One of the most basic facts regarding health and fitness is that food choices matter. That’s certainly true for adults, but even more so for growing children. With school back in full swing, loving parents want to ensure their kids eat healthfully in order to provide the nutrition they need.
Look at the Menu
Of course, most school dieticians know food matters, too, so today’s hot lunch is not like the fish sticks or pizza that most parents remember. A few positive changes have been made:
- Federal guidelines mandate portion sizes based on age, so older kids will get more than the grade-schoolers.
- A school hot lunch must contain less than 30 percent of the daily recommendation of fat and less than 10 percent of the saturated fat allowance.
- The lunch must have at least one-third of the child’s RDA for protein and essential vitamins.
Schools now offer healthier choices for lunch. But does the updated menu go far enough? There is only one way to know. Check the lunch menu each day. If your child doesn’t have a copy, then contact the school and ask for one. That way you’ll know whether eating the hot lunch offered there is truly a healthy choice.
Pack a Bag Lunch
If you are not impressed with the school’s hot lunch system, then pack a lunch for your child that matches your nutritional strategy. Focus on making lunch colorful with fruits and vegetables. Provide fun choices like a rainbow sandwich using whole wheat bread, hummus and colorful veggies, for example.
Consider your child’s food desires, too. Otherwise, they will be looking to trade for less healthy choices. If your child loves tuna fish, for instance, put it on whole wheat with light mayo or better yet, use hummus instead of mayo.
Plan ahead so you have all the right ingredients ready to pack. Scrambling for lunch items at the last minute will often lead to settling for unhealthy choices. Save time by preparing all the main dishes at the beginning of the week and then storing them in airtight containers. Give your child a lunch box or personalized bag that they love, too, to make sure that the lunch gets carried out your door.
Supporting your child’s nutritional needs with healthy lunches will create good eating habits and also provide the necessary building blocks for a strong and active life.
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