Big Apple paring down with healthier city meals

By: AP
By: AP
The Big Apple is trying to pare down.

An oil tanker makes its way through New York Harbor past the Manhattan skyline on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008. Oil prices rose above $119 a barrel Thursday on fears that Tropical Storm Gustav could strengthen on its way toward crude and natural gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and refineries in the Gulf area. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Big Apple is trying to pare down.

New York City launched its first formal food standards Friday, mandating less frying, lower salt and more fruits and vegetables in the millions of meals city agencies serve in schools, senior centers and jails.

"All of the walking that we New Yorkers do helps us to stay fit and trim, but it is not enough - in fact, we are suffering from an epidemic of obesity, just like the rest of this country," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference. "We really have to do something about this."

Obesity and diabetes are the only major health problems getting worse in New York City, health officials said.

The 66-year-old mayor, who is a bit of a health nut, has already banned artery-clogging trans fat oils in restaurants and required that chain restaurants put calorie information on their menus.

His new targets are the 225 million snacks and meals city agencies serve each year. Food vendors will have six months to meet the requirements, which city officials called the first of their kind in the nation.

The rules, put in place by executive order, say each meal must fall within an appropriate range of calories, sodium and fiber.

Juice must be 100 percent fruit juice, with recommended servings of 8 ounces. Lunches and dinners must include at least two servings of vegetables - preferably fresh or frozen, not canned. Agencies that provide three daily meals must include at least five servings of fruit and vegetables for the day. Deep fryers will be phased out, the city said.

The new standards do not apply to food sold in vending machines or concession stands on city property.

Some agencies already have started serving healthier fare. The school system eliminated trans fats in 2004 and has made other moves, such as replacing white flour pizza dough with whole wheat.

Not every city cabinet and fridge is being cleaned out, however. Bloomberg's own stash of snacks that he provides - on his dime - for his City Hall staff featured a number of less-than-healthy options in a recent examination.

Candy bars, potato chips, soda and whole milk, which the mayor likes for his coffee, were on hand next to healthier fare like vegetable juice, bananas, grapes, sliced strawberries, whole wheat bread, popcorn and crudite.

But those snacks aren't served to the general public.

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