USDA swapping junk food for Smart Snacks

FILE - In this May 3, 2006 file photo, a student purchases a brown sugar Pop-Tart from a vending machine in the hallway outside the school cafeteria, in Wichita, Kan. High-calorie sports drinks and candy bars will be removed from school vending machines and cafeteria lines as soon as next year, replaced with diet drinks, granola bars and other healthier items the Agriculture Department said Thursday, June 27, 2013. (AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Mike Hutmacher, File)

In this May 3, 2006 file photo, a student purchases a brown sugar Pop-Tart from a vending machine in the hallway outside the school cafeteria, in Wichita, Kan. High-calorie sports drinks and candy bars will be removed from school vending machines and cafeteria lines as soon as next year, replaced with diet drinks, granola bars and other healthier items the Agriculture Department said Thursday. (AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle — Mike Hutmacher)

Junk food and snacks have become one in the same. But soon, U.S. schools will nix the junk food and start offering more nutritious choices.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Thursday announced that under United States Department of Agriculture’s new Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, America’s students will be offered healthier food options during the school day.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools — beyond the federally-supported meals programs. The Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, to be published this week in the Federal Register, reflect USDA’s consideration and response to the nearly 250,000 comments received on the proposal earlier this year, according to a news release.

Smart Snacks in School balances science-based nutrition guidelines with practical and solutions to promote healthier eating on campus, drawing on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and existing voluntary standards already implemented by thousands of schools around the country, as well as healthy food and beverage offerings already available in the marketplace.

Highlights of the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards include:

— More of the foods we should encourage. Like the new school meals, the standards require healthier foods, more whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein.

— Less of the foods we should avoid.

— Flexibility for important traditions. Preserving the ability for parents to send their kids to school with homemade lunches or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays and other celebrations; and allowing schools to continue traditions like fundraisers and bake sales.

— Time for implementation. Schools and food and beverage companies will have a school year to make the necessary changes, and USDA will offer training and technical assistance.

— Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply. Ensuring that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at after-school sporting events or other activities will not be subject to these requirements.

— Flexibility for state and local communities. Allowing significant local and regional autonomy by only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools that have stronger standards than what is being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.

Here are some examples of what could be served under the rules, provided the items meet or don’t meet all of the requirements.

What’s in

Baked potato chips
Granola bars
Cereal bars
Trail mix
Dried fruits
Fruit cups
Yogurt
Sugarless gum
Whole-grain-rich muffins
100 percent juice drinks
Diet soda (high schools)
Flavored water (high schools)
Diet sports drinks (high schools)
Unsweetened or diet iced teas (high schools)
Baked lower-fat french fries
Healthier pizzas with whole-grain crust
Lean hamburgers with whole-wheat buns

What’s out
Candy
Snack cakes
Most cookies
Pretzels
High-calorie sodas
High-calorie sports drinks
Juice drinks that are not 100 percent juice
Most ice cream and ice cream treats
High-fat chips and snacks
Greasy pizza
Deep-fried, high-fat foods

— The Associated Press

About Leigh Zaleski

I'm a health features reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News and healthy living blogger for No Sweat, York. Contact me with story ideas at lzaleski@ydr.com, 717-771-2101 or @leighzaleski on Twitter.
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One Response to USDA swapping junk food for Smart Snacks

  1. Pingback: Kids cook up healthy eating habits | Healthy Food Guides

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