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fat levels within the calorie and saturated fat specifications in Table 7-3 and help monitor progress on reducing the sodium content of meals. Moreover, computerized nutrient analysis may be helpful to parents of schoolchildren with special dietary needs. Computerized nutrient analysis is not essential, however, as long as operators use an accepted method to control the calorie, saturated fat, and sodium content of school meals.

Food-based Meal Patterns

Dietary Guidelines for Americans (HHS/USDA, 2005) emphasizes the use of foods to meet nutrient needs:

A basic premise of the Dietary Guidelines is that nutrient needs should be met primarily through consuming foods. Foods provide an array of nutrients (as well as phytochemicals, antioxidants, etc.) and other compounds that may have beneficial effects on health.

HHS/USDA, 2005, p. 3

The food-based meal patterns shown in Table 7-3 were designed to be consistent with Dietary Guidelines and to be consistent with the recommended Nutrient Targets by age-grade group. Menus written to correspond with the meal patterns shown in Table 7-3 were demonstrated, through the use of nutrient analysis, to meet or nearly meet the standards for protein, vitamins, minerals, and other dietary components like fatty acids, with a few exceptions. The fluid milk that is specified in the standards for menu planning provides one-half of the AI for vitamin D at each school meal.

Specifications for Calories, Saturated Fat, and Sodium

The use of meal patterns alone cannot ensure that calories, saturated fat, and sodium are consistent with Dietary Guidelines. Because of this, the recommended standards for menu planning include specifications for calories, saturated fat, and sodium, with the understanding that the sodium specification is to be achieved by the year 2020 (see Chapter 10).

Operators will need to use some quantitative method to ensure that, on average for the 5-day school week, the menus provide calories within the specified limits and less than 10 percent of the calories from saturated fat (a possible approach is given in Chapter 10); and they will need to monitor their progress in reducing the average daily sodium content of the school meals.

Forms of Food for School Meals

The meal patterns were designed assuming that the following forms of food would be used in planning menus:

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