The meal pattern nutrition standards are based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Decisions about which foods to serve and how they are prepared are made by local school food personnel. New food options include:
Fruits: School meals can include all types of fruit including fresh fruit, 100-percent fruit juice, frozen fruit, dried fruit (without added sugar) and canned fruit that is packed in light syrup or 100% juice.
Vegetables: School meals are now required to include a variety of vegetables throughout the week. This includes dark-green vegetables such as broccoli and romaine lettuce, red/orange vegetables such as carrots, starchy vegetables such as potatoes and beans and legumes such as black and pinto beans.
Milk: School meals must include non-fat plain or flavored milk—or 1% plain milk—and at least two varieties of milk must be offered.
Grains: All grains offered in school meals must now be whole grain rich, increasing the amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals in school meals. There are many great whole grain offerings on school trays such as whole grain bread, whole grain pasta and whole grain tortillas.
Meat / Meat Alternates: A variety of meats or meat alternates can be offered in school meals, including beef, pork and chicken—or vegetarian offerings such as yogurt, peanut butter, cheese and beans.
Portions: Students must choose three different food items from the five food groups in order for schools to receive federal reimbursements for school lunches. At least one choice must be a fruit or vegetable.