Starting July 1, schools across the country will have to provide snack, meal, and beverage options that adhere to new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition rules, which effectively ban all junk foods from school campuses.
Proponents say the Smart Snacks in Schools program is a step in the right direction. The new regulations put a premium on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
These seven nutritious dishes follow the USDA’s new guidelines (some serving sizes have been adjusted), and they prove that even if food isn’t covered in cheese or dipped in chocolate, it can still be tasty. Schools and parents looking for healthy recipes featuring lean meats like chicken, whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies should give these seven recipes a try.
Apple Almond Pancakes: For breakfast, take advantage of the protein found in almonds and the natural sugars in applesauce. One of these pancakes is the perfect small breakfast, and if you make a full batch, freeze what you don’t eat to save for on-the-go breakfasts later. Just pop a frozen pancake in the microwave for 30 seconds, and you’ll have breakfast ready to roll.
Banana Shake: There’s no reason not to give kids and teens drinkable breakfasts like juices and smoothies. This banana “shake” takes advantage of the natural creaminess of bananas and is a Smart Snack–approved lean-dairy breakfast made with low-fat milk.
Tortilla Soup: Get kids to interact with healthy food with this fun and easy tortilla soup. Do-it-yourself additions like tortilla strips and avocado allow everyone to personalize this healthy meal with lots of lean protein.
Chicken Chili in a Jiffy: The beans, tomatoes, chilies, and tomatillos in this quick chili add up to a lot of healthy ingredients in one bowl. Opting for rotisserie chicken, and you can whip up this protein-packed meal with time to spare.
Baked Potato Soup with Crunchy Potato Skins: For a fun spin on potato chips, transform the schoolyard snack into a healthy meal. Crunchy potato skins add texture to this playful take on a baked potato.
Broiled Sesame Chicken: Broiling is a great alternative to grilling, and this broiled sesame chicken takes advantage of the flavor of fresh orange juice and zest for an extra kick.
Broccoli Slaw Fish Tacos: What’s more fun than a meal you can eat with your hands? These tacos hide veggies in plain sight, ensuring that kids and teens get fresh produce and lean protein, all in one meal.
For more healthy meal options, check out Healthline’s Healthy Recipe library. When looking for snacks and meals that fall within the USDA’s new guidelines, remember:
- Limit calories to 200 calories for a snack and 350 calories for a meal
- Less than 35 percent of the food's calories can come from fat, and less than 10 percent can come from saturated fat. (Seafood, nuts and seeds, and part-skim mozzarella cheese are exempted from fat requirements.
- Avoid trans fat.
- Snacks must have less than 230 mg sodium (200 mg after July 1, 2016).
- Entrees must have less than 480 mg sodium.
- Snacks must contain less than 35 percent sugar by weight. (Dried fruit without added sweeteners may be exempted from sugar requirements.)