Say Goodbye to Sugary Snacks! New USDA Regulations to Ban Junk Food in Schools

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Starting this summer, school vending machines are getting a makeover. Gone will be the days of chips, cookies, and candy stocking the machine's shelves. Instead, they'll be filled with fruit, dairy products, whole-grain foods, lean-protein products or vegetable items that are less than 200 calories.

Why the change? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's new Smart Snacks in Schools regulations—beginning on July 1—ban junk food from being sold in school cafeterias, vending machines, and fundraisers during school hours.

The regulations will affect over 100,000 elementary, middle, and high schools that accept assistance from the National School Lunch Program.

In an effort to promote healthy eating and curb childhood obesity, these guidelines limit the amount of fats, sugars, sodium, and calories in school foods. Foods sold cannot contain more than 35 percent calories from fat, or 35 percent sugar by weight. No foods containing trans fat are allowed either.

Snacks sold must be "whole grain rich," which means they contain at least 50 percent whole grains. Otherwise, foods must have their first (primary) ingredient be a fruit, vegetable, dairy product, or protein-rich food.

There are also size limits for beverages. Middle and high school students' maximum drink size is 12 ounces. In elementary and middle schools, available beverages will include water, low or non-fat milk, and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices. High schools are allowed to sell sodas or sports drinks, but only if they contain 60 calories or less per 12-ounce serving.

This limit on soda isn't surprising. The "Soda Shock" story in Choices' January issue explained the damage this sugary beverage can cause. It also made the Choices list of the "10 Worst Foods for Teens" back in October! Other offenders include sugary cereals, white bread, and full-fat dairy product like whole milk, which you wont be seeing in schools after July either.

What do you think of the junk food ban? Should students be allowed to make their own dietary choices?  Tell us in the comments!