Fri, 01 Feb 2013 12:45 UTC
The 160-page regulation from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would enact nutrition standards for "competitive" foods not included in the official school meal.
In practice, the proposed rules would replace traditional potato chips with baked versions and candy with granola. Regular soda is out, though high-schoolers may have access to diet versions.
"Although nutrition standards for foods sold at school alone may not be a determining factor in children's overall diets, they are critical to providing children with healthy food options throughout the entire school day," the proposed rule states.
"Thus, these standards will help to ensure that the school nutrition environment does all that it can to promote healthy choice, and help to prevent diet-related health problems."
The rules are a product of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which also overhauled the nutritional make-up of regular school meals. They would apply to any school, public or private, that participates in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.
Those rules saw a backlash from conservative lawmakers who said students were going hungry as a result of calorie limits. A GOP House member famously compared the rules to The Hunger Games. The USDA eventually relaxed some guidelines in response.
Friday's release won praise from health advocates who say it will help combat childhood obesity, a growing problem in the United States with wide implications for future public health spending.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that students' academic performance may also improve with healthier habits.
"Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, and these efforts should be supported when kids walk through the schoolhouse door," he said Friday in a statement.
The regulations state that all competitive foods must be either a fruit, vegetable, dairy product, protein food, "whole-grain rich" product, or a combination food that contains at least 1/4 cup of fruits or vegetables; or they must contain 10 percent of the daily value of a major nutrient.
All snacks must also meet a range of calorie and nutrition requirements, such as limits on sodium, total sugar and calories from fat, with few exceptions.
The rules states that all schools may sell water, low-fat and fat-free milks and milk alternatives and 100-percent fruit and vegetable juices, with portion sizes varying by student age.
High schools will also be permitted to sell carbonated beverages, as long as they contain five calories or less per serving.
Officials noted that the proposed rules will not apply to birthday treats, snacks provided during after-school activities, or student-brought foods.
Friday's release begins a 60-day comment period.