Lunchtime at school is an important time to refuel young bodies with nutrients. School lunches have changed drastically over the years, but are these extra choices healthy?
We wanted to see for ourselves so we sent our producers into school cafeterias in three metro districts: Mid-Del, Norman and Astec Charter School. We took four meals with us: cheeseburger and fries, chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes, garden salad with chicken and pork chops and sweet potatoes. We sent them to a food lab in Omaha, Nebraska.
Midwest Labs looked at the calories, protein, fat, carbs and sodium. While every lunch met national school nutrition guidelines, they compared to a typical fast food kids meal. We took that concern back to the schools.
Norman's Child Nutrition Manager Cindy Stanbrough said looks can be deceiving. "You may see chicken nuggets on the line. What you don't know is they are whole grain chicken nuggets that come from breast meat that are low in fat," Stanbrough said.
Mid-Del Child Nutrition Director Kevin Ponce said, "With fast food, that's our competition. We're not saying that's good or bad, but we try to improve it and maybe introduce choices."
For Norman and Mid-Del, that means introducing a variety of fruits and vegetables the kids may not have tried before.
"Encourage them to try it, to go home and say, 'Hey, Mom, I tried this. Let's go buy this at the grocery store,'" Stanbrough said.
Astec Charter is also trying something new, cooking meals from scratch and on site.
"We made a list of negative stereotypes of the traditional cafeteria," said Josh Sanders with Keystone Food Service. "We said we're not going to participate in that arena and try to do things differently."
Astec's HealthCorps Coordinator Ryan Fightmaster said it's making an impact in the classroom.
"I think our kids are starting to feel the difference in the afternoon because they don't get that lag that they used to," Fightmaster said.
Oklahoma school cafeterias passing the nutrition test.