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School Cafeterias Do Away With Sugar & Sweets For Healthier Options

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Big changes are on the way for school cafeterias that sell cookies, chips and candy bars to students.

Gigi Barnett explains--the federal government has new guidelines for snack items in schools.

Federal school leaders long ago changed the menu in cafeterias around the nation. The pizza, hamburger and rice are healthier now.

"I like vegetables like broccoli and carrots," said Maria Diaz, second grader.

This week, school leaders turned their sights to the sugary snacks and high calorie treats sold separately. When they return back to school, kids will see more fruits and vegetables.

"What we're trying to say is once you're in the school, no matter what choice you make, it's a pretty good choice," said Robin Spence.

Union Memorial Dietician, Robin Spence, says it's a battle many parents have waged for years, as 30% of kids around the nation are obese or overweight.

They may offer healthy choices at home, but once kids hit the school cafeteria, they're bombarded with sugar and sweets.

"The government was subsidizing a lot of really unhealthy food," said Spence.

The cafeteria menu makeover looks like this now:

Snacks have to be less than 200 calories. Trans fats are out, and only sugar-free candy--like gum--is allowed.

Parents say the more healthy the option, the better.

"I think if they learn to enjoy and like the healthy food when they're young, then later they will naturally make those choices," said Becky Taylor, parent.

Even beverages are included in the new guidelines. Gone are the days of high calorie, high sugar soft drinks. Now schools can only sell water, fat free milk and 100% fruit and vegetable drinks to kids.

Some parents say it's the kind of help need.

"The school has a big influence on [my son]. So if he sees friends eating healthy, then maybe he'll make the right choice and start eating healthy too," said Tarsha Shipley, parent.

The new changes don't go into effect until the 2014-1015 school year.

Students can still bring candy and high calorie snacks to school. The new guidelines do not apply to sporting events or after-school activities.

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