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New School Nutrition Standards Help Kids Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Finally some good news about kids’ health! A recent study found that new USDA standards requiring school lunches to be healthier are actually working — kids are eating more fruits and vegetables at school!

That’s heartening, given some of the latest statistics on how our kids are doing health-wise. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 18 percent of American children aged 6-11 were obese in 2012, up from 7 percent in 1980. Among adolescents, the figures are even higher: 21 percent were obese, up from 5 percent just 22 years prior.[1]

A big problem with childhood obesity is that obese kids are at greater risk for developing diabetes later in life; 215,000 American children and adolescents already have the disease (Types 1 and 2 combined).[2] One of the most striking statistics I’ve read is this: the CDC estimates that one in three Americans born in the year 2000 — in other words, a full third of today’s 14-year-olds — will develop diabetes in their lifetime.[3]

Fortunately, the government decided to do something about that. Starting in 2012, the new federal guidelines required the inclusion of a fruit or vegetable (ketchup doesn’t count!) in each meal and increased portion sizes of fruits and vegetables. (Trans fats were also removed and total calories and sodium were limited.)

How do we know it’s working? In the latest study, researchers collected discarded food from 1,030 students at four schools in an urban, low-income school district before and after the menu changes to find out how many fruits and vegetables kids were actually eating (and how much they were tossing in the trash can). Both fruit and veggie consumption increased, but especially vegetables, with kids eating 16.2 percent more.[4]

“The new school meal standards are the strongest implemented by the USDA to date, and the improved dietary intake will likely have important health implications for children,” concluded the researchers in their article, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

We all know fruits and vegetables are crucial to a healthy diet, so this menu change is important for kids at any income level who eat school breakfast or lunch. But it’s vital for the 21.5 million American children eligible for free and reduced-price meals, because these children rely more heavily on their schools to get the nutrition they need.[5]

Juice Plus+ has always advocated that adults and children eat more fruits and vegetables — and now public health policy is finally catching up! Of course, we’re not surprised by the researchers’ findings. We learned from our own Children’s Health Study that when you raise kids’ awareness about fruits and vegetables, they naturally eat more. In fact, parents of children who take Juice Plus+ for at least four months report that 51 percent of them are also eating more fruits and vegetables. And when kids take Juice Plus+ for three years, that figure rises to an even more impressive 76 percent.

But even with increased fruit and vegetable consumption, for most kids (and adults), there’s still a gap between what they should eat and what they do eat. Luckily, Juice Plus+ is there to help bridge that gap.

Now, if only we could get a Tower Garden in every school!

Do your kids eat school lunches, or do you pack their lunch? Packers: Do you have any tips for how to sneak more fruits and vegetables into kids’ lunches?



[1] Childhood Obesity Facts. Adolescent and School Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014 Feb 27.

[2] Statistics About Diabetes. Data from the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet. American Diabetes Association. 2014.

[3]  CDC Statements on Diabetes Issues. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed March 7, 2014.

[4] New school meal standards may increase fruit, veggie intake. Institute of Food Technology. 2014 Mar 14.

[5] National School Lunch Program. Food Research and Action Center. 2013.







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