So many menu options, so many on-trend possibilities, so many delicious meals – from one single product, the incredible, edible egg. Savvy school nutrition professionals know that today’s outstanding – and financially successful – meal programs are built on a foundation of interrelated factors. In order to maximize participation and customer satisfaction, school meals must meet nutrition standards, stay within budget, be appealing to customers of all ages and create a sense of trust within the school and community.
In an American Egg Board (AEB) survey, 85 percent of adult consumers viewed eggs as a nutritious, wholesome choice for their families.1 Optimizing the use of versatile, 100 percent natural eggs in your program can make a real difference in your meals, customer satisfaction and participation.
Top three reasons to add more eggs to your school menus
Eggs and breakfast benefits
Although scientific evidence is limited in school-aged populations, there are an increasing number of studies in adults supporting the benefits of breakfast. Here are some ways that eggs and breakfast may help students and staff in your schools.
Satiety and weight control
Breakfast and cognition
Children and teens need protein and other nutrients to grow normally, develop appropriately and stay healthy. Eggs provide all-natural, high-quality protein as well as varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals – the building blocks that young people need to grow and the energy they need to stay focused.
Eggs are a familiar, popular breakfast item for students – and an easy-to-prepare option for other school meals. With high-quality, easily-digestible protein, well-prepared eggs offer students a delicious package of nutrients that provide them with mind and body energy.
At any school meal, naturally nutrient-rich eggs can satisfy a child’s finicky taste buds with a familiar, convenient meat alternate, especially for vegetarians. Eggs are nature’s original form of portion control and are a good option for after-school snacks, especially before and after athletic practices and other events.
With about 70 calories, six grams of protein and optimal amounts of all nine essential amino acids, a large egg is packed with the nutrients that kids, teens and adults need. Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D.
Today’s eggs are 14% lower in cholesterol than measured in 2002.2 Research studies over the past 40 years have suggested that healthy individuals can enjoy an egg a day without increasing blood cholesterol levels. Combining eggs with heart-smart foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and other lean proteins makes sense for all ages.
Eggs in school meals: Nutritious, versatile and affordable
Eggs are a natural fit in any school meal. Their nutrition, versatility and affordability make them a delicious meat alternate well beyond breakfast – into lunch, snack and supper meals as well. Eggs are also gluten free and acceptable to most vegetarians – making them even more versatile for school menu planners.
Eggs are nutritional powerhouses.
They provide some of the highest quality protein of any food and are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Eggs are a nutrient dense food, containing varying amounts of 13 essential nutrients in a package with only about 70 calories in one large egg.
Eggs are available to foodservice in a variety of forms, including fresh, refrigerated liquid, frozen and specialty prepared products. Most of these products are virtually indistinguishable from fresh eggs in nutritional value, flavor and functional properties. Eggs are sourced in the U.S., meeting all the procurement requirements for ‘Buy American.’
One large egg is credited as two meat/meat alternates in any reimbursable meal from breakfast to supper at a typical cost of less than $0.20 per serving. This means that eggs fit into every meal pattern at a lower cost than other protein, which can help offset higher costs of other items, like fresh fruits and vegetables.
– 1 hard-boiled egg or 2 oz. egg = $0.19 (2 m/ma)
– ¼ cup scrambled eggs = $0.19 (2 m/ma)
– 1 oz bowl pack cereal = $0.30 (1 grain)
– Mini-pancakes = $0.40 - $0.50 (2 grains)
NOTE: Since meat/meat alternates are not required at breakfast, ½ a large egg can (or 1 oz. of eggs) count as a 1 oz. equivalent grain when served with a 1 oz. equivalent whole grain-rich choice. Eggs can also be an additional menu item, so long as other requirements are met, and the eggs are included in the nutritional analysis.
An online survey of more than 440 school professionals revealed just how popular eggs are in today’s school nutrition programs. When asked how often eggs and egg products appeared on their weekly menus, 18 percent said almost every day and 56 percent said one to four times per week.
