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Junior Highers Taste Test Dishes for Healthier Lunches

NORMAL - School lunches aren't always known for being nutritious, but government regulations are making them healthier every year.
NORMAL - School lunches aren't always known for being nutritious, but government regulations are making them healthier every year.

Lunchtime at Parkside Junior High is among those schools with more wholesome offerings for its students.

"A greater variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as limiting the fats and sodium in the foods we're serving,” said Angela Vale, assistant food service director for Unit Five.

Thanks to new regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture, the calories and composition of their meals has changed.

“They notice that difference in taste and the difference in the way it looks and sometimes that's a little harder for them to give up the chicken nuggets they loved so much," said Vale.

Even stricter guidelines will be in place next year. So, students are lining up to give healthier choices a test drive.

These baked goods and whole-wheat filled choices could end up on the Parkside menu next year.

"Pretty much everything was good,” said Bethany Hays, 8th grader. “I didn't try the sweet potatoes because my hands were full."

As they sample each dish, the students say it'll be nice to know they played a role in choosing food for the future.

"I think it's a really good idea because usually I don't eat the lunch, I just get the extras," said 8th grader Jenna Breen.

"It's just fun to choose what you want instead of making them say, this is what we're going to have for the week or the year, and that's that,” said sixth grader John Munn.

Even though not everything got a “thumbs up”, the experience alone made the experiment worthwhile.

"It may take a few years, but I think once the elementary kids get up to here, they're going to be so used this food that it's going to be a normal school lunch,” said Vale. “It's just this transition period has been pretty hard."

Right now, the typical meal guideline is about 600 to 800 calories for junior high students. Within the next decade, sodium allowances at schools will be stricter than the American Heart Association's guidelines.

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