Worried that your kids are eating or slurping too many empty calories during the school day? If so, you'll soon worry a little bit less. Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, schools will be mandated to follow new and approved "Smart Snacks in Schools" standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and announced today.
Part of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign, the new standards set specific limits for fat, sugar, and salt on snacks found in cafeterias, vending machines, and snack bars. According to a , the standards require foods considered more healthy, like whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and leaner protein. They also call for more nutrient-rich foods that are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium.
What these new standards won't apply to are the many snacks consumed after school at sporting events or other activities. Foods included in fundraisers, bake sales, birthday parties and holiday or other celebrations that occur at school are also exempt from the new food rules.
Of course, feeding kids in a healthful way is something that should, first and foremost, be in the hands of parents. But because kids spend so much time at school, having specific nutrition standards that apply to meals and snacks offered during the school day is essential. Consuming nutrient-rich foods and beverages in appropriate portions throughout the school day—even starting with breakfast — undoubtedly help kids stay energized and focused. It can also help some kids get foods and nutrients they don't usually get — or get enough of — at home.
Good nutrition helps all children perform better in the classroom, in P.E., and on the ball field. But just like Cinderella's carriage turns into a pumpkin at midnight, having all-out access afterschool to potato chips, homemade brownies, and other nutrient-poor "fun" foods on school grounds undermines the day-time effort schools make to promote health and wellness in school-aged kids.
So while these new healthy-snack standards are a positive step towards feeding kids better, they don't quite go far enough. What say you?
Image of school bag, healthy lunch box and apple with books and pencil via Shutterstock.