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Reviewed 1/4/2022

School lunches: Myth or fact?

Popular culture often gives school cafeteria food a bad rap. But school lunches today are healthier now than they've ever been. Check the myths against the facts by taking this quiz.

Myth or fact: The nutrition standards for school lunches vary from school to school.

Myth. Nutrition standards are set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program. At all participating schools, today's school lunch includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products—and less saturated fat and sodium.

Myth or fact: Kids who rely on their schools to supply lunch don't get enough food to eat.

Myth. Students are served lunches that meet their calorie needs based on their age. The meals aren't supersized—they're "rightsized." They maximize nutrients too.

Myth or fact: School lunches can accommodate kids' dietary preferences and food allergies.

Fact. Schools may offer vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options like hummus wraps, salad bars with legumes, veggie and cheese wraps, and meatless chili. They may also offer calcium-fortified soy beverages or other milk substitutes. And with a healthcare provider's note, kids with dietary restrictions like food allergies can get lunches that meet their needs.

Myth or fact: Parents have no control over the foods served at school.

Myth. Consider making a lunch date with your child at the school cafeteria. After the meal, give feedback to the nutrition staff and school principal.

Myth or fact: Compared to foods eaten at home, school foods supply very little of a child's daily calories.

Myth. Research suggests that many kids get half of their daily calories from what's available in the school cafeteria, vending machines and school stores.

Does your child bring lunch from home? Get some tips for making flavorful, nutritious meals your child can eat at school.

Get tips on packing a healthy lunch

Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; U.S. Department of Agriculture

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