Posts belonging to Category nutrition

USDA Fact Sheet:Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act

USDACongress passed the Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 with bipartisan support to help ensure every American child had access to the nutrition they need to grow into healthy adults. One goal of the law was to help reduce America’s childhood obesity epidemic and reduce health risks for America’s children by helping schools across the country produce balanced meals so children had access to healthy foods during the school day. USDA based the new school meal standards on independent, expert recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to ensure kids are being fed healthy food while they are at school.

Results of the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act school meals provision to date include:

  • Kids are eating more fruits and vegetables as a result of updated standards. A recent Harvard study has concluded that, under the updated standards, kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at lunch.
  • Over 90 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards. Students across the country are experiencing a healthier school environment with more nutritious options. The new meals are providing children more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.
  • School lunch revenue is up. Despite concerns raised about the impact of new standards on participation and costs, a USDA analysis suggests that in the first year of implementing updated meal patterns, schools saw a net nationwide increase in revenue from school lunches of approximately $200 million. This includes the annual reimbursement rate adjustments, as well as increased revenue from paid meals and the additional 6 cents per meal for schools meeting the new meal standards.
  • Healthy food standards have not increased food waste. While reducing plate waste at schools, homes and workplaces continues to be a priority for USDA, a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that new school meal standards did not result in increased food waste.
  • Participation is increasing substantially in many areas of the country. USDA has received reports from many schools indicating a positive response to healthier offerings and increased participation. Examples include Los Angeles, Dallas, and some of Florida’s largest school districts. In fact, Los Angeles Unified-one of the nation’s largest school districts-has seen a 14% increase in participation under the new meal standards. As more kids and schools continue to successfully make the transition to the new standards, USDA expects participation to keep climbing.
  • HHFKA has led to participation increases within many schools. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) under the HHFKA has been successfully implemented in almost 4,000 schools in early adopting States. More than 600 school districts across 11 States have at least one school participating in CEP. The evaluation results demonstrate that participating schools were able to increase participation in their meals programs, and as well as experience revenue gains and decreased administrative costs.
  • Virtually all schools continue to participate. Data from states indicated very few schools (only 0.15% of schools nationwide) reported dropping out of the programs due to struggles over providing kids healthy food. State agencies reported that the schools no longer participating in the NSLP were mainly residential child care institutions and smaller schools with very low percentages of children eligible for free and reduced price meals.
  • USDA has and will continue to listen to stakeholders and provide guidance and flexibilities, as appropriate, to help schools and students adapt to the updated requirements. Early in the implementation process for school meals, when schools asked for flexibility to serve larger servings of grains and proteins within the overall calorie caps, USDA responded. In January of this year, that flexibility was made permanent. USDA is also phasing other requirements in over the next several years. And hearing schools concerns on the lack of availability of whole grain pasta, USDA is allowing schools that have demonstrated difficulty in obtaining adequate whole grain pasta to use traditional pastas for an additional two years while industry works to create better whole grain pasta products.
  • USDA is helping schools encourage kids to choose new healthier options. Most recently, the Department announced $5.5 million in new grants to support Smarter Lunchrooms, a broad toolkit of easy-to-implement, low-cost, evidence-based strategies that increase consumption of healthier foods and decrease plate waste.

  • USDA is supporting numerous training sessions in conjunction with our partners to help schools implement the updated meal standards and prepare for Smart Snacks. USDA has completed seven sessions with various audiences since the rule was published, and additional training is planned for the rest of the year. The Department has made in-person trainings at 16 school professional organization meetings and have tree more scheduled this spring and summer.
  • USDA is supporting implementation of the updated school meals standards and new Smart Snacks standards through a variety of additional methods.


Holiday Food Safety Tips from the USDA


The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Offers the Following Food Safety Tips for the Holiday.

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food. Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, counter tops) with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item. Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking in order to avoid spreading bacteria to areas around the sink and counter tops.
  • When shopping in the store, storing food in the refrigerator at home, or preparing meals, keep foods that won’t be cooked separate from raw eggs, meat, poultry or seafood—and from kitchen utensils used for those products.
  • Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (such as raw meat, poultry, and seafood) and another one for those that will not (such as raw fruits and vegetables).
  • Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held any raw eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. To check a turkey for safety, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165°F. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165°F.

  • Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.
  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products, or powdered egg whites.
  • Don’t eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.
  • Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods—and any type of food that should be refrigerated, including pie—within two hours.
  • Set your refrigerator at or below 40°F and the freezer at 0°F. Check both periodically with an appliance thermometer.
  • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave—never at room temperature. Cook food thawed in cold water or in the microwave immediately.
  • Allow enough time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely in the refrigerator.
  • Don’t taste food that looks or smells questionable. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Leftovers should be used within three to four days, unless frozen.

 Keep Your Family Safe From Food Poisoning…Check your steps at

Halloween Food Safety Tips

foodThe Partnership for Food Safety Education ( offers the following tips for preventing foodbourne bacteria this Halloween:

  • Keep all perishable food chilled until serving time. These include, for example, finger sandwiches, cheese platters, cut fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frosting. Cold temperatures help keep most bacteria from multiplying.
  • To keep store-bought party trays cold, fill lids with ice and place trays on top.  Similarly, keep salads and other perishable items in bowls cold by nesting them in larger bowls of ice.
  • Arrange food on several small platters. Refrigerate platters of food until it is time to serve, and rotate food platters within two hours.
  • Bacteria will creep up on you if you let platters of food sit out for too long.  Don’t leave perishable goodies out for more than two hours at room temperature (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).

  • When whipping up Halloween treats, don’t taste dough and batters that contain uncooked eggs.
  • Beware of  unpasteurized juice or cider that can contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Serve only pasteurized products at your Halloween party.
  • Remind kids (and adults too!) to wash their hands before and after eating to help prevent foodborne illness.
  • Bobbing for Apples – Try a new spin on bobbing for apples. Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper.  Write activities for kids to do on each apple, such as “say ABCs” or “do 5 jumping jacks”. Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string or create a fishing pole with a dowel rod, magnet and yarn.  Let the children take turn “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple.
  •  Give children a fresh apple for participating in your food safe version of bobbing for apples.

Heart Healthy Foods suggests you follow these eating tips for a healthy heart:

  1. Eat less saturated and trans fat. Stay away from fatty meats, fried foods, cakes, and cookies.
  2. Cut down on sodium (salt). Look for the low-sodium or “no salt added” brands of canned soups, vegetables, snack foods, and lunch meats.
  3. Get more fiber. Fiber is in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Take this list with you the next time you go food shopping.

Healthy Vegetables and Fruits

Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. To save money, buy vegetables and fruits that are in season, frozen, or canned.

  • Fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and spinach
  • Leafy greens for salads
  • Canned vegetables low in sodium (salt)
  • Frozen vegetables without added butter or sauces
  • Fresh fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, pears, and peaches
  • Canned fruit in 100% juice, not syrup
  • Dried fruit
  • Frozen berries without added sugar

Healthy Milk and Milk Products

Look for fat-free or low-fat milk products. Or choose soy products with added calcium.

  • Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
  • Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
  • Cheese (3 grams of fat or less per serving)
  • Soy-based drinks with added calcium (soymilk)

Healthy Breads, Cereals, and Grains

For products with more than one ingredient, make sure whole-wheat or whole-grain is listed first.

  • 100% whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-grain breakfast cereals like oatmeal
  • Whole grains such as brown or wild rice, barley, and bulgur
  • Whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta

Healthy Meat, Beans, Eggs, and Nuts

Choose lean cuts of meat and other foods with protein.

  • Seafood, including fish and shellfish
  • Chicken and turkey breast without skin
  • Pork: leg, shoulder, tenderloin
  • Beef: round, sirloin, tenderloin, extra lean ground beef
  • Beans, lentils, and peas
  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Nuts and seeds

Healthy Fats and Oils

Cut back on saturated fat and look for healthy products with no trans fats.

  • Margarine and spreads (soft, tub, or liquid) with no trans fats
  • Vegetable oil (canola, olive, peanut, or sesame oil)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Light or fat-free salad dressing and mayonnaise


Another Reason for Kids Eating Less Fast Foods

caloriesWe know that a diet high in fast foods tend to put weight on children and teens, but did you know that fast food consumption is also tied to an increased risk of certain health conditions?

A study coming out of New Zealand found that:

  • Children and teens eating fast foods a number of times each week are at an increased risk for severe asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis, and eczema.
  • Fruit eaten three or more times a week provide children and teens with a protective effect against severe asthma.

According to Philippa Ellwood, DDN, DPH, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and her colleagues, eating fast foods three or more times a week is associated with a 39% increased risk of severe asthma and a 70% increased risk of severe eczema among teens.In addition, children who eat fast foods with the same frequency have an increased risk of rhino-conjunctivitis and severe eczema.

The study article, published in journal Thorax, went on to report that reducing consumption of fast foods to two times a week, or less, reduced the incidence of wheezing and severe asthma in children. Ellwood and colleagues also found that eating fruit three or more times a week, among children and teens, offered a protective effect against severe asthma.

The authors stated,  “If the associations found in this study are causal, the findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally,”

The authors noted that earlier research had found diets with high intake of cereal, rice, and nut and cereal protein showed decreased prevalence of the allergic conditions and a protective effect against the conditions with elevated fruit consumption. Similarly, other research has shown a harmful effect of linolenic acid and trans fatty acid consumption.

The researchers gathered symptom prevalence data on types of food intake and symptom prevalence of asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis, wheezing, and eczema from 319,196 teens, ages 13 and 14, from 51 countries, and 181,631 children, ages 6 and 7, from 31 countries through the third phase of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). The latter is a multi-center, multi-country, multiphase cross-sectional study.

Teen participants, or parents of young children, were administered questionnaires that looked at symptoms and symptom frequency over the 12 months prior to the study. Questions about food intake looked at types of foods and whether foods were eaten once, twice, or three or more times weekly.

Milk consumption was inversely associated with current wheeze at once or twice weekly, severe asthma three or more times weekly, and severe rhino-conjunctivitis and severe eczema once or twice a week in teens.

Consumptions of eggs, fruit, meat, and milk three or more times a week protected against “all three conditions, current or severe” among children.

“The positive associations with severe disease suggest that fast foods are a predictor of disease severity rather than disease occurrence, although it is difficult to separate out the two in this study,” researchers concluded.

Study researchers also shared that the protective association between fruit and vegetables and the three conditions need to  be further explored at country and regional levels.

The researchers found the study was limited by a number of factors, including self-report biases or classification errors, socioeconomic status’ effect on food consumption, and missing temporal data on disease outcome relative to diet.