Back to School Means Back to School Lunch

How to tell if your child’s school offers heart healthy lunches?

We’ve heard the startling statistics: one third of American children are at risk for preventable chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease due to obesity or being overweight. Now that school is back in session, it’s time again to pay attention to what our kids are having for lunch, as some children consume two out of three meals at school.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required the USDA to improve the nutrition standards for all foods sold at schools, including vending machine items, to promote healthier eating and reduce obesity. The new standards emphasize the importance of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and set limitations on sodium, fat and calories – all practices that promote heart health!

Here are a few ways the new School Lunch Meal Pattern promotes a heart-healthy lifestyle:

These changes appear to be making a difference. A 2014 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine analyzed the impact of the new USDA meal pattern one year after implementation and reported an increase in fruit selection by 23% and an increase in vegetable consumption by 16.2%.

Every school participating in the National School Lunch Program must follow the same nutrition standards, but menus and snack offerings vary from school to school. To find menus and nutrient analyses for foods specific to your child’s school, you can visit the Lunch/Nutrition Services page on the school’s website.

Find information regarding meal prices, monthly menus, nutrition information, and information about the Smart Snacks program for schools in the Charleston or the tri-county area:

Charleston County School District
Berkeley County School District
Dorchester Country School District

By Laura Adams, RD, LD, clinical dietitian for Morrison Healthcare, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital