School Nutrition Standards: Where are We Now?

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On July 1, 2012, schools and programs that utilize the National School Lunch program began the process of adopting the changes required under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA). Though challenging to implement, the strong need for better nutrition for the over 30 million children who rely on the National School Lunch program and the opportunity for greater reimbursement per meal (an extra 6 cents), encouraged schools to comply. The transformation to come was so monumental and innovative for a program that hadn’t seen change in fifteen years, that Guiding Stars devoted a webinar on the topic. Now, two years later, we can see how the changes are being implemented and where we are on our journey toward feeding the next generation.

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Making Banana Pancakes

I love pancakes. They’re such a cozy way to start the weekend, and having extras on hand to heat in the toaster makes the work week easier to manage. The problem is that I prefer pancakes covered in butter and syrup, which is not the most nutritious way to start the day, especially given that pancakes are typically not what you could call nutritionally dense to begin with.

I’ve been learning a lot about improving the nutrition of my favorite recipes while working with Guiding Stars, so I decided to try modifying the buttermilk pancake recipe in my favorite cookbook. The result was completely delicious (without syrup!) and earns 3 Guiding Stars…this is the process I used to get there:

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Beautiful Pomegranate

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November is Pomegranate Month! If you’ve never tried pomegranate before, the fruit can look a bit intimidating. Don’t let the newness scare you off, though. Beyond being rich in antioxidants, pomegranates are a wonderful source of vitamin K, which is beneficial for healthy clotting, preventing calcification of your arteries and improving bone loss. They’re also a strong source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and dietary fiber, offering a multitude of other important nutrients into the bargain.

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Cooking By the Seat of Your Pants

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Working with Guiding Stars has had some definite impacts on the way I eat and cook. It’s impossible to spend several hours a week reading and writing about nutrition and healthier cooking without picking up some better habits. But all intentions of healthy meal planning aside, life happens, and more weeks than not, I find myself hitting the end of the week with weird bits of odds and ends in the fridge and no carefully considered meals at hand. My first instinct used to be to order out or make ramen, ignoring the weird odds and ends until I had no option but to toss them out. In the past few years, however, I’ve developed a routine for making a cheaper, healthier meal out of whatever is not yet crawling around in the back of my fridge.

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The Great Meat Debate

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Did you know that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month? For those looking to find more room on the plate for nutrient-rich produce, consider scaling back on how much meat you eat or skip it all together! If Meatless Monday isn’t your thing, however, look for meats that earn 3 Guiding Stars such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pork tenderloin or sirloin steak. You can also find meats that are raised with environmental responsibility in mind, but making the effort to include vegetarian meals in your routine has a wealth of benefits worth considering.

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Whole Grain On-the-Go

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Possibly you have heard that you need to eat more whole grain…and possibly you haven’t known how to do that. I’ve got you covered with a list of foods, from game day snacks to quick breakfast options that are made with whole grain. Of course, they also earn Guiding Stars so they are also the “good, better and best” choices for you too! Substitute these options for the one’s you currently choose and you add more whole grain to your day. Yes, it’s that easy.

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A Dietitian’s Top Ten

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I was recently asked about my top ten pieces of nutrition advice. You might be surprised by a few of my suggestions, but I promise you: I’m telling the truth. I have a lot of experience working with individuals and families, and if you’re looking to improve your nutrition, start here:

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