School Meals – Leaner, Lower in Fat & Calories

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School meals getting leaner

School meals are getting leaner and more nutritious. Under pressure from federal officials, schools have trimmed fat, cholesterol and sodium from lunches and breakfasts and are offering children more fruits and vegetables, the government says.

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A decade ago, barely one-third of elementary schools offered students low-fat lunches. Now, four of every five schools do, according to an Agriculture Department report released recently.

Schools have lowered the overall fat content of meals from 38 percent of calories to 34 percent of calories, the report said. Under USDA rules, the maximum is supposed to be 30 percent. Levels of saturated fat also are down.

“School meals reach nearly 27 million children each day, sometimes providing the most nutritious meal a child receives,” said Dan Glickman, former agriculture secretary. “Fortunately, more than ever before, these meals are hitting the mark in providing good nutrition and healthy selections.”

The report is based on a survey conducted during the 1998-99 school year and follows up a similar study done in 1991-92 that had alarmed federal officials. The Agriculture Department began requiring schools to meet minimum standards for nutrients and the 30 percent maximum for fat content.

Schools have altered their menus and food preparation. Turkey and chicken are now mixed with beef to lower the fat content. Cafeteria workers skim fat from broth before making gravy. Schools offer a variety of fresh fruit that are popular with kids, including strawberries, melons and kiwis.

SOURCE: Washington Post, 2001

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