A Healthier Generation Through “Smart Snacking”

Granola bar with dried fruit and nuts on white background

A Healthier Generation Through “Smart Snacking”

Vending machines are a major part of students’ lives. They provide a variety of different snacks that students can grab quickly in between classes. For the past decade school vending machines have been known for providing classic junk food items like chips, cookies and soft drinks. With the rising number of obesity in young adults, health agencies in the United States have cracked down on getting these unhealthy snacks off campus and potentially out of students’ lives for good.

The United Stated Department of Agriculture has implemented a new regulation for school vending machines. The new regulations are being implemented in the current school year to improve the selection of snack choices for students to promote a healthier lifestyle.

The USDA’s efforts to regulate the snacks in school vending machines is called Smart Snacks in School. Some of the most notable changes in the new nutrition standards state that snacks must be:

  • A “whole grain-rich” grain product
  • Have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food
  • Be a combination food that contains at least ¼ cup of fruit and/or vegetable
  • Less than 200 calories
  • Have less than 35% of calories from fat

How do I calculate the percentage of calories from fat?

The new Smart Snack regulations for 35% of calories from fat in school vending are only implemented during school hours, but the USDA hopes that this new act will help students choose better snacks outside of school. Most students do not know how to calculate the calories or fats per each snack item. We have come up with a simple calculation that will help you make the right choices off campus.

  • Where do I find the nutritional information?– Most nutrition fact labels are found on the back of most snack packaging. It is a small black box that contains information about the snack including total fat, calories, calories from fat, sodium, carbohydrates, and protein.
  • When you locate your nutritional facts box, look for both Calories and Calories from Fat. These numbers are directly under the servings label and are typically bolded.
  • Take the number of Calories from fat and divide it by the Calories. Take that number and multiply it by 100. This will give you the total percentage of calories from fat.

When you typically think of vending machines, you think of the bags of chips and cookies that are just a few loose quarters away. The USDA has taken into account all vending options. Not only does the Smart Snacks act have restrictions on snacks, there are also many new regulations for beverages. All school beverage vending options must be:

  • Plain water – can be carbonated
  • Unflavored low fat milk
  • 100% vegetable or fruit juice
  • Less than 20-ounce portions of flavored water and calorie free carbonated beverages

The USDA is determined to create a healthy environment for schools of all levels by also providing nutritious and delicious snacks and beverages. All of the USDA’s  regulations were developed from science-based nutrition standards that are an addition to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Because, for some schools, this may be a major change, the act gives schools the entire 2014-2015 school year to adjust. The new Smart Snacks will be enforced in the fall of the beginning 2015 school year.

We know the importance of providing students with healthy snacks and beverages. We have full knowledge of the rules and regulations placed by the USDA and we strive to implement them into schools all over the state of Arizona.