Q. What are the nutritional benefits of increasing the vegetarian lunch options available at schools?
A. Schools must meet the USDA’s National School Lunch Program nutrition standards. Does this allow room for vegetarian options? Absolutely. Currently, schools are required to offer fruits and vegetables in addition to a whole-grain, dairy, and a meat or meat alternative. Schools can be creative with their menus as long as they meet the requirements. If schools choose to increase vegetarian options, it may help improve the health of students. Individuals that follow vegetarian diets tend to have a reduced risk of illness. However, vegetarian diets need to be appropriately planned in order to have a positive outcome on health.
Another consideration for schools is if students would be accepting of more vegetarian choices on the menu. For more information on school menus; contact your local school district dietitian or the USDA School Meal Program.