A year-end report card on school cafeterias: Did they make the grade for improved nutrition?
Have college cafeterias produced the grade when it comes to revising and changing school menus to meet the new USDA nutrition recommendations? A lot of well being authorities say yes, giving the country’s much more than 17,000 school districts an &ldquoA&rdquo for their efforts to add new recipes and much more fruits, vegetables and entire grains to their weekly menus.
The new nutrition guidelines call for schools to offer you an elevated selection of fruits and vegetables every day of the week &ndash a lot of of them nutrient-wealthy dark green, red or orange varieties. At least half the grains served need to be entire grain-wealthy foods, and milk must be fat-free or low-fat. In addition, there is a higher focus on minimizing saturated fat, trans fats and sodium, and an adjustment of calories served based on the age of the youngsters.
&ldquoSo numerous good items are happening inside schools, since of these new standards and also due to the fact there&rsquos a commitment by a developing number of individuals to serve children healthful foods at college,&rdquo says Susan Moores, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant who works with schools in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
According to Moores, it requires not only food service directors to produce a fantastic cafeteria, it requires a team of folks which includes a school&rsquos administration, food suppliers and even local farmers. &ldquoIt&rsquos worth every cent we invest in delivering healthful meals. Eating well supports greater brain power,&rdquo she says.
College foodservice directors have developed inventive ways to assist students embrace the new menus. Lunch is an critical and nutritious meal for the duration of students&rsquo busy college days, and so it was important that new foods have been both flavorful and attractive.
An important element of the method has been education &ndash students and their households needed to realize what the changes have been and why they have been getting made. This included community open homes with families for menu sampling, written communications sent home or available on-line, fun and informative cafeteria signage, and cafeteria food tastings. It has been an ongoing conversation with students all through the year.
Incorporating far more vegetables and entire grains has been an objective for all schools. Brenda Padilla, nutrition services manager for Sacramento City Unified College District, is responsible for much more than 40,000 meals a day. By means of menu testing, Padilla discovered that her students would decide on julienned red, green and yellow peppers, helping to meet the new vegetable needs. The peppers could be employed in the salad bar that&rsquos supplied in every of her schools as effectively as in the signature property salad she developed, offered at each register.
At most Sacramento location high schools, students can choose grilled peppers and other vegetables, prepared on outside grills. &ldquoWe&rsquove piloted a fajita grill concept this year, making use of entire grain tortillas. It&rsquos a great way to incorporate a assortment of grilled vegetables,&rdquo Padilla says. Students here echo preferences heard across the country for elevated seasonings and spice, creating fajitas a great alternative.
Familiar foods are still offered in lunch lines across the nation. Foodservice directors have found kid-friendly whole grain-rich favorites like pizza that meet the new recommendations. For instance, Massive Daddy&rsquos (R) 51 percent entire grain cheese pizza from Schwan&rsquos Food Service is a excellent platform for offering higher high quality protein, calcium, potassium and fiber, with only 310 calories. Weekly menus that blend new and familiar flavor alternatives, all meeting the new guidelines, have helped students adapt to the new offerings.
And whilst schools embraced the adjustments, there were challenges as effectively. Soon soon after college was underway in the fall, foodservice directors began to hear from high college students that they have been feeling hungry. The USDA responded by lifting the limits for proteins and breads for the balance of the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years, providing schools the opportunity to increase the serving portions for some of its nutrient-rich items.
So as the college year comes to a close, higher marks are awarded to school cafeterias and foodservice directors for the implementation of these new suggestions and an ongoing commitment to providing great nutrition.
&ldquoThese new recommendations provide a wonderful opportunity to showcase what we can offer to our students in our communities,&rdquo says Padilla.