Healthy Snack Guidelines

Healthy Students, Healthy Schools: Revised Guidance for Implementing the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages

View the Massachusetts Guidelines for Healthy Snacks in public schools.

The "Act Relative to School Nutrition," signed into law on July 30, 2010, requires the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to establish standards for competitive foods and beverages sold or provided in public schools during the school day.     The goal of the standards is to ensure that public schools offer students food and beverage choices that will enhance learning, contribute to their healthy growth and development, and cultivate life-long healthy eating behaviors. The standards are part of the Commonwealth's broad-based, collaborative initiative to reduce childhood obesity and prevent its complications in childhood and later in adulthood.

Nutrition standards were developed and based primarily on the Institute of Medicine's Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.  Schools were required to comply with the nutrition standards beginning August 1, 2012.

The standards apply to competitive foods and beverages, sold or made available in public schools.  These are foods and beverages sold or provided in:

  • School cafeterias offered as à la carte items
  • Vending machines
  • School stores and snack bars

The standards apply to competitive foods and beverages sold or provided to students 30 minutes before the beginning of the school day until 30 minutes after the school day ends. However, foods and beverages sold in vending machines must comply with the standards at all times.  Below are the standards:

Juice

  • 100% fruit and vegetable juice, with no added sugar.
  • Juice - Portion Size Limit
  • No more than 4-ounce servings.

Milk - (Including alternative milk beverages such as lactose-free and soy)

  • Low-fat (1% or less) and fat-free milk.

Milk - Portion Size Limit - (Including alternative milk beverages such as lactose-free and soy)

  • No more than 8-ounce servings.

Milk - Flavored, Sweetened - (Including alternative milk beverages such as lactose-free and soy)

  • Flavored milk with no more than 22 grams total sugar per 8 ounces.

Water

  • No added sugars, sweeteners or artificial sweeteners.
  • May contain natural flavorings and/or carbonation.

Beverages with Added Sugar or Sweeteners

  • Any beverages with added sugar or sweeteners not already prohibited will be phased out by August 1, 2013 . However, a school may provide or sell sweetened flavored milk or milk substitutes that contain the same amount or less sugar than plain, fat-free or low-fat milk.

Other Beverages

(Soda, sports drinks, teas, waters, etc.)

  • No beverages other than juice, milk, milk substitutes and water shall be sold or provided.

Calories

  • Foods shall not exceed 200 calories per item.
  • À la carte entrées shall not exceed the calorie count of entrée items offered as a part of the National School Lunch Program (e.g., equivalent portion size).

Fat

  • No more than 35% of total calories from fat.
  • Saturated Fat
  • No more than 10% of total calories from saturated fat.
  • Trans Fat
  • All foods shall be trans fat-free.

Fat Exemptions

  • (All other categories apply, e.g., sugar and calories.)
  • 1-ounce servings of nuts, nut butters, seeds, and reduced-fat cheese.

Sugar

  • No more than 35 percent total calories from sugars.

Sugar Exemptions

  • (All other categories apply, e.g., fat and calories.)
  • 100% fruit with no added sugar.
  • Low-fat or non-fat yogurt (including drinkable yogurt) with no more than 30 grams of total sugars, per 8-ounce serving.

Sodium

  • No food shall contain more than 200 mg of sodium per item.
  • À la carte entrées shall not contain more than 480 mg of sodium per item.

Grains

  • All bread or grain-based products shall be whole grain, i.e., whole grain should be listed first in the ingredient statement.  These include crackers, granola bars, chips, bakery items, pasta, rice, etc.

Caffeine

  • No food or beverage shall contain more than trace amounts of caffeine. 
  • Note:  Some foods and beverages, such as chocolate, contain small amounts of naturally occurring caffeine. These products are allowed as long as they comply with the rest of the nutrition standards.

Artificial Sweeteners

  • No food or beverage shall contain an artificial sweetener.

District Wellness Policy

Please read the District Wellness Policy, if you would like to learn more.

Helpful Resources:

Healthy Snack Ideas List from the Somerville Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services Department

Healthy Students, Healthy Schools: Revised Guidance for Implementing the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages guide: www.mass.gov/dph/healthierschools

School-specific communication plans can help school staff, teachers, food service personnel, school nurses, athletic department staff, students, parents, booster clubs, vendors, etc., understand their roles in working together to put the standards into practice: www.mass.gov/dph/healthierschools

The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition (JSI), publishes the "A-List" (or Acceptable List) which was first developed as a resource to find products that meet the Massachusetts Action for Healthy Kids' Massachusetts À la Carte Food & Beverage Standards.  This list of products has been revised to reflect the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards: http://www.johnstalkerinstitute.org/alist/. JSI also created a nutrition calculator, MassNETS, that schools can use to determine if an individual product meets the Massachusetts standards.