March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus new energy on giving kids healthy food options throughout the school day. Students consume up to half of their daily calories in school, so access to wholesome meals and snacks is important to their overall health. In fact, research shows that students living in states with strong nutrition laws gain less weight than those in states without such policies.
Since adopting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recently updated nutrition standards a year ago, schools across the country are exceeding expectations as they strive to serve students healthy school meals. Here are a few facts to chew on during National Nutrition Month:
Q: Can schools meet the updated nutrition standards?
Yes—90 percent of schools meet the standards for lunch and are finding ways to overcome challenges. Read more about the successes of schools around the country that serve healthier meals.
Q: Will students accept and eat healthy foods?
Yes—Research shows that students learn to adapt to and enjoy more nutritious foods when they replace less-healthy items such as salty snacks or baked goods. In fact, a recent study found that updated nutrition standards have led to increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Students can also be some of the greatest advocates for change.
Q: Do improved nutrition standards really improve students' health?
Yes—Even small changes to students' diets—such as replacing a candy bar with an apple—may reduce their risk of obesity, tooth decay, and chronic illness through decreased calorie, fat, and sugar intake at school. Learn more at healthyschoolfoodsnow.org.
Q: Can schools afford to implement the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards?
Yes—Implementing healthy snack standards can actually increase school food service revenue while helping students maintain a healthy weight. Students may spend less on snacks, but they spend more on meals. The additional reimbursement for meals that schools receive from USDA more than makes up for the potential reduction in snack sales. Check out this interactive exploring how different kinds of food sales affect a school's bottom line.
Let's continue to create a healthy environment for children and encourage schools to offer only nutritious options to students.