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Efforts Against Childhood Obesity Continue

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First Posted: Feb 02, 2013 08:11 PM EST
Students at Rose Hill Elementary School including Yamilet Hinojos (R) and Yasmine Pinela (L) choose the salad bar for lunch in Commerce City, Colorado

Students at Rose Hill Elementary School including Yamilet Hinojos (R) and Yasmine Pinela (L) choose the salad bar for lunch in Commerce City, Colorado Credit:Reuter's

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report on Friday that suggests schools to provide healthy snack options for kids by 2014. Once the new proposed rules and regulations are set in place, many high calorie and greasy foods could soon be eliminated from the cafeterias of schools across the nation.

The government, for the first time is setting a broad list of guidelines for schools to follow, to help ensure schools are offering children healthier meals. "The "Smart Snacks in School" proposed rule, to be published soon in the Federal Register, is the first step in the process to create national standards.", said the report.  

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The new rules are required under a child nutrition law passed by Congress in 2010, the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act, a law that came about with the help of First Lady Michelle Obama's dedication to resolving the issue of childhood obesity. Studies from 2010 showed that childhood obesity rates in America had tripled in the past three decades, and nearly one in three children in America were overweight or obese. Among African American and Hispanic communities, the number of children that were overweight or obese was 40%. Childhood obesity related health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma can be prevented with the proper approach and First Lady Michelle Obama created and promoted a program to fight childhood obesity called "Let's Move" in February 2010. Later than year, in December, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act, as he and the First Lady are advocates of healthier lifestyles for children. 

Some schools are already complying with the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act by offering children healthier nutrition choices on lunch menus and in vending machines. However, there are still some schools that are offering high-fat and high calorie foods and the new proposal attempts to address this issue. In the USDA report, as per the Department of Agriculture, new rules would remove unhealthy foods such as potato chips, snack cakes, nachos and mozzarella sticks from school vending machines and cafeteria lunch lines. Healthier snacks, like baked potato chips, trail mix, low calorie sports drinks and diet sodas would replace the unhealthy foods.

Under the "The "Smart Snacks in School" proposal, regulation of fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits would be set on most, if not all foods, by the Department of Agriculture. There are standards currently in place that monitor the nutritional content of subsidized school breakfasts and lunches. However, many school lunchrooms sell additional types of food on lunch lines and in vending machines, which are not federally regulated.

Per the new regulations, school snacks would have less than 200 calories per serving and portions would be limited to 8 or 12 oz. servings. School drinks sold in elementary and middle schools would be limited to water, low-fat milk, 100 percent fruit juice and vegetable juice. For high schools, some low calories sports drinks, diet sodas and ice teas of reduced caloric content would be permitted. Providing children with healthy food choices at school is guiding them on the path towards a healthy future and helps to combat childhood obesity.

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