First school lunches got a nutritional makeover, and now school snacks: USA Today reports that with new nutritional guidelines kicking in during the 2014-2015 school year, fatty potato chips, cookies, and soda will disappear from school vending machines and à la carte lines.
The new guidelines, released by the USDA today, set "Smart Snacks in School" standards for "competitive foods," or foods that aren't part of the normal school meal program. This means snacks sold during break, through vending machines, and in à la carte lines or stands during normal school hours.
So what does this mean? Your kid might have a harder time getting his hands on Twinkies at school. The new standard requires that all competitive foods must be less than 200 calories for snacks and side dishes, less than 350 calories for entrées, and meet all requirements for fat, saturated fat, and sugar. Trans fat items will not be allowed, but foods like reduced-fat cheeses and nuts might be able to slip by fat requirements.
Furthermore, the USDA is focusing on whole foods, rather than completely processed products. Each item must be primarily a fruit, vegetable, dairy product, protein, or a whole-grain-rich grain product, the USDA says. Any food item that is a "combination" product should be at least 1/4 cup of fruit or vegetable, USA Today reports.
"Eventually all school foods will have to contain real food — fruit, vegetable, or other healthy food component," Margo Wootan for the Center for Science in the Public Interest told USA Today. "Companies won't be able to just fortify snacks with cheap nutrients and then sell them in schools as healthy."
In layman's terms? For snacks, high-fat chips are out, as are cookies, but granola, fruit cups, and potentially low-fat chips could work. Water and no-calorie carbonated water would be acceptable, as well as low-fat or nonfat milk, and soy alternatives. Meanwhile, full-calorie sports drinks would not be acceptable.
Naturally, the guidelines do allow some flexibility, as they do not apply to food sold at afterschool fundraisers, sporting events, or other afterschool or extracurricular activities. And of course, they can't stop you from sending in a bag of Cheetos with your kid's lunch; so you can still give Billy a bunch of cupcakes to pass around at lunch for his birthday.
For more information, go to the USDA's website and check out their infographic below.