USDA Issues “Smart Snacks” Proposal to Encourage Healthy Food Choices in America’s Schools


USDA issued a new “Smart Snacks” proposal on February 1, 2013, to improve the nutritional quality of food in America’s schools and encourage healthier eating habits.  The proposal establishes standards for snack foods sold outside of the federally regulated school meal programs.

Snack foods must contain fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, proteins, and whole grains, as their chief ingredients. All grain foods must contain 50% or more whole grains by weight or have whole grains listed as the first ingredient.  Foods must comply with approved levels of nutrients, fat and saturated fat, sodium, sugar and calorie limits.

Bagged chips are most impacted by the need to contain more whole grains.  Many baked tortilla and potato chips or reduced fat corn chips meet the new standards.  Grain based desserts are most affected by the whole grain, sugar, fat and calorie limits.  Many low-fat granola bars could be sold, but many cereal bars and other snacks currently contain too much sugar.  Some sweet crackers must be reformulated to increase their whole grain content.

The food industry can effectively fulfill new requirements by reformulating products, like adding or increasing whole grains, or they can opt to change the size of product packaging to meet limits. Manufacturers currently making products that conform to the standards may be able to stake their market share ahead of those that will have to make significant changes.

USDA’s new standards employ recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, the Institute of Medicine, and other nutrition organizations.

Many schools already introduced more healthful foods with positive response.  The new “Smart Snacks” proposal seeks to continue fostering a nutritious eating environment for students.

Following is a link to USDA’s proposed rule: