The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes that schools play a vital role in shaping the dietary habits and overall health of children. In order to ensure students are receiving the proper nutrition needed to support growth and development, the CDC has developed the following guidelines for healthy school meals.
How to Keep School Meals Healthy
So, what exactly is recommended for healthy school meals? Let’s take a closer look.
- Use the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – According to the CDC, school meals should be based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. School meals should also be low in sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars.
- Update Menus If Needed – To meet these guidelines, cafeteria food suppliers may need to make some changes to their menus. Rethinking the way food is prepared, swapping out processed food for fresh produce, and opting for methods that are lower in fat and sodium, such as baking or steaming instead of frying, are just some ways a school can take steps toward healthier meal options.
- Promote Healthy Eating Habits – In addition to providing healthy food options, the CDC also recommends promoting these nutritious eating habits in schools. This can be done by creating a positive eating environment, such as making mealtime a pleasant experience for students and educating them about the importance of healthy food.
- Take Advantage of Programs – There are several programs available to schools to help support their efforts to provide healthy meals to students. For example, the National School Lunch Program provides funding for schools to offer healthy meals at a reduced cost or for free to students who qualify, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program provides funding for schools to offer fresh produce as snacks throughout the day.
With the help of the CDC’s guidelines and resources available, schools can make healthy school meals a priority and ensure that their students are well-nourished and ready to learn.
Other Tips to Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle for Students
We’ve also compiled a couple of other tips to ensure schools are supporting students and their healthy eating habits in the best way.
- Choose the Right Food Supplier – One key aspect of providing healthy school meals is selecting the right food suppliers for schools. Cafeteria food suppliers should be knowledgeable about the nutritional needs of children and offer a variety of healthy options that are both tasty and affordable. Consider factors such as the quality of ingredients, the nutritional value of menu items, and the availability of fresh, seasonal produce.
- Work with a School Nutritionist – These trained professionals provide guidance on developing healthy menus and ensure that school meals meet the dietary needs of students. They can also work with food suppliers for schools to identify healthy and affordable options that meet the guidelines set forth by the CDC.
Ultimately, the goal of healthy school meals is to ensure that children have access to nutritious food that supports their physical and mental health. By working with food suppliers and school nutritionists, schools can create menus that meet the guidelines set forth by the CDC and provide students with the foundation they need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.
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