Week #1 in Monthly Nutrition Series
Put Your Best Fork Forward: At School
~ Theresa Welt
Eating lunch has a huge impact on how children perform in school. When your child eats a nutritious lunch, they will have energy to learn the rest of the day. Put your Best Fork Forward at school by giving your child a nutritious lunch, its a great way to start healthy habits that can last a lifetime!
What foods should you include in your child’s lunch?
There are room for all food groups in your child’s lunch. Try using 100% whole wheat bread, whole grain tortillas, or english muffins for sandwiches or roll-ups. Add raw or cooked vegetables and fruits with your child’s favorite dip or peanut butter. Don’t forget dairy, pack a low sugar yogurt, a string cheese, or have your child buy a low fat milk at school. For a special treat, add a small homemade cookie, a whole grain granola bar, or a fun size candy bar.
What foods should I limit in my child’s lunch?
Foods that are high in calorie but low in nutrients are better in small quantities or avoided completely. Food items such as cheese puffs, snack cakes, fruit snacks, candy bars, toaster pastries, and non-whole wheat crackers do not provide valuable nutrients your child needs. Many of these items are also higher in salt and sugar than fresh, whole foods.
What