New U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for school lunches are taking effect this fall, as part of a healthy school lunch initiative put forth in January by first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Officials are calling for more whole grains and produce -- now implementing the first national calorie and sodium limits for what can be served in school cafeterias -- as well as less fat in meals.

School lunch workers gathered at the School Nutrition Association conference in Denver this summer to share tricks on how to get students to make healthy choices in the lunch line.

The new guidelines also require that schools offer dark green, orange or red vegetables at least once a week, and students must choose at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal. Trans fats are banned from service, and any flavored milk offered must be fat-free.

A look at what the new guidelines require, according to the School Nutrition Association:

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  • Grains

    Students should have at least one serving of grains each day, and one-half of offerings must be rich in whole grain. <strong>Grades K-5:</strong> 8 to 9 servings per week <strong>Grades 6-8: </strong>8 to 10 servings per week <strong>Grades 9-12: </strong>10 to 12 servings per week

  • Meats/Meat Alternatives

    Nuts, tofu, cheese and eggs can be substituted for meat in some cases. <strong>Grades K-5:</strong> 8 to 10 ounces per week <strong>Grades 6-8:</strong> 9 to 10 ounces per week <strong>Grades 9-12:</strong> 10 to 12 ounces per week

  • Milk

    Fat-free, low-fat and lactose-free milk options are allowable. <strong>Grades K-12:</strong> 1 cup per day

  • Fruits

    Only half of the weekly fruit requirement can come from juice. <strong>Grades K-8:</strong> One-half cup per day <strong>Grades 9-12:</strong> One cup per day

  • Vegetables

    Weekly requirements for vegetable subgroups, including dark green, red/orange, beans/peas, starchy and others. <strong>Grades K-8:</strong> Three-quarters cup per day <strong>Grades 9-12:</strong> One cup per day

  • Sodium

    By July 2014, sodium levels for lunches should not exceed: <strong>Grades K-5:</strong> 640 milligrams <strong>Grades 6-8: </strong>710 milligrams <strong>Grades 9-12:</strong> 740 milligrams A timetable sets targets for further reducing sodium levels by 2022.

  • Fats

    No more than 10 percent saturated fats. No trans-fat, except for those naturally occurring in meat and dairy products.

  • Total Calories

    Calories can be averaged over the week. <strong>Grades K-5:</strong> 550 to 650 per day <strong>Grades 6-8:</strong> 600 to 700 per day <strong>Grades 9-12:</strong> 750 to 850 per day

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