SNP Smart Snacks in Schools

All foods and beverages sold at school during the school day must meet nutrition standards established from the Smart Snacks rule. The Smart Snacks in School regulation applies to foods sold (a la carte, in the school store, and vending machines) on campus during the school day. The school day refers to the period from the midnight before to thirty minutes after the end of the official school day.

Nutrition Standards for Foods

Any food sold in schools must:

  • Be a “whole grain-rich” grain product; or
  • Have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food; or
  • Be a combination food that contains at least ¼ cup of fruit and/or vegetable; or
  • Contain 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of one of the nutrients of public health concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber).1

Foods must also meet several nutrient requirements:

  • Calorie limits:
    • Snack items: ≤200 calories
    • Entrée items: ≤350 calories
  • Sodium limits:
    • Snack items: ≤230 mg2
    • Entrée items: ≤480 mg
  • Fat limits:
    • Total fat: ≤35% of calories
    • Saturated fat: <10% of calories
    • Trans fat: zero grams
  • Sugar limit:
    • ≤35% of weight from total sugars in foods

Nutrition Standards for Beverages

Allowable beverages for all students are limited to plain water (carbonated or un-carbonated), low-fat milk (unflavored) and nonfat milk (including flavored), nutritionally equivalent milk alternatives (as permitted by the school meal requirements) and full strength fruit or vegetable juices and full strength fruit and vegetable juice diluted with water (with or without carbonation), and no added sweeteners.

Beverage portion limits are as follows:

  • 8 fluid ounces for elementary schools
  • 12 fluid ounces for middle school and high schools (milk and juice)
  • No portion size limit for plain water

For high schools:

  • Calorie-free beverages are allowed in up to 20 fluid ounces portion (less than 5 calories per 8 fluid ounces serving or less than or equal to 10 calories per 20 fluid ounces).
  • Lower calorie drinks are accepted with up to 40 calories per 8 fluid ounces or up to 60 calories per 12 fluid ounces.
  • Caffeine is permitted in beverages.

Please note, with the exception of trace naturally occurring caffeine, beverages must be caffeine-free for elementary and middle schools.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation has created the Alliance Product Calculator which may be used to determine if a snack meets the nutrient requirements.

A La Carte

Schools may offer entrée items for sale as a la carte foods on the day they are served as part of the meal and the day after. Side items, snack foods, beverages, and any entrées not served as part of a reimbursable meal will need to comply with the nutrition standards, including calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits, in order to be sold to students in school.


There are special exemptions for the required nutrition standards. A detailed list of exemptions is available.

“Paired exemptions” are food items that are paired and packaged with other products (without added ingredients) that are nutrient dense and contain foods that meet the Smart Snacks requirements. The “paired exemptions” are items exempted from one or more of the nutrient requirements individually and packaged together without any additional ingredients, however, they are required to meet the calorie and sodium limits for Smart Snacks. An entrée item sold a la carte may not qualify as a “paired exemption.” The following are examples of “paired exemptions” that maybe served together as a Smart Snack:

  • Peanut butter and celery: peanut butter is exempt from the total fat and saturated fat requirements when paired with a vegetable or fruit and may be served if it meets the calorie and sodium limits.
  • Celery paired with peanut butter and unsweetened raisins: Celery and peanut butter have exemptions, and dried fruit may be exempt from the sugar limit. However, calorie and sodium limits still apply to the snack as a whole.
  • Reduced fat cheese served with apples: Reduced fat cheese is exempt from the total fat and saturated fat limits when paired with a vegetable or fruit, as long as the snack meets the calorie and sodium limits.

Additional information on paired exemptions is available.


Special fundraiser exemptions are allowed for foods and beverages that do not meet Smart Snack standards. These exempt fundraisers must not occur more often than the frequency specified by the state agency. In Tennessee, 20 days each semester are allowed as exempted fundraiser days per school.

Additional Smart Snack resources

1On July 1, 2016 foods may not qualify using the 10% DV criteria.

2On July 1, 2016, snack items must contain ≤ 200 mg sodium per item.