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CBS 2: Doctors Concerned About High Caloric Meals, Inadequate Nutrition in Universal School Meals Program

CBS 2 recently interviewed Amanda Velazquez, MD, director of Obesity Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, about the negative effects of unhealthy food offered in a new program that provides free meals to students in California.   

The Universal School Meals Program offers all students in California public schools and charter schools free breakfast and lunch regardless of their income. But its lack of high-quality food worried Velazquez, who reviewed the program’s menu. 

"There is a big emphasis on carbohydrates and less about fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean protein," Velazquez told CBS 2. “These items are, honestly, resembling a lot of what we see at fast food sites which is encouraging or normalizing these food items for children."

The menu for the Los Angeles Unified School District's meal program includes cereal, yogurt, pizza, chicken tenders, applesauce, milk and juice—meeting the nutrition standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Education.  

Velazquez told CBS 2 the meals provided to students in grades 9-12 exceed the daily calorie requirements for teens, which are 1,800-2,400 calories per day on average. Some of those additional calories come from milk and juice, which Velazquez said should be limited.   

"There are a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages and beverages with calories on these menus," Velazquez told CBS 2. She recommended cutting back on milk, which comes with every meal, and including more than one fresh food item.

"Overall, less milk, more veggies and, overall, less processed food," Velazquez told CBS 2.  

Click here to read the complete article from CBS 2.