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Berry Good Burgers!

You're sitting in your last class before lunch, daydreaming about sinking your teeth into a juicy hamburger and golden fries. That big, soft brownie would taste delicious, too.

Hold on! The hamburger served in your cafeteria may not be an all-beef patty. It could be a blueberry burger! The fries may be baked, low-salt, sweet-potato wedges. There may be no brownie for dessert today. Instead, how about a nice granola bar? What is happening to your school lunch? It's getting a nutritious makeover.

A Serious Problem

More and more children in the United States are overweight and out of shape because of poor diets and lack of exercise. These children are often teased cruelly by other children. They get left out of sports and social circles and have trouble running, walking, and even breathing. They struggle with the emotional pain of being left out. Also, they often grow up to be overweight adults with serious health problems.

The good news is that this is a problem families and communities can solve.

Out with Junk Food

Many school districts have already banned vending machines that sell soft drinks and other junk foods. Some people want the U.S. Congress to improve the federal school lunch program.

The program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, feeds 27 million children every day. Nutritionists, however, say those lunches are too fatty and have too many calories. They want lawmakers to change the federal department's guidelines for school lunches.

Some schools are so concerned with the health of their students that they are not waiting for Congress to act. For example, school officials in New York City are cutting the amount of sugar, fat, and salt in school lunches.

That means beef ravioli, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and ice cream might disappear from lunch trays. Instead, cafeterias will offer vegetables five days a week.

Fresh Approach

Food that is good for you doesn't have to taste bad. Just ask the students at Brekke School in Oxnard, California. Students there can now choose from a menu of only healthful food items. Nothing is fried. Fizzy, sugary soft drinks are out. Skim milk and juices are in.

The school serves giant tacos made with soft tortilla shells, not the hard, deep-fried kind. Toppings include lettuce, broccoli, and refried beans.

At Carmel High School in Carmel, Indiana, Caitlin Galligan, a student, thinks it's a good idea for school lunches to be healthful and tasty. “I eat the school lunch every day, and I usually choose the hot entree,” she said. “I like the food.“

Other students disagree. “Teens want to eat fries and fattier stuff,” Erin Meyer, a pizza-loving, soda-drinking high schooler in Atlanta, recently told a reporter from the Cox News Service. “They don't care if it's good for you.”

MacBerries?

Meyer probably wouldn't like one food item that may soon appear on many school lunch menus, the blueberry burger. Researchers in Maine are stirring a blueberry mixture into beef, chicken, and turkey patties to boost the sandwich's nutritional content. Health experts say blueberries make burgers juicier and tastier. As a bonus, blueberries contain a cancer-fighting substance.

If blueberries aren't to your liking, how about prunes (dried plums)? Some students in Colorado, Maryland, and Florida are biting into burgers that contain that fruit. School kids in 17 other states eat cherry burgers.

“You don't see the cherry, and you don't taste the cherry,” said Ray Pleva, a Michigan butcher who makes cherry-meat products. Pleva said many people at first are turned off by the idea of his fruit burgers. However, once they buy them and grill them, they say, “Wow, that was great!”