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School Lunches Get Healthier, NJ Ahead Of Nation [AUDIO]

Alex Wong, Getty Images

School lunches get a healthy makeover, but New Jersey is already ahead of the nation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama announced new nutrition standards that include a wider selection of fruits and vegetables and less sodium and calories in the meals.

Dr. Felicia Stoler with the New Jersey Dietetic Association says the changes are a terrific step forward. “They are offering more whole grain foods and offering only fat free or low fat dairy products, which I think is a really great accomplishment.”

What will the menu look like? French fries will be less salty or sweet potato fries will be a substitute, pizza will have a wheat crust and all milk, including flavored milk will be low in fat.

Stoler says although its only one meal out of three that will have a healthy guideline, the school lunch should go a long way in helping combat the problem of childhood obesity. “Its one meal during that day that children will have that is low in calories and low in fat…but parents need to continue that trend at home…breakfast and dinner need to be healthy meals as well.”

Rose Tricario, food and nutrition director at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture says the state implemented its own school nutrition policy several years ago which included reducing the fat and sugar content in many foods.

“New Jersey is well ahead of the game in terms of nutritious food in school lunches…we hope that the new USDA policy will build upon what the state is already doing so that children continue healthy eating habits outside the school walls.”

Tricario also noted the 21 schools in the state have received awards for the healthier schools challenge.

The changes will cost $3.2 billion over the next five years but schools will get some help with those costs from the federal government.

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