Kids meals take center stage as menus become healthier across commercial and non-commercial foodservice segments. The growing popularity of nutrient-rich foods like whole grain brown rice enable chefs and K-12 menu planners to provide flavorful and nutritious meals children enjoy.

USA Rice Federation offers on-trend and kid-friendly menu solutions to help meet the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new school meal standards, HealthierUS School Challenge, and Dietary Guidelines/MyPlate nutrition recommendations.

Programs such as Kids LiveWell (developed by the National Restaurant Association) and HealthyDining are also helping to bring awareness to restaurants that are making children’s nutrition a top priority.

Examples of foodservice operations increasing healthful kids meals with more whole grain items include:

  • Silver Diner, regional chain, offers kids teriyaki salmon over brown rice
  • Mama Fu’s Asian House, regional chain, menus honey glazed chicken (Scooby Fu), and chicken tenders (Dragon Tails) with a choice of brown rice
  • Washington Athletic Club, Seattle, pairs wild Alaskan salmon with brown rice and veggies


Additionally, schools will be required to shift to whole grain-rich foods like brown rice by 2014 to meet the new USDA school meal standards. Brown rice received an A-plus at a school meal event where the new standards were announced by First Lady Michelle Obama who told students, “I love brown rice.”

She and the students, along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and television chef Rachael Ray, dined on a new, healthy meal consisting of turkey tacos with Mexican-style brown rice, black bean, and roasted corn salad and fruit.

This trend can be seen with many K-12 menu planners already preparing popular dishes, like whole grain rice bowls and rice salads, to deliver a complete and balanced meal to students. 

Doug Wordell, director of Nutrition Services for Spokane School District, has successfully made over half of his menu items whole grain, and he believes brown rice is a key ingredient to acclimating students to healthier food choices.

“We offer brown rice daily at our high schools and middle schools and almost weekly at our elementary schools,” Wordell says. “Our Asian dishes and rice bowls have been very popular, especially vegetable and rice combinations. Students think they are great!”

Recent research conducted by USA Rice Federation among K-12 decision makers and meal planners/food preparers found that nearly all agree brown rice helps easily meet the new USDA school nutrition meals standards.

K-12 professionals also noted brown rice combines well with vegetables, and is easy to prepare and serve. Kid-approved dishes include:


Both whole grain brown and enriched white rice are energy-fueling complex carbohydrates that are naturally low in calories, are sodium-, gluten-, and cholesterol-free and have just a trace amount of fat, but no trans or saturated fat.

Whole grain brown rice contains 15 vitamins and minerals, including B-vitamins, iron, phytonutrients, and two grams of fiber per one-half cup of cooked rice. Also, one cup of brown rice equals two of the three recommended whole grain servings.

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