By following some easy, tasty tips, parents can help their children enjoy a delicious and healthy lunch, stay fit and trim and remain alert during the school day.
Getting kids to eat their fruits and vegetables has never been easy, but there are ways to make school lunches healthier and more appealing to kids.
There are so many options to help kids get the nutrition they need at lunch time. Lunch doesn’t have to be perfect. Providing a variety of healthy foods to help fuel your child is what is important. And if that means skipping the traditional sandwich for a variety of healthy, smaller, snack-type foods, that works too.
Save the sandwich for after school when kids are usually hungry. Just remember to mix it up and give them variety.
Fruit salads, light cream cheese on fruit and low-fat cheese on whole-grain crackers are healthy lunch options that can keep energy levels up throughout the school day. Baby carrots with a small container of vegetable dip, whole-wheat tortilla with turkey and low-fat yogurt are other good ways to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and provide the vitamins and nutrients children need.
As the obesity problem among children continues to grow throughout the nation, more attention is being placed on providing healthier options for school lunch menus. New nutrition standards went into effect July 1 as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, championed by first lady Michelle Obama.
School lunch menus will offer increased portions of fruits and vegetables and fewer foods high in sodium and fat. Even pizza is getting an overhaul with whole wheat crust now a requirement under the new standards.
Packing a lunch instead of buying one is a good way to give your child the right types of food. One of the most important things parents need to watch for when packing a school lunch is avoiding foods that are high in sugar. Instead of juice, pack a bottle of water. Make sandwiches using whole-grain breads instead of white bread, limit lunch meats that are high in fat and salt and opt for low or non-fat dairy products.
Incorporating more fruit and veggies into lunches also doesn’t have to be difficult. Add some banana slices to a peanut-butter sandwich. Cut up veggies with a side of low-fat dressing for dipping. Make snack-size servings of home-made trail mix using peanuts, soybeans, raisins, unsweetened dried cranberries, almonds, whole-grain cereal and coconut. It’s also important to have your kids participate in meal planning.
When kids are engaged in the preparation of their own healthy lunch, they become more involved and are more likely to eat it.
Katie Cornwall, Registered Dietitian, Kaiser Permanente Napa-Solano, a member of Solano Coalition for Better Health.