School Snack Menu: Pass or Fail?

CDC: Make Nutritious, Appealing Foods More Available to Students

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 22, 2005 -- Students can buy healthy snacks at school, but they could also easily blow their snack money on junk food, a new CDC study shows.

If the CDC got its way, schools would promote healthy snacks and flunk fatty, sugary fare.

"CDC recommends offering appealing and nutritious foods in school snack bars and vending machines and discouraging sale of foods high in fat, sodium, and added sugars on school grounds or as part of fundraising activities," says the CDC.

The study appears in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Snack Survey

Principals at public secondary schools in 27 states and 11 large urban school districts were surveyed. They were asked what foods and drinks students could buy at school from vending machines, stores, canteens, or snack bars.

Schools generally offer a mix of healthy and not-so-nutritious items for sale:

  • Fruits and vegetables: About 45% of schools
  • Low-fat baked goods: Six out of 10 schools
  • Bottled water: Almost all schools (84% to 100%)
  • 100% fruit juice: More than eight out of 10 schools

Candy, high-fat items, soft drinks, and fruit drinks not made from 100% juice were also widely available.

"Overall, fruits or vegetables are less likely to be available for purchase than other types of foods or beverages, says the CDC.

"Bottled water and soft drinks, sports drinks, or fruit drinks that are not 100% juice are most likely to be available for purchase," the report continues.

Making Good Choices

The CDC can't make schools change their snacking options.

So parents may want to help kids and teens learn to choose healthy snacks. That way, kids are better prepared to face the vending machine or snack bar when choosing snacks.

Students could also bring healthy snacks from home. Ideas include fruit, low-fat yogurt, and crunchy veggie sticks with low-fat ranch dip. Kids who are old enough could help make their own school snacks.

The principals' reports weren't confirmed. No elementary or private schools were included.

Show Sources

SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Sept. 23, 2005; vol 54: pp 917-921. WebMD Feature: "Secrets of Healthy Snacks for Kids." News release, CDC.
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