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Healthy Food in Schools

Fat and Trans Fat Legislation - Guidelines for Schools

Click here to view the news release about the new amendments
Click here to view the Public Schools Act, section 47.2 [français]

The Public Schools Act bans the preparation, sale or distribution of foods containing high levels of artificial trans fats in Manitoba schools.

Under this legislation, school boards must ensure the artificial trans fat content of food prepared by a school as well as the foods it sells or distributes to students does not exceed specified amounts. 

  1. The trans fat content of vegetable oil or spreadable margarine used in the preparation of foods at a school must not exceed 2 per cent of the product's total fat content.

  2. A pre-packaged product, excluding meat or dairy products, is deemed not to contain artificial trans fats if the nutrition facts table lists the trans fat content as 0.2 grams per serving or less.

  3. The trans fat content of other foods, excluding meat or dairy products, must not exceed 5 per cent of the food's total fat content.

Exceptions would be made for special occasions such as student's lunches, school bake sales, hot dog days or pizza lunches if the food items are not available in the school every day.

Children and Teenagers Need Some Fat

Fat is found in many healthy foods that provide nutrients to growing bones and bodies. Despite all the bad things we hear about fat, children and teens need it because:

  • vitamins A, D and E need fat to be absorbed
  • cells need healthy fats to function well
  • fat can add flavor and "mouth feel" to nutritious foods
  • fat slows digestion of carbohydrates, helping them fuel children's brains longer.

How Much Fat Can Children Have?

That depends on their ages. The Canadian Pediatric Society says nutritious foods should not be
eliminated or restricted because of their fat content. Children should make a gradual transition from the high fat diet of infancy to the recommended adult level of 30 per cent of calories from fat.

Students' bodies and brains are growing and need fat. In other words, lower fat foods become more important as students get closer to adulthood.

What are Trans Fats?

Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in animal-based foods such as beef, lamb or dairy; or are created artificially when liquid oils are made into a solid fat through a process called hydrogenation.

Why are Artificial Trans Fats Harmful?

Studies show that people who eat a lot of artificial trans fat are at higher risk for heart disease.
Artificial trans fat increases the "bad" LDL cholesterol and decreases the "good" HDL cholesterol in the blood.

What Foods Typically Have Artificial Trans Fats?

Any items made with shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

For example breaded or battered chicken/fish/vegetables, French fries, biscuits, scones, donuts, muffins, cookies, danishes, cakes, icing, fruit pie, pocket pizza, breakfast pastries, crackers, chips, crisps, cheesies, microwave and movie popcorn, instant flavoured coffee mixes, many margarines, chip dips.

How Do I Know If A Food Contains Artificial Trans Fat?

Look on the Ingredient List for words such as "partially hydrogenated", "hydrogenated" or "vegetable oil shortening". These words mean the product contains artificial trans fat. (Ingredients such as milk, cheese, butter, beef or lamb are sources of natural trans fat.)

If trans fats are 0.2 grams or lower, the food meets regulatory requirements. If the trans fat content of a food is higher than 0.2 grams per serving a simple calculation can be done to find out the percentage of  trans fat.

Foods low in trans fats are not necessarily healthy foods.  Find the amount of added fat, sugar or salt (sodium) in prepared foods by looking at the Nutrition Facts Table on the package. To make informed choices, read labels on packaged foods carefully.

What Types of Fats Should Schools Choose?

  • Vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, corn, safflower, olive, soybean and sesame
  • Non-hydrogenated margarine
  • If deep frying, use zero trans fat liquid oil

What About Other Fats?

Coconut, palm, palm kernel oils, butter, lard and beef tallow are high in saturated fats. Saturated fat may increase your risk for health problems.

Fattier fish (mackerel, herring, trout, salmon, swordfish, cod and bluefish), canola and soybean oil, flax seed, omega-3 eggs, walnuts, pecans and pine nuts are high in Omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are a good choice, however may not suit schools with allergy concerns.

For More Information

It's Your Health - Trans Fats:
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/food-aliment/trans-eng.php


 


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