Tag Archives: School Lunch

What to Feed Your Preschooler

Feeding your preschooler can be challenging at times. Since one in four children between the ages of two and five are at risk of being overweight, healthy eating is extremely important. Children this age need the same variety of foods in their diets as older children and adults. The portion sizes are about half the size of adult portions. It’s usually not a good idea to use restaurant portion sizes as these are typically much larger than the recommended amounts. Too often preschoolers consume excessive amounts of sugar and juice, and not enough whole fruits and vegetables. The following are the suggested daily nutrition guidelines for preschoolers from ChooseMyPlate.gov:

  • Grains: About 3 to 4 ounces, preferably half of them whole grains.
  • Vegetables: 1 to 1 ½ cups raw or cooked vegetables. Be sure to offer a variety!
  • Fruits: 1 cup fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits. Try to limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day.
  • Dairy: 2 to 2 ½ cups. Whole milk is recommended for children under 2. Older children can have lower-fat options like low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese.
  • Protein: 2 to 3 ounces Choices are lean meat, poultry, fish, an egg, cooked beans, and peanut butter
  • Oils: About 3 teaspoons of liquid oil or margarine

Preschoolers need about 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day to help them grow and stay healthy. Restrictive diets for children in this age group are inappropriate. They need fat, calories, and carbohydrates in order to support healthy development. One of the biggest challenges parents may face in feeding their preschooler is finding foods their child will eat.

Preschoolers can be very picky eaters. They may be afraid of trying new foods, or simply may not want to try them. As a result, preschoolers may miss out on valuable vitamins and nutrients needed for growth and development. Providing your preschooler with two to three healthy snacks daily can help curb hunger and crankiness. Healthy snacks can also help fill in nutritional gaps. Give children healthy snack options to choose from. It’s important to continue to offer healthy foods, such as new fruits and vegetables, to your preschooler. It may take several times before the new food is accepted. Try serving low-fat milk or water with snacks, instead of sugar-sweetened beverages or soda. It’s also important to remember that children are more likely to develop positive eating habits when parents and caregivers demonstrate and encourage healthy eating.

Source: SDSU Extension; Nutrition for Preschoolers

USDA makes permanent meat and grain serving flexibilities in National School Lunch Program

WASHINGTON, January 2, 2014 – Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon today announced that USDA is making permanent the current flexibility that allows schools to serve larger portions of lean protein and whole grains at mealtime.

“Earlier this school year, USDA made a commitment to school nutrition professionals that we would make the meat and grain flexibility permanent and provide needed stability for long-term planning. We have delivered on that promise,” said Concannon.

USDA has worked closely with schools and parents during the transition to healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Based on public feedback, USDA has made a number of updates to school meal standards, including additional flexibility in meeting the daily and weekly ranges for grain and meat/meat alternates, which has been available to schools on a temporary basis since 2012.

USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food. Data show that vast majority of schools around the country are successfully meeting the new meal standards.

  • Last month, USDA awarded $11 million in grants to help schools purchase needed equipment to make preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.
  • In November 2013, USDA issued an additional $5 million through the Farm to School grant program to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools. USDA awarded grants to 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia.
  • USDA awarded $5.6 million in grants in FY2013 to provide training and technical assistance for child nutrition foodservice professionals and support stronger school nutrition education programs, and plans to award additional grants in FY 2014.
  • USDA’s MyPlate symbol and the resources at ChooseMyPlate.gov provide quick, easy reference tools for teachers, parents, healthcare professionals and communities. Schools across the country are using the MyPlate symbol to enhance their nutrition education efforts.

Collectively, these policies and actions will help combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation’s children. This is a top priority for the Obama Administration and is an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat the challenge of childhood obesity.

Source: USDA; USDA makes permanent meat and grain serving flexibilities in National School Lunch Program

The White House and USDA announce School Wellness Standards

First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announce proposed school wellness standards and roll out of breakfast and lunch programs for schools that serve low income communities

Washington, DC (February 2014)– Today, First Lady Michelle Obama joins U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce proposed guidelines for local school wellness policies.  The bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated that the USDA set guidelines for what needed to be included in local school wellness policies in areas such as setting goals for nutrition education and physical activity, informing parents about content of the policy and implementation, and periodically assessing progress and sharing updates as appropriate.  As part of local school wellness policies, the proposed guidelines would ensure that foods and beverages marketed to children in schools are consistent with the recently-released Smart Snacks in School standards.  Ensuring that unhealthy food is not marketed to children is one of the First Lady’s top priorities; that is why it is so important for schools to reinforce the importance of healthy choices and eliminate marketing of unhealthy products.

“The idea here is simple—our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.  “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.

This action comes after the White House Summit on Food Marketing to Children last fall where Mrs. Obama called on the country to ensure children’s health was not undermined by marketing of unhealthy food.

“The food marketing and local wellness standards proposed today support better health for our kids and echo the good work already taking place at home and in schools across the country.  The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices.  USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and the food and beverage industries to implement the new guidelines and make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America’s young people,” Secretary Vilsack said.

To help schools with the implementation of the school wellness policies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a new “School Nutrition Environment and Wellness Resources” website, which includes sample wellness policy language for school districts and a dedicated page of resources for food marketing practices on the school campus.

These new resources will complement a second announcement which highlights the nationwide expansion of a successful program that was piloted in 11 states  with the goal of ensuring children who are in need of nutritious meals are receiving them.  Beginning July 1, 2014, more than 22,000 schools across the country—which serve primarily low-income students—will be eligible to serve healthy free lunches and breakfasts to all students.  This will help as many as 9 million American children eat healthy meals at school, especially breakfast, which can have profound impacts on educational achievement.  Research shows that kids who eat breakfast in the classroom preform over 17% better on math tests and have fewer disciplinary problems.

For more information, go to http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/child-nutrition-programs

Source: WhiteHouse.gov; The White House and USDA announce School Wellness Standards