Fast Food Brands Offer Lighter Options for School Lunches

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • With the new school meals' Federal Guidelines, one has to assume that some fast food makers would figure out a way to make the grade.  After all, consider what’s at stake: Thousands of school lunchrooms nationwide, and hundreds of thousands of little bellies to fill, albeit with healthier, lighter fare.  So Domino’s Pizza set out to crunch the numbers, or shall we say the calories and fat grams, and came up with a pizza that has a “little less of everything.” 



    Fast Food Brands in School

    It’s called the Smart Slice and it has one-third less fat in the pepperoni slices, one-third less sodium in the tomato sauce,  and cheese with about 50 percent less fat.  The pizza profile changes were made to fit the new nutrition criteria that the government is mandating at schools, and it means that Domino's can deliver these lighter pizzas to more than 3,000 lunchrooms in 38 states. 

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    Other food companies are aiming to join the school menu line, and one area they are focusing on is a flour swap out.  The government wants a more nutritious whole-grain flour in breads and pizza crusts offered for school lunches, and manufacturers are turning to white whole wheat which looks, tastes and bakes more like refined white flour, when compared to whole-wheat flour. 

    Domino's is using a ConAgra-made brand called Ultragrain.  It was developed by scientists at Colorado State University, and it’s showing up in treats like PopTarts by Kellogg’s, and Goldfish crackers by Pepperidge Farms, as they attempt to “lighten their snack food items” to conform with new federal school guidelines.  Ultragrain now also sells in stores for home bakers.


    The Risks: Sending the Wrong Message

    So what’s the downside to all this?  Well, in the case of Domino’s, the kids are learning to recognize the brand presence of the company in school, which means that they will probably gravitate to this brand's fast food locations outside of school, where Smart Slice is not available.  So you end up with a unique situation in which a child who is actually benefitting from the healthier in-school version of pizza will likely eat the less healthy version outside of school, simply because of the subliminal advertising impact of brand identification.  Apparently, Chicago public schools are taking a stand on the issue, banning any light products offered by manufacturers in school, that aren’t also available outside of school.


    How Parents Can Help

    Parents can be incredibly helpful by embracing the task of highlighting the importance of these new food guidelines in school, and by trying to follow similar guidelines at home and when eating out, even if just some of the time.  Otherwise, the child is getting mixed messages about food and health, and it can ultimately help to elevate the risk of "eating issues" and obesity.  The more consistency in a child's life, particularly when it involves diet, the more clear the healthy messaging.  So home meals and snacks and school meals and snacks should, for the most part, follow similar guidelines.  Many parents use food to comfort or reward their children.  Feed your children, but love them with actions that don't necessarily include food.


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    Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach with over 20 years of experience.  Noted author, journalist and lifestyle expert, she brings extensive expertise to her monthly shareposts.  Her most recent book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families is available for purchase online, and you can watch her in action on her shows Food Rescue and What's for Lunch? Sign up for her daily health tweets or catch her daily news report at


Published On: July 11, 2014

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