Healthier Snacks Sold in Schools

If you have a child in school, you may have already heard about the new “Smart Snack” guidelines going into effect this year in Iowa schools that participate in the federal school lunch program. The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids’ Act updated the nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in school vending machines, via a la carte sales in the cafeteria, and at school stores and some fundraisers.

The new “Smart Snack” guidelines are intended to limit the availability of high-energy, low-nutrition foods like sugary beverages, candy, chips, and snack cakes.
The guidelines require snacks to:

  • Be a whole grain, fruit, vegetable, dairy product, and/or protein food;
  • Provide at least 10% of the daily value of potassium, calcium, fiber, or vitamin D;
  • Contain no more than 200 calories and 230 mg sodium;
  • Provide no more than 35% of its calories as fat and no more than 10% as saturated fat (exceptions: nutrient-rich snacks such as nuts, seeds, and low-fat cheese); and
  • Be no more than 35% sugar by weight.

The below table shows the difference in snacks allowed before and after the “Smart Snack” guidelines.

Snack Chart
School Snacks FAQs

Will I break the law if I put a double-fudge brownie in my child’s or grandchild’s lunch? Although it is important that both schools and caregivers promote healthy eating for the well-being of children, the standards do not apply to packed lunches.

Will cupcakes be forbidden at classroom parties? Nope. These rules govern only food sold to children in school, not food that is given to them free.

How can I find out more about the new Smart Snacks standards? For more information on the USDA Smart Snacks standards, visit www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/smart-snacks-school.

Back-to-school Nutrition

Nutrition plays an important role in assuring your child has a successful school year. Many children do not eat breakfast every day; others grab a soda and high-fat, high sugar pastry—definitely not a “breakfast of champions” relative to cost or nutrition. breakfast

Studies have shown that those who eat a morning meal perform better in school;

  • they have higher test scores,
  • higher attendance,
  • less tardiness,
  • better concentration,
  • and more muscle coordination.

Also, children who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.

If your child doesn’t like traditional breakfast foods, don’t worry—breakfast can be most any food, even a slice of pizza. If your child claims not to be hungry, offer 100 percent juice and toast. If the school has a midmorning snack time, pack healthy snacks like yogurt, cheese stick, or bagel.  Remember to use an ice pack and insulated lunch bag to keep foods at a safe temperature.

As for lunch, school meal regulations are new this year and have improved the nutritional quality of lunch. School meals have always supplied one-third of a child’s nutrition needs; however, tighter regulations mean lower fat and sodium limits and a greater variety of fruits and vegetables (including fresh). If you choose to pack your child’s lunch, let your child help plan and prepare the lunch. Include meals that are easy to prepare and fun to eat as well as nutritious. A few examples are sandwiches, raw veggies, crackers, string cheese, whole fruit, and yogurt.

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