University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Sorting through the USDA Final Rule: What stays the same, what’s different, what’s new? (Part 3!)

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The USDA recently released its Final Rule, “Child Nutrition Programs: Meal Patterns Consistent with the 2020-2025 DGAs.” In Part 3 of this series, we’re sharing more important updates that will impact Illinois school nutrition programs.

The Final Rule makes several tweaks that will increase flexibility for school nutrition programs wishing to have more plant-based options.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds can credit as a M/MA in school meal programs. Previously, they could only credit for up to half (50%) of the M/MA component. With the Final Rule, nuts and seeds can now credit for the full M/MA component. Note that menu planners will need to consider how increased portion sizes of nuts and seeds may impact calorie, saturated fat, and sodium levels.

Beans, Peas, and Lentils

The beans and peas (legumes) vegetable subgroup will now be called beans, peas, and lentils. To this point, beans, peas, and lentils have been able to be credited in a meal as either a vegetable or M/MA, but not both at the same time. That is, when they are included as part of a single dish. If beans, peas, and lentils are offered as the M/MA, another vegetable must still be offered to count toward the daily and weekly vegetable component requirements. If two separate dishes are offered with beans included as part of both, the beans in one dish could be credited as vegetable while the beans in the other dish could be credited as M/MA.

These requirements will all continue, but the Final Rule has been amended to allow beans, peas, and lentils offered as a M/MA to count toward the weekly vegetable subgroup requirement for beans, peas, and lentils. Remember, though, beans, peas, and lentils offered as M/MA do NOT count toward the daily or weekly overall vegetable component requirement.

Bean Dips

Hummus and bean dips will be added to the list of items exempt from the total fat exemption under Smart Snacks. This will make it easier to offer protein-rich a la carte options.

These updates are all great news for school nutrition programs! No changes are required with these tweaks, but they simply expand opportunities for schools looking to offer more plant-based options.