Eggs are also wonderfully adaptable at lunch/supper meals and are especially useful as a vegetarian meat alternate and in gluten-free meals. In the online survey, eggs were most commonly served in entrée salads and as part of a breakfast/brunch menu (more than 45 percent of respondents mentioned both options). Whole hard-cooked eggs alone (23%) or as a selection on a variety bar (29%) were also popular on lunch menus.
Using survey results and a series of in-depth interviews conducted with school nutrition leaders, the American Egg Board is pleased to offer six recipes for schools meals. Simple and portable – with currently favored flavors and ingredients – these recipes will be sure to please both student and adult customers. Even better, all the menu planning and nutrition analysis has already been done for you!
Breakfast Boat (K-8): Rated #2 breakfast in survey: Scrambled eggs are served on a bed of chopped redskin potatoes and shredded cheese – a tempting skillet-type breakfast. Served with a whole-grain mini bagel, peaches, apple slices and 1% milk, this makes a filling morning meal with 430 calories (10% saturated fat) and 517 milligrams of sodium.
Stuffed Pita Eggwich (K-8): Rated #3 breakfast in survey: Cheesy scrambled eggs are folded into a whole-grain mini pita, which is wrapped in foil – perfect for a grab-n-go service item. With 1 cup fruit, like a mini-tangerine and sliced strawberry cup, and 1% milk, this makes a complete breakfast with 464 calories (10% saturated fat) and 310 milligrams sodium.
Southwest Breakfast Taco (9-12): Rated #1 breakfast in survey: Mexican flavors are highly popular – this combo of scrambled eggs, black beans and cheese is wrapped in two fresh corn tortillas and served with salsa, fruit (fresh kiwi wedges and diced pears, for example) and 1% milk. As a high school breakfast, this provides 512 calories (9% saturated fat) and 452 milligrams sodium.
Two Muffin Breakfast (9-12): Perfect for a meal-to-go, this breakfast features a Cheesy Broccoli Egg Muffin and a whole-grain, reduced-fat Blueberry Muffin. Served with 100% orange juice, red grapes and 1% milk, the meal provides 477 calories (11% saturated fat) and 476 milligrams sodium.
Green Eggs and Ham Brunch-for-Lunch (K- 8): Rated #3 lunch in survey: Dr. Seuss is popular any day: Scrambled eggs with spinach, turkey ham and cheese are served with a wholegrain flatbread, sweet potato bites, salsa, a petite banana and 1% milk for 653 calories (9% saturated fat) and 1,024 milligrams sodium.
Huevos Rancheros Brunch-for-Lunch: (9 -12): Rated #2 lunch in survey: Southwestern flavors are popular for lunch too! Scrambled eggs served with a mildly spicy ranchero sauce, fresh corn tortillas, shredded cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, vegetarian refried beans, Mexican brown rice, orange wedges, raisins and 1% milk for 822 calories (7% saturated fat) and 684 milligrams sodium.
Eggs in foodservice: On trend and on the menu
If you think there are more eggs on restaurant menus these days, you are right! Eggs have been on trend in foodservice for a few years now. The Sterling-Rice Group, a food industry trend watcher, even called out 2014 as the “Year of the Yolk.9” Savvy school nutrition professionals know it’s important to offer customers options similar to those in restaurants.
Parents and staff will be especially impressed with innovative items on your menus and in your cafeteria. Egg trends to watch include:
These trends underscore the versatility of eggs in school nutrition programs: So many menu options, so many on-trend possibilities, so many delicious meals – from one single product, the incredible, edible egg.
Connecting cafeteria to classroom with nutrition education
School nutrition professionals are always looking for ways to connect their cafeteria to the classroom – and for nutrition education resources that they can share with teachers. The Education Station, a partnership between AEB’s Good Egg Project and Discovery Education is one way to make the connection. It provides online resources to help teach the benefits of a balanced, protein-rich breakfast, and to show how fresh foods, like eggs, make their way from farm to table. These free resources have been designed by education professionals to meet the new Common Core State Standards.
These lessons would be perfect to use during the implementation of Breakfast in the Classroom, since they reinforce the connections between nutrition, health and academics.