How Healthy are School Lunches?

SchoolLunchLineIt’s back to school time all over the country. The American Dental Association has supported legislation passed by Congress over recent years to overhaul the lunches being offered in schools. Recognizing the connection between oral and overall health, the ADA sited tooth decay as “the single most common chronic childhood disease.” Prevention is the focus in plans to offer nutritious snack and meal choices to our school children with reduced sodium, fat, and sugar contents.

The National School Lunch Program

With the help of federal assistance, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides low-cost, or free, school lunches to more than 31 million children, every day. However, the program had not undergone revisions in 15 years, so several nutrition advocates, including the ADA, agreed it was time for some changes a couple of years ago. The ADA offered the advice that the body is “a complex machine,” and “the foods you choose and how often you eat them can affect your general health and the health of your teeth and gums, too.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to re-examine and update the dietary guidelines of school lunches. An increase in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains remains a focus. Calorie limits have also been examined and tailored to be age appropriate, broken into groups of K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 grades. Specific sodium content targets were laid out for a gradual reduction between 2012 and 2023. Federal requirements for the overall nutritional components are specific, but local school food authorities are still given the autonomy to create their own menus. Several small changes can lead to a huge shift in the overall nutritional content of school meals, leading to healthier children who are fueled to succeed in their education.

Visit your Carlsbad Dentist

Dr. Alexander A. Sabet provides preventive, cosmetic, restorative, sedation, and emergency dentistry. If you would like to schedule a consultation, call (760) 724-9117. Dr. Sabet proudly treats patients from Vista and the surrounding areas of Carlsbad, Ocean side, San Marcos, and Escondido.