Why Salsa Is Officially Considered A Vegetable By The USDA

A fact that everyone should know: salsa is a vegetable, or at least the United States Department of Agriculture considers it one. Perfect on tacos, as a dip, or mixed into dishes for a spicy punch, we can all feel good next time we are stuffing our faces with tortilla chips and that side of salsa. Also worth noting, fruit salsa falls into this category! As good as it makes us feel to know we are getting our veggies in, where it really matters is for schools.

In an attempt to make school lunches healthier or, let's be honest, cut costs, there was a push during the 1980s to reclassify ketchup as a vegetable. In the end, the legislation wasn't passed, and one of America's favorite condiments lost its fight and stayed just that, a condiment. In 1998, however, things changed, and another condiment took center stage: salsa (via CBS News).

So, why did salsa make the cut?

According to the Chicago Tribune, schools are required to give the children certain allotments of food groups, including two servings of fruit or vegetables. The drive to have salsa reclassified started in the West and Southwest, where it is consumed frequently. Unlike its friend, ketchup, which usually contains high amounts of sugar, salsa is primarily made from tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, vinegar, and spices. Because of this, the USDA ruled salsa a vegetable, and starting in 1998, schools could serve ⅛ cups of salsa to its students to count for a serving of vegetables. It must be noted, though, that not all salsas are created equally. Lower-grade salsas that use modified food starches, stabilizers, or gums, don't count as vegetables.

You may be thinking, "why is this important"? Schools had been making salsa in their kitchens long before this ruling was made, but it wasn't until this rule passed that salsa, or its ingredients, were considered refundable by the federal school lunch program. Even today, salsas are still packaged and categorized as vegetables by the USDA. So, next time you're packing your kid's lunch or serving yourself a snack, remember that salsa is a perfect way to get in your vegetables.