The meat and meat alternates group in the current Meal Requirements includes all the types of food listed in MyPyramid’s meat and beans group, and it also includes cheese and yogurt. MyPyramid categorizes cheese and yogurt in the milk group on the basis of nutrient content. Historically, these dairy foods have been counted as meat alternates in both school breakfast and lunch, and menu items such as a low-fat version of cheese pizza are very popular.
It quickly became evident that counting cheese and yogurt as milk substitutes rather than meat substitutes would complicate menu planning. This method would either (1) result in a decrease in the amount of fluid milk offered if cheese or yogurt was served or (2) call for an increase in milk group servings in the meal pattern so that cheese and/or yogurt could be offered along with 8 ounces of fluid milk each day. Therefore, to test the effect on nutrient intake of using cheese or yogurt as a meat substitute, the committee added lines for low-fat cheese and yogurt to the MenuDevelopment spreadsheet (see Figure 5-1 in Chapter 5). The results indicated that the content of all nutrients (except vitamin E; potassium; and, for those ages 11 years and older, iron) were above the initial targets for the meal. These three exceptions are the same nutrients that are below the targets in the pattern that includes meat. These findings support the continuation of the current practice of allowing the substitution of low-fat cheese or yogurt for meat or beans.
Planning daily amounts of food to meet a specific weekly pattern poses challenges, especially for the meat and meat alternates group, the grain group, and the vegetable subgroups. (See Table H-1 in Appendix H for a list of foods in the various food groups.) By testing options and examining data using the MenuDevelopment spreadsheet, it was determined that some flexibility was possible without compromising the nutritional quality of the menus. Thus, the recommended meal patterns give a range for the numbers of servings of meats and meat alternates and for the grains.
In addition, the committee determined that extra amounts of dark green or orange vegetables may be counted in the “other vegetable” subgroup. Fresh (not dried) lima beans and peas, which are both leguminous vegetables, may be counted as either a legume or a starchy vegetable. Although unsaturated vegetable oils are a MyPyramid food group, the committee determined that it was not practical to include a specified amount of oil in the recommended meal patterns for three reasons: (1) it is difficult for operators to determine the amount of vegetable oil in commercial products,