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USDA calls for dramatic change in school lunches

 
Hold the french fries and salt. The government is calling for dramatic changes in school meals, including limiting french fries, sodium and calories and offering students more fruits and vegetables.
The proposed rule, being released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will raise the nutrition standards for meals for the first time in 15 years.
This is the "first major improvement" in the standards that "we've seen in a generation, and it reflects the seriousness of the issue of obesity," says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
About a third of children and adolescents — 25 million kids – are obese or overweight. Extra pounds put children at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health problems. An analysis found that children today may lead shorter lives by two to five years than their parents because of obesity.
Vilsack says addressing the childhood obesity problem is critical for kids' health, future medical costs and national security, as so many young adults are too heavy to serve in the military.
The new meal standards are designed to improve the health of nearly 32 million children who eat lunch at school every day and almost 11 million who eat breakfast. Overall, kids consume about 30% to 50% of their calories while at school.
Among the requirements for school meals outlined in the proposed rule:
Decrease the amount of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and green peas, to one cup a week.
Reduce sodium in meals over the next 10 years. A high school lunch now has about 1,600 milligrams of sodium. Through incremental changes, that amount should be lowered over the next decade to 740 milligrams or less of sodium for grades through 9 through 12; 710 milligrams or less for grades 6 through 8; 640 milligrams or less for kindergarten through fifth grades.
Establish calorie maximums and minimums for the first time. For lunch: 550 to 650 calories for kindergarten through fifth grade; 600 to 700 for grades 6 through 8; 750 to 850 for grades 9 through 12.
Serve only unflavored 1% milk or fat-free flavored or unflavored milk. Currently, schools can serve milk of any fat content.
Increase the fruits and vegetables kids are offered. The new rule requires that a serving of fruit be offered daily at breakfast and lunch and that two servings of vegetables be offered daily at lunch.
Over the course of a week, there must be a serving of each of the following: green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, summer squash), beans, starchy and other vegetables. This is to make sure that children are exposed to a variety of vegetables.
Increase whole grains substantially. Currently, there is no requirement regarding whole grains, but the proposed rules require that half of grains served must be whole grains.
Minimize trans fat by using products where the nutrition label says zero grams of trans fat per serving.
Implementing the new meal standards is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 signed into law by President Obama.
The proposed rule applies to school breakfast and lunch but not to what's sold in vending machines and school stores. Those will be addressed later in a separate rule.
Dr. Iverson's Comment
Better late than never but this is about 30 years late in coming. The result is a nation of childhood obesity like never seen in all of history. It will result in young adults with obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high blood cholesterol and the plethora of health issues that follow. How could a nation sustain the health costs of such an epidemic? There is only one answer to this question: EDUCATION. Start young and teach children the importance of good eating. This includes teaching children how to cook and prepare healthy meals on their own so they do not turn to a processed or packaged convenience snack food. Healthy food can taste good too! Most children have not been exposed to enough types of healthy food to even know if they liked it. Nature’s Diet Cookbook will be a great resource for healthy and delicious foods that your whole family will enjoy. 
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