Are school lunches getting a makeover?

The MyRecipes staff sat down with Nancy Rice, president of the School Nutrition Association, to chat about kids' school lunches and what can be done to make them healthier.

Photo courtesy of School Nutrition Association
Photo courtesy of School Nutrition Association

Parents want to know: Why is so much processed and breaded food served in school lunches? Why aren't there more fresh fruits and vegetables on the menu?

Research shows schools nationwide are serving more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy items. While some schools are scratch-preparing foods, others struggle to cover the high labor, equipment, and staff training costs associated with scratch-prep. However, thanks to federal nutrition standards which limit fat, saturated fat, and portion size in school meals, most pre-prepared school foods are healthier than many of the processed foods you'll find in the grocery store.

Related: Raise a Vegetable Eater

What improvements are being made to school lunches to make them healthier?
Schools have worked hard to make kid favorites healthy options by switching preparation methods (baking vs. frying) and using healthier ingredients (leaner meats, whole grains). These days, school pizza is often served on whole-grain crust with low-fat cheese and low-sodium sauce. You'll also find baked sweet potato "fries" or wedges, brown rice, vegetarian choices, and salads. Schools are also launching nutrition education programs to encourage kids to try these healthier foods.

Related: Fruit Recipes for Kids

How can parents help their children make better decisions in the lunch line?
Every school lunch offers two fruits or vegetables, but many children won't try them! When parents serve a wide variety of healthy foods at home, kids are more likely to select them at school. Going over the cafeteria menu with your children before school can also help them make healthier choices in the lunch line. Even better; join your children for school lunch one day so they can see you make the right choices!

Related: Healthy Family Meals

Keep Reading: Healthy Changes for School Lunches

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