Grading the Quality of Westchester Middle-School Lunches
We asked nutrition and health coach Renata Petecka-Orr, founder of La Dolce Vita Nutrition, to grade the May 15 lunch menus from 10 middle schools.
German School New York, White Plains | A-
Lunch Menu: Pasta and chickpea soup with pork; baked pork chops with apples; roasted tomato rice; sautéed Swiss chard; orange wedges; lentil salad; roasted tomato salad
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: A nice variety of offerings that include leafy green vegetables, beans, and lentils. And fruit as a dessert? Bravo. Suggestion: Use more whole-grain products like brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.
Somers Middle School | B+
Lunch Menu: Stuffed baked potato with cheese and broccoli, whole-grain roll, vegetable bar, fruit assortment, and milk
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: Stuffed baked potato with broccoli is a good option. Suggestions: Replace the cheese (saturated fat) with guacamole or salsa. An unlimited serving from the vegetable bar and the fresh fruit assortment is excellent. Water, not milk, should be the featured drink to keep kids hydrated.
The Masters School, Dobbs Ferry | B
Lunch Menu: Assorted pizzas (cheese, pepperoni, sausage, vegetable whole wheat); Florentine rice; Montreal grilled vegetables; sautéed herbed peas; bowtie cacciatore; plain pasta; baked sweet potato; sticky rice; brown rice; soups (Tuscan bread and garlic, Cajun beef vegetable); three seasonal specialty salads; fudge brownies; peach apple crisp
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: This menu has a good variety of healthy choices: vegetables, salads, and soups. I also like the whole-grain options like grilled vegetable whole-wheat pizza and brown rice. A few of the options are not healthy, like pepperoni, cheese, or sausage pizza and white pasta. And the desserts belong at a birthday party celebration only. Suggestions: The school should promote the healthy options that the menu offers. Fresh fruit or a fruit salad should be the featured options for dessert.
John Jay Middle School, Katonah-Lewisboro | B-
Lunch Menu: Quesadilla (corn and bean, chicken and peppers); carrot sticks; fresh fruit; hamburgers/cheeseburgers; deli station with Boar’s Head meats; pasta station; salad bar; real fruit smoothies; yogurt parfait
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: Quesadillas are a great way to serve vegetables. The fresh fruit and real fruit smoothies are a nice plus. The daily specials, however, are scary! Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pizza, and a lot of processed meats. Suggestions: Use whole-grain wraps and offer a bigger selection of vegetables on them, including some greens.
Rye Middle School | B-
Lunch Menu: Chicken fajita (peppers and onions, salsa, cheese) with Mexican rice, yellow corn, milk, and chocolate pudding; sandwiches; salads; soup of the day
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: Some whole foods—peppers, onions, salsa, and yellow corn. Fajitas are a great way to serve vegetables. Suggestions: Take out the unhealthy fat (cheese) and add more veggies, plus avocado and beans. Replace the pudding with fruit. Featured drink on the menu should be water, not milk.
Chappaqua Middle School | C+
Lunch Menu: Barilla Plus pasta (plain, marinara, meat sauce); grill station (hamburgers, cheeseburgers); tossed Caesar salad; fruit and veggie bar; hormone-free milk
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: Pasta, hamburgers, and cheeseburgers are the featured options and are not healthy. The salad and fruit are a plus. Suggestion: Offer a soup and a vegetable or a whole-grain dish.
St. Patrick’s Parochial School, Bedford | C+
Lunch Menu: Pasta with meat sauce or marinara sauce, garlic bread, garden salad, and fresh fruit.
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: A very basic menu. White pasta, sauce, and bread translate into sugar and should be replaced with whole-grain varieties. Suggestion: Side dishes of veggies or a soup. The garden salad and fresh fruit are the best source of nutrients in this lunch menu.
Eastview and Highlands Middle Schools, White Plains | C
Lunch Menu: Hawaiian pizza, tossed garden salad, fresh nectarine
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: Menu is limited and not balanced. The garden salad and fresh fruit are good but pizza translates into fat and sugar. There is no healthy alternative. Suggestion: Start with offering a vegetable soup and a vegetable dish with some beans and whole grains.
Pleasantville Middle School | C
Lunch Menu: Buffalo chicken, mac and cheese, dinner roll, green beans, and orange; whole-grain bagel with butter or low-fat cream cheese; low-fat American cheese sandwich; peanut butter and jelly; salad; fresh veggie sticks with low-fat yogurt
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: The mac and cheese and the dinner roll are processed foods that are very high in fat and refined carbohydrates. The side menu does offer salad and vegetable sticks but is very heavy in cheeses and dairy products. Suggestion: A vegetable soup and a vegetable dish would be better offerings—the orange and the green beans in the featured meal are a plus, but not enough.
Scarsdale Middle School | C-
Lunch Menu: Mac and cheese, sautéed broccoli, and fresh fruit; cheese pizza; Boar’s Head sandwiches; specialty salad; gluten-free chocolate cream and vanilla cookies
Petecka-Orr’s Observations: Macaroni and cheese translates into fat, sugar, and sodium. We would need a lot of broccoli to make this meal nutritious. Available daily pizza or deli sandwiches are the same story. The fresh fruit selection is a plus. Chocolate cream and vanilla cookies, even if they are gluten-free, are still full of sugar. Suggestions: The overall focus should be on whole foods: whole-grain products, vegetables, beans, and fruits. A next step could be a daily vegetable soup.
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