Eating Healthier

THE United?States Agriculture Department is getting tough. As a result, our nation’s school children are going to become healthier.

The Agriculture Department is cracking down on the food and drinks being served in the nation’s 100,000 schools. The guidelines for the nutritional mandate were formulated in February and finalized this week.

Once their effects are felt, a total transformation will be served up in school cafeterias. They will go a long way in the government’s efforts to battle childhood obesity.

Candy bars and high-calorie sports drinks will be replaced by diet drinks, granola bars and other healthier items. Lunchrooms that house “ala carte” lines that sell other items – often greasy foods like mozzarella sticks and nachos — will also have to clean it up. Under the new rules, those lines may now offer healthier pizzas, low-fat hamburgers, fruit cups or yogurt, among other foods that meet the standards.

The Agriculture Department focuses heavily on drinks as well. The rules will only allow sales in high schools of sodas and sports drinks that contain 60 calories or less in a 12-ounce serving, banning the highest-calorie versions of those beverages. Elementary and middle schools may sell only water, carbonated water, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, and low fat and fat-free milk, including nonfat flavored milks.

It’s safe to say that students and staff members are going to experience some cafeteria culture shock when school resumes. But the health benefits are obvious and possible life changing.

Obesity is a national problem of major proportions. Getting students on the correct nutritional path at an early age will go a long way in avoiding health issues later in life.

Agriculture Department officials note that one principle of the new rules is not just to cut down on unhealthy foods but to increase the number of healthier foods sold. The standards encourage more whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.

The new school nutritional guidelines will not be totally embraced, but the health benefits should be.