School lunches said healthier this year

Sept. 9, 2011 at 12:45 AM
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SANTA MONICA, Calif., Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Nutritionists, dietitians, cooks and servers are getting set to serve an estimated 26 million U.S. children healthier school lunches daily, a food expert says.

Phil Lempert -- a food industry analyst, trend watcher and creator of the Web site -- says during the summer, nearly 8,000 school nutrition professionals headed to Nashville for the School Nutrition Association's Annual National Conference to share ideas and sample healthy new foods that will be offered in school cafeterias this fall -- all at under $1 per meal.

Chefs demonstrated innovative from-scratch recipes like whole wheat citrus couscous salad, vegetarian chili and roasted chicken brown rice that could be served to hundreds of students in less than an hour.

For those cafeterias without full kitchens, food companies prepared frittatas made with egg, low-fat cheese and turkey sausage, grilled haddock fajitas, baked sweet potato wedges, Santa-Fe style brown rice, turkey wraps made with whole grain tortillas and whole grain macaroni made with reduced fat, reduced sodium cheese, Lempert says.

Those are in addition to offering Greek yogurt, low-fat cheeses, and the hundreds of fresh ready-to-eat, single-serve fruits and vegetables, as well as dried apricots, cherries, nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, packaged for sale in healthy vending machines or cafeteria lines.

Carbonated soft drinks are banned at many schools and those sugary beverages are being replaced by reduced-sugar flavored and plain 1 percent and fat-free milk, organic soy beverages, flavored waters and fruit smoothies, Lempert says.

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