This is a partnered post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
As a mother of three young, school-aged children, lunch is often a topic of conversation in our home. I use the opportunities that arise to teach my children about food, how to make good choices about what they eat, and how moderation is key to staying healthy.
Over the last couple of years I’ve worked really hard to make sure my children eat a healthy lunch. Four out of the five school days each week I pack a fun, healthy lunch for my children to take to school. They are allowed to choose one day out of the week to buy a school lunch. Most times they choose to buy on pizza day (which in our district is only once every two weeks).
So far, this works for us. I’m happy that I can supply them with a healthy lunch and they’re happy because they are still given one day a week to make choices for themselves.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to learn more about the changes to school meal programs through Melanie Konarik, MS, SNS, Director, Child Nutrition Services at Spring ISD. While this isn’t the district that my children attend, it is in close proximity to us. I love knowing that someone practically down the road from me is working to ensure that my kids (and yours!) are being served meals that will nourish and fuel their bodies for a better learning experience.
Under the new meal standards, when a child purchases a school meal, they must take at least one fruit or vegetable serving. In addition, schools must offer dark green vegetables, orange and/or red vegetables and legumes at least once a week.
Spring ISD did some research among students in the district to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to children and food. Grapes and blueberries were popular with the kids, which was to be expected. But cooked spinach wasn’t. So instead of serving cooked spinach that would go uneaten, they decided to add raw spinach mixed with fresh romaine lettuce for salads. The kids liked that much better!
According to Konarik, a “regional trend among students is a love for spicy foods.” Popular brands such as Kikkoman and McCormick have been working with school districts to make their spices and sauces lower in sodium to adhere to the new sodium limits that schools must adhere to. “Local students love veggies such as broccoli, cabbage and green beans with Monterey seasoning and sweet potatoes flavored with chili powder!“, says Konarik. I’m glad to see companies stepping up to the plate so to speak and working with the schools to make sure our children are eating a healthy lunch.
“National guidelines also mandate that at least half of the grains served in school lunches are whole-grain rich,” says Konarik. “In Spring ISD cafeterias, sub sandwich stations serve only whole-grain rolls and are testing whole-grain bread Paninis with low-fat cheese and lean meat this year.“
In addition to changing things up in the school cafeteria, Spring ISD has taken it a step further and is teaching children how to eat healthier in different departments throughout the school. According to Konarik, “seven schools in Spring ISD have started school gardens where students work in teams to research what foods will grow during March, April and May. The students research, plant, water, tend, weed and harvest at the end of the project. They grow everything from basil, tomatoes and onions to broccoli, carrots, okra, bell peppers, banana peppers and cucumbers.” What a great way to teach students about where food comes from and help them become more familiar with foods they might not have otherwise. Obviously the food they grow in their gardens doesn’t feed the entire school, but what an opportunity to learn.
As parents it is extremely important for us to teach our children about food. It’s also imperative that we teach by example. Our children are constantly watching us, in everything we do, and they will follow in our footsteps. If you eat unhealthy, your children will follow suit. If you show them and teach them the importance of a healthy diet, they are more likely to carry that into their adult life. I’m happy to see that changes are being made to school lunches to provide healthier options that kids enjoy!
If you would like more information about school nutrition or would just like to stay up-to-date with current regulations, please visit Tray Talk.
Have you noticed any changes in your child’s school lunch menu?