only kind of chocolate milk available is skim. The district did away with french fries several years ago and recently introduced sweet potato fries to some schools.
“We have a really good start,” Morgan said.
A quick look at January’s lunch menus for Lawrence elementary schools shows the healthy choices of yogurt parfaits, steamed broccoli and carrots, green beans, peaches, pears and orange wedges. Students also have the choice of creating a chef salad every day. However, the school menu still offers some not-so-healthy options, such as pizza, corn dogs, hot dogs and chicken nuggets.
Morgan said it’s too early to tell whether the new standards mean certain items will have to come off the menu or if the cost of a school lunch will go up as meals meet healthier guidelines.
“We haven’t even started looking at that,” she said.
According to the USDA, the new standards are expected to cost $3.2 billion over the next five years and are just one of the many changes expected to come out of the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that will affect schools.