Entries in School Lunches (5)


School Lunch Showdown: 850-Calorie Meals Compared

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SHARON SPRINGS, Kan.) -- New rules for reduced-calorie public school lunches, passed by Congress in 2010 to fight childhood obesity and promote health, took effect in August. High school cafeterias must serve twice as many fruits and vegetables as before, limit proteins and carbohydrates, and serve lunches containing 750 to 850 calories.

For an average high schooler, that means two baked fish nuggets, a cup of vegetables, half a cup of mashed potatoes, one whole-grain roll, and eight ounces of fat-free milk.

“850 calories is plenty for lunch and ought to tide a teenager over until after school,” Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, told ABC News.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack echoed this sentiment in an interview with ABC News, emphasizing the time-honored value of the after-school snack.

So what can you get for 850 calories or less? There are of course, school lunches that adhere to the Department of Agriculture guidelines…but you can also squeeze in a Big Mac and more at the 850 calorie max. Check out some meal comparisons below:

Fast Food:

•    Big Mac (550)
•    small fries (230)
•    Diet Coke (0)
•    2 ketchup packets (30)
•    small iced nonfat latte with sugar free vanilla syrup (40)

TOTAL: 850 calories
(according to company nutritional information)

•    Original Recipe chicken breast (360)
•    cole slaw (180)
•    mashed potatoes with gravy (120)
•    green beans (25)
•    Diet Pepsi (0)
•    oatmeal raisin cookie (150)

TOTAL: 835 calories
(according to company nutritional information)

•    Six-inch Cold Cut Combo sandwich — includes 9-grain wheat bread, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and cucumbers (370)
•    American cheese (40)
•    mayonnaise (110)
•    Baked Lay’s chips (130)
•    oatmeal raisin cookie (200)
•    diet drink (0)

TOTAL:  850 calories
(according to company nutritional information)

Sample School Lunches:

Chicken Sandwich Meal
•    Grilled chicken patty sandwich with whole grain hamburger bun
•    1/2 cup sweet potato fries
•    1/2 cup green beans
•    1/2 cup chilled pineapple with mandarin oranges
•    1/2 cup 100 percent apple juice
•    1 packet of light mayonnaise
•    1 packet of ketchup
•    8 oz of 1 percent or fat free milk

Corn Dog Meal
•    1 corn dog with whole grain breading
•    2/3 cup of baked beans
•    1/2 cup of fresh cucumber coins
•    2 packets of light ranch dressing
•    1 packet of ketchup
•    1 packet of mustard
•    1 cup of fresh red and green grapes
•    8 oz of fat free chocolate milk

Spaghetti With Meat Sauce
•    1 cup of spaghetti with meat sauce
•    1/2 cup of whole wheat pasta
•    1 whole wheat dinner roll
•    1/2 cup of steamed broccoli
•    1 1/2 cup of mixed green salad
•    1 packet of light salad dressing
•    1/2 cup of chilled apple sauce
•    1/2 cup of red Anjou pear
•    8 oz of fat free strawberry milk

(Courtesy sample high school menus at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.)

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Snacks: The USDA's Solution to Students' 'Healthy Lunch' Hunger Complaints

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- According to Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the solution to the growing grumbling over re-vamped school lunch menus boils down to a good old fashioned snack.

School lunch trays are a bit lighter this year after Congress-approved calorie limits on school lunches went into effect in August. The new regulations, which were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity, have inspired protests and even a video parody from students who claim the reduced lunches are making them go hungry.

"It's not surprising that some youngsters will in the middle of the day be hungry," Vilsack told ABC News, responding to the controversy. "I remember my two boys when they came back from school they were always hungry, we always had snacks prepared for them."

Vilsack said the Obama Administration is working with school districts to create snack programs and encouraging parents to pack extra food for their active students to munch on before football practice or band rehearsal.

"We understand that change is difficult," Vilsack said. "Some folks love it, some folks have had questions about it, but that's to be expected when you're dealing with 32 million children and you're dealing with over a hundred thousand school districts."

Under the new regulations, cafeterias are required to serve twice as many fruits and vegetables while limiting proteins and carbohydrates. For an average high school student, that means two baked fish nuggets, a cup of vegetables, half a cup of mashed potatoes, one whole grain roll and eight ounces of fat free milk is the fuel that served to get them through their last four hours of classes.

But for a grumbling crowd of students, those 750 to 850 calories aren't cutting it.

"We hear them complaining around 1:30 or 2:00 that they are already hungry," said Linda O'Connor, a high school English teacher at Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs, Kan. "It's all the students, literally all the students... you can set your watch to it."

O'Connor teamed up with her hungry students and fellow teacher Brenda Kirkham to create a ballad to the growling stomachs that are now pestering her classroom. The YouTube song and dance video "We Are Hungry," set to the tune of Fun's "We Are Young," now has more than 108,000 hits.

"Give me some seconds, I, I need to get some food today," 16-year-old Wallace County High School football player Callahan Grund sings in the video. "My friends are at the corner store getting junk so they don't waste away."

Vilsack said it was "great" that students were speaking out, but said he had not watched the video.

"I think it's great that kids are creative and I think it's great that they're participating in the process by letting their feelings known and using that format to express themselves," he said.

Across the state at St. Mark's Charter School in Colwich, Kan., middle school students are protesting the new regulations, which limit their calories to between 600 and 700 per meal, by bringing their lunches from home.

St. Mark's Principal Craig Idacavage said more than half of his 330-student school are opting for sack lunches because "they feel they are not able to get full" on the school offerings.

"I think they have a valid point and you can only hope that people will listen to them," Idacavage said.

The new school lunch regulations, which first lady Michelle Obama championed and a Democrat-led Congress passed in 2010, set a maximum calorie limit for high school lunches at between 750 and 850 calories. Under the old rules, cafeterias served a minimum of 825 calories per lunch.

Elementary students' lunches pack between 550 and 650 calories as opposed to the 633 calories allotted under the old rules.

For Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that "scant diet" is a "rude awakening" for schoolchildren across the country. King and Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., introduced the "No Kids Hungry Act" this month to repeal the new lunch menu standards and prohibit the calorie limits.

"Kids are of varying sizes, activity levels and metabolism rates," King wrote in a Des Moines Register op-ed. "How can we expect each child to flourish and grow on subsistence diets? This all because some are overweight."

But it is not just a few overweight kids that are causing calorie cuts across the cafeteria. One out of every four adolescents are too overweight to join the military, according to a report released Tuesday by Mission: Readiness, a group of retired military leaders who claim obesity is now a national security issue.

"Removing the junk food from our schools should be part of comprehensive action that involves parents, schools and communities in helping children make healthy food choices," retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral James Loy said in a statement. "The bottom line is that the armed services must have a sufficient pool of fit young adults to draw from in order to field enough recruits with the excellent qualifications needed to staff a 21st century military."

Despite students' complaints over growling stomachs, the new nutritional requirements should actually be making them feel fuller, said Kristi King, a registered pediatric dietician at Texas Children's Hospital and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The new rules double the amount of fruit and vegetables that are served and mandate that half of all bread products are whole grain. All three of those food types are chock full of fiber, which takes longer to digest, King said.

"It should be making kids fuller if they are actually consuming the whole product," King said. "If children are not picking the entire meal available to them they are obviously going to be hungry."

In Jackson, Miss., the state with the highest obesity rate, school cafeterias have been easing kids into the healthy food regulations.

Mary Hill, the executive director of food services at Jackson Public School District said her school district has been phasing in more fruit and vegetable options over the past few years to prepare for the regulations and while the new rules are an "adjustment" for the students, she said she has not heard any complaints.

"To me, if you hear that grumbling it's that typical grumbling with children," Hill said. "You know children will be children."

Meanwhile, other critics have griped that the Obamas'  own daughters don't have to suffer under the new regulations, as they attend private school.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama to Promote Kids Heath Program on "Dr. Oz"

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- First lady Michelle Obama will appear on The Dr. Oz Show Sept. 14 to discuss new federal guidelines to school lunch programs.

The new nutritional guidelines include more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

The first lady will also reveal improvements to the Presidential Youth Fitness Program.

Host Mehmet Oz, M.D. issued a statement saying, "Mrs. Obama works tirelessly to focus our nation on prevention and educate youth about the critical need to eat right and stay active.  This message of prevention will imprint good habits on a generation of young people and result in longer lives and less disease.  I am humbled and honored that the first lady will appear on our show to ignite this conversation with my audience.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senators Fight to Keep Potatoes in School Lunches

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A group of Senators from potato-producing states are working to help reverse the “bad rap” that potatoes have received in recent years and to save the school lunch program from banning or severely limiting spuds in the national school lunch program.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mark Udall, D-Colo., have proposed an amendment to the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill that would protect schools’ flexibility in serving healthy fruits and vegetables in the school breakfast and lunch programs.

New guidelines released in January from the U.S. Department of Agriculture would reduce the use of potatoes, including white potatoes, in school lunches to a total of one cup per week.  The rule would also ban starchy vegetables from the School Breakfast Program completely, starting next year.

The Senators' amendment would prevent the USDA from moving forward by limiting the options of local school districts, which Collins calls an “arbitrary limitation” on spuds.  Collins says that this would amount to discrimination against a vegetable with more potassium than a banana, which is cholesterol free, low in fat and sodium, and “can be served in countless healthy ways.”

The Senators argue against the significant costs that school districts would incur if they couldn’t use potatoes, which are cheap when compared to other vegetables, in school meals.

“I’ve heard from school lunch providers in Colorado that this restriction would result in significant challenges for food service operations through increased costs, reduced flexibility and decreased school meal participation,” Udall said.  "In some areas increased flexibility to serve this nutritious and available vegetable can actually help schools manage cost so they can help afford to purchase other more expensive vegetables."

Collins’ office says she is working with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to encourage schools to find better ways to prepare the potato, rather than ban or severely limit it.

The amendment could be up for a vote as early as this week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chocolate Milk Debate Rages in Schools

Bananastock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Chocolate milk, that sweet childhood pleasure, has become the center of an intense health debate. Some health experts believe it contributes to childhood obesity, leading many school districts to place limits on its sale or ban it outright. But many doctors and nutritionists say leaving it off the menu deprives children of valuable nutrients they aren't likely to make up elsewhere. Parents are left wondering whether it's okay for their kids to drink it or not.

Milk consumption has plummeted from 25 to 20 gallons per year per person since 1990, even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that most kids don't get enough calcium and several other "shortfall" nutrients milk offers in abundance. Increasingly, children tend to drink the majority of their milk at school and increasingly, the majority of the milk they drink is flavored -- more than 70 percent of it, according to the Milk Processor Education Program, the dairy industry's advocacy group.

Therein lies the dilemma: Provide kids with essential nutrients lacking in their diet, or limit their access to sugary, high-calorie foods?

"Flavored milk is far less sugary and tends to have fewer calories and more nutrition than beverages like soda," said Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York City. "Children who drink flavored milk are no more likely to be overweight and are more likely to get enough calcium and eat a better diet than kids who don't."

There is support to this claim. A survey of 58 elementary and secondary schools across the country that removed the chocolate version of moo juice from cafeterias for two years and offered only the white version found a 32-to-64-percent drop in the amount kids drank depending on the grade, in part because they stopped fully draining the carton.

"That isn't even the whole story either. Kids will simply hold their thirst until after school and head to the nearest corner store to order something that is a far worse choice. Better to give them the chocolate milk," Ayoob said.

But not everyone agrees.

"This is like asking your kids to eat more apples by giving them apple pie," said Ann Cooper, a leading advocate for healthy school lunches. "Chocolate milk is just sugary soda in drag."

While complete school bans are on the increase, some have yielded to pressure from students, parents and special interest groups and settled on a compromise of sorts. They've ordered reformulated the beverages that are lower in fat and calories and that replace high fructose corn syrup with sugars made from sucrose or beets.

Compared to typical half pint of chocolate milk which has 170 calories, 28 grams of sugar and one percent fat, the new kind has just 130 calories, 22 grams of sugar and almost no fat. A 20-ounce bottle of cola has 150 calories and 40 grams of sugar.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio