Nutritional Guidelines

  • Who plans the HISD meals?
    Menus are planned by a registered dietitian using recipes created by HISD professional chefs. HISD Nutrition Services has five registered dietitians and five chefs on staff. The dietitians and chefs follow strict nutrition guidelines set forth by the USDA to assure HISD meals are nutritious and delicious.
    What does whole grain rich mean?
    A whole grain is a cereal grain made up of the entire grain kernel. Whole grains contain fiber, b-vitamins, iron, protein and healthy fats unlike refined grain products such as white flour and white rice. Whole grain “rich” means that at least half of the grain in a grain product is a whole grain. Examples of whole grain rich food on HISD menus are brown rice, tortillas, dinner rolls, bread and buns, cereals, crust on chicken and fish.
    Are the serving sizes of foods appropriate for all students?
    Serving sizes are planned to be appropriate for the ages of our students. Older students will receive more servings of food items and therefore receive more calories than younger students receive. (See question "How many calories do school meals have for more information.").
    How many calories do school meals have?
    Calories in school lunches and breakfast are planned to follow the US Dietary Guidelines and the Institutes of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) age groupings for calories. There are different age and grade groups for the calorie ranges in school meals. At breakfast, the range of calories for Kindergarten through 5th grade is 350-500; 6th through 8th grade is 400-550; 9th through 12th grade is 450-600. The ranges at lunch are K through 5th grade – 550-650; 6th through 8th – 600-700; 9th through 12th – 750-850. We average the calories in our meals over a week’s time to give us more flexibility day-to-day. These science-based calorie ranges assure students get just the right amount of calories for growth and activity.
    What are you doing to cut down on salt/sodium in school meals?
    We do not use added salt when we prepare food and we strive to purchase food products and ingredients that are lower in sodium. Also, our chefs have created a tasty, salt-free seasoning for our vegetables and they use herbs like cilantro, which adds flavor without the sodium.
    Why do our menus still have “junk foods”? I thought school meals were healthier now?
    School meals are healthier than ever before but they must also be appealing to kids. Hamburgers, pizza, nachos and hot dogs are among the favorite foods of children. You can be confident that HISD serves healthier versions of these foods. Our foods are made from lean beef, chicken or turkey, use lower sodium ingredients and contain whole grain rich bread products.
    What kind of milk do you serve?
    We offer low fat (1%) and non-fat unflavored milk at breakfast. At lunch, we also serve non-fat chocolate milk and our chocolate milk has less added sugar than ever before.
    What is my child required to choose at lunch?
    At lunch, we offer at least five different food components (meat or meat alternate, grain, fruit, vegetable and milk). In order for a lunch to qualify as a full meal, a student must choose at least three of these food components and one of these three must be a fruit or a vegetable. For example: A hamburger (grain and meat) and ½ cup of fruit would be considered a complete meal. Of course, students may select all food components if they choose – Hamburger, vegetable, fruit and milk. HISD offers two different vegetable options; students can choose to take both servings. High schools also offer an additional fruit choice.
    What is my child required to choose at breakfast?
    At some schools, students must take all breakfast items. Other schools participate in “offer vs. serve,” which means we offer a complete breakfast and students can choose to decline one food item. One of the items they choose must be ½ cup of fruit or juice. For example: If we offer a chicken biscuit, banana, orange juice and milk, the child may choose the chicken biscuit, banana and milk, and decline the orange juice.
    Are school meals low in fat?
    Absolutely! HISD school meals are transfat free and are planned to have less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and less that 35% of calories from total fat. We strive to purchase ingredients that are lower in fat and we do not deep fry any foods.
    What type of vegetables do you serve?
    HISD serves more vegetables than ever before and we use fresh vegetables in season. Because the color of vegetables indicates the nutritional content, we offer a variety of bright colored vegetables each week – red tomatoes, orange carrots, dark green collards, etc. We also include bean (legumes) weekly and limit the “starchy” type vegetables.
    Which HISD foods are made from “scratch”?
    We have a large food production facility where we make many of our foods from scratch. Examples are our taco and spaghetti meat sauces, hamburger buns, biscuits, kolaches and cheese sauce. We continually work to prepare more of our menu items from scratch.
    What vegetarian choices does my child have?
    Each Monday features a meatless entrée. In elementary and middle schools one Monday a month is meatless. We call this Lean and Green Day. However, on other days, students may pass up the meat offered just as long as they have three food components. For example, a complete meal could be brown rice, broccoli, apple and milk. While vegetarian options may not be offered daily, HISD strives to offer meatless options throughout the week in addition to the meatless Monday initiative.
    Do you serve foods with artificial colors or flavors?
    We strive to purchase foods without artificial colors and flavors and therefore have very few foods on our menu with any artificial flavorings or colorings.
    Is pork used in HISD meals?
    Pork products may be offered on select menu items and will be noted on the menu.
    Do HISD meals have peanuts or nuts?
    We do not use peanuts or tree nuts in any HISD foods. Please note that we are not “nut free” facilities since students/staff are allowed to bring foods from home that may contain nuts.
    My child has food allergies, whom should I contact about this?
    Please contact your school nurse or our dietitian in charge of special dietary accommodations at (713) 556-2935. You may also visit the Nutrition Services website.
    How do I contact Nutrition Services?
    You may email us at fsresponseline@houstonisd.org, call us at (713) 491-5700 or visit our website.