Before students ever start lining up in the cafeteria, it’s often a challenge for administrators and school nutrition directors to continuously plan school meal programs that achieve the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) guidelines. Ensuring healthy options are affordable, appetizing, and appealing to students–and that cafeteria workers feel they can encourage students to make those healthy choices–means administrators have to get creative about cafeteria offerings.
The School Nutrition Association conducted a Back to School Trend Report, which included some of the ways schools are creatively preparing and serving meals:
- Salad bars – A wide variety of fresh, healthy vegetables, paired with an assortment of toppings, self-serve salad bars are a great way to encourage students to make better lunchtime choices. By selecting and assembling their meals with their chosen ingredients, and in the ways they prefer, students are naturally more engaged in the mealtime experience.
- Grab & Go offerings – Pre-packaged fruit and healthy snacks, such as carrots or celery, as well as grapes, apple slices, and salads in ready-to-go containers, are great options for students on the go. Grab & Go options not only make healthy foods look more attractive and fun, but it also enables students to take their healthy choices with them, to eat according to their schedule.
- More whole grains – NSLP whole-grain requirements mean school districts have to get creative about how to incorporate whole grains in new ways. Outside of traditional whole-grain bread, such as rolls and buns, schools have expanded and explored new options, including:
- Pitas and Flatbread
- And more!
Creative ideas like these provide mealtime flexibility and offer appealing options to engage students, as well as making it easier to fulfill additional NSLP guidelines, which include:
- Age-appropriate Calories
- Sodium intake
- Eliminating trans-fats
- Limiting saturated fats to no more than 10% of calories
According to the NSLP, the school lunch programs provide meals to more than 30 million children across the nation. In some cases, school breakfast or lunch may be the only nutritional meal a student eats during the day. That’s why it’s critical to provide choices that are healthy, appetizing, and engaging. Otherwise, much of the meals are thrown away, wasted, or traded for unhealthy choices at vending machines.
Adhering to and maintaining NSLP guidelines is critical to the success of school nutrition programs. With more than 30 years of experience in providing the best nutritional software solutions to school districts across North America, Harris School Nutrition Solutions can help you meet NSLP guidelines in sustainable ways while engaging your staff and students.
Ready to learn more? Contact Harris School Nutrition Solutions today.