U.S. school nutrition standards update: Study shows plant-based diets improve children’s health.

A recent study conducted by Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutritional Science and Policy found that while today’s campus dining is significantly healthier than what American children ate before, there is still plenty of room for improvement, approx. A quarter of campus meals are considered to be of poor nutritional quality.

The study, recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that updating nutritional standards could bring significant benefits to thousands of children as they transition into adulthood. It’s worth noting that this change could also lead to huge financial reserves, potentially saving billions of dollars in lifetime medical costs.

“On average, school meals are healthier than what American children eat from any other source, including at home,” Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and professor of nutrition at the Friedman School, said in a statement. , but we are at a critical moment to further strengthen nutrition.”

In fact, previous studies have found that 39% of U.S. teens ages 12 to 19 are overweight or obese; 53% have excess fat; 18% have symptoms of prediabetes; and 15% have high blood pressure. This means that children already exhibit risk factors strongly associated with early onset heart disease and stroke. Changing their eating habits is crucial.

If schools limited added sugars, ensured all cereals were whole grains, and reduced sodium intake in accordance with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the study suggests more than 10,600 annual deaths from diet-related diseases could be prevented.

This change could save more than $19 billion in adult health care costs annually. The study’s projections show that aligning school meals with the recommended added sugars, sodium and whole grains in the new Dietary Guidelines would have limited but important short-term health benefits for children.

These findings come at a good time, as the USDA recently committed to updating campus dining nutrition standards to align with the 2020 to 2025 Dietary Guidelines.

But what if schools took it a step further and made plant-based meals the default option? More and more schools in the United States are trying to make food healthier, putting more emphasis on salad bars, making vegetables more appealing and introducing plant-based entrees. However, most campus dining is still not healthy enough.

CHSF was founded in 2004 by Amie Hamlin and Bradley Goldberg after a legislative resolution Hamlin authored for New York State was unanimously passed. The organization firmly believes that providing plant-based foods not only helps improve human health, but also the well-being of children and the environment.

Hamlin said making green food available as a default in schools would also help achieve sustainability goals. According to a study published earlier this year, increasing consumption of animal-derived foods has caused 95% of food-related carbon emissions over the past 20 years, with beef and dairy accounting for 32% and 46% respectively. %. Experts have long suggested the need to shift to more sustainable proteins.

Nutritious plant-based foods can also help improve students’ cognitive abilities, which may lead to better grades, Hamlin said. A new study finds that the MIND diet, which emphasizes fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and legumes, can help improve cognitive development in early teens.