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U.S. School Meals May Be Key to Better Child Health

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

A new report that focuses on school food programs as a way to help prevent long-term health problems shows that many American children are not eating enough fruit and vegetables and that their diet lacks key nutrients.

The report issued by the Institute of Medicine, which is a division of the National Academies, shows that school kids in the United States are getting too many calories from solid fats found in foods like pizza and hamburgers and sugars from candies and soda.

“Most Americans, not just children, are not eating as balanced a diet as we want,” said Virginia Stallings, a professor at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and chair of the committee that conducted the review. “There are so few times where we have an opportunity to touch every child’s life,” she said.

The 192-page review found children aged 5-18 ate 50 percent or less of the vegetables recommended by the U.S. government’s dietary guidelines and fruit intake was 50 percent or less than the suggested amount for kids 9-18 years old.

The Institute of Medicine conducted the review of the country’s school breakfast and lunch programs at the request of the U.S. Agriculture Department, which oversees them. The review also found that children consume too much sodium as well as calories from solid fats and added sugars.

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