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Jul 3, 2014 6:25 PM by Kari Beal

Healthier snacks coming to all public schools

Healthier snacks are coming to all public school districts in Acadiana staring this school year. It's part of new standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture. Any snacks sold in schools will now have to follow stricter guidelines known as "smart snacks." Parents are also encouraged to send their child to school with snacks that meet the new guidelines.

"Different standards came into place, such as making half of the grains whole grain," Registered Dietician and LPSS Nutrition Program Coordinator Celeste Hay said.

If not a grain, the first ingredient of a snack must be a fruit, vegetable, dairy or protein-rich food. Combinations of foods containing at least 1/4 cup of fruits or vegetables are also allowed. Other snacks are allowed if they contain 10% of the daily value of calcium, potassium, vitamin D or dietary fiber.

"Studies have shown that students preform better on testing, they have less behavior problems, their attendance is better and there's less trips to the nurses office if they eat breakfast and eat healthy throughout the day," Hay said.

For those interested in what snacks meet the new standards, the website www.healthiergeneration.org has a calculator to determine what snacks are up up to par. For example, a box of Cheez-it crackers are made with 5 grams of whole grain per serving. On the website, you can scroll down to the smart snacks calculator and type in the information requested. After typing in calories, fat content, sodium and sugar contents, the calculator determined the crackers, although made with whole grain, were not compliant. It said they contained too much fat and sodium and not enough whole grains.

"Having that good nutrition is vital to how they are growing, learning and developing," Hay said.

It's a path they hope will stay with adolescents throughout their life.

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