Plenty of parents and kids have concerns about new regulations on what schools can serve for lunch.
Kids are seeing more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains on their lunch trays. In addition, the National School Lunch Program requires that meals have less calories, fat, and sodium. Fat free or 1 percent milk replaced 2 percent or whole milk, produce replaced simple carbs, and smaller portions replaced overflowing plates.
The amount of calories in a child's lunch is based on a range for their age group. Students receive a different calorie range for Kindergarten through 5th grade, 6th through 8th grade, and 9th through 12th grade.
"The recommendations are all medically based, so it's adequate for growth in any child," Registered Dietician Ashlyn Myers said. She says the amount of calories and combination of food should be enough to fill kids up.
The combination of foods that show up together in school lunches is linked into a program that emphasizes putting more variety, or color, on the plate.
"The more we envision our plates like this for lunch and dinner the better. Half of our plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. A quarter of our plate should be a lean protein and then the other quarter should be filled with some kind of grain," Meyers explained.
New regulations are about health more than weight. Lower sodium levels, and limits on saturated fat make lunches healthier. Dr. Dennis Go, a pediatrician, says kids who maintain a healthy weight can still have an unhealthy diet, and targeting only those kids who are overweight is not an affective tactic.
"Doctors know that if you try to target specific groups, for example lets say my child is a normal weight. He eats whatever he/she wants to but you are overweight, you have to get this other diet. We know that that doesn't work," Dr. Go explained.
Minimum requirements for calories and meat or meat alternative are also enforced with the new rules. Schools will be audited to make sure they are following the guidelines for the new program.
Click here for more information on those regulations.
The cost of the changes could become a problem in the future. Federal reimbursement only increased $0.06 per plate, but the cost of the healthier menu is higher than that.