Report Urges Nutritional Revamp for School Meals
Institute of Medicine report recommends more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calorie limits
TUESDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) - "School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children," a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), recommends new nutritional targets and menu planning standards for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, to better meet the nutritional needs of the nation's school children and foster healthy eating habits.
Virginia A. Stallings, M.D., of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues on the IOM's Committee on Nutrition Standards for National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, authored the report, which is intended to bring school meals into conformance with Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Dietary Reference Intakes.
The report recommends increasing nutrient targets for protein, vitamins and minerals, and gradually reducing amounts of sodium over ten years. The recommendations also set maximum calorie levels for the first time -- for lunches, no more than 650 calories (grades kindergarten through five), 700 calories (grades six through eight), and 850 (grades nine through 12). Breakfast calories should not exceed 500, 550, and 600, respectively, for those grades. The authors note that the increased fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods required by the recommendations will necessitate higher federal meal reimbursement, capital investment, and food service personnel training.
"Since the school meal programs were last updated, we've gained greater understanding of children's nutritional needs and the dietary factors that contribute to obesity, heart disease, and other chronic health problems. The changes recommended in this report are needed to assure parents that schools are providing healthful, satisfying meals," Stallings said in a statement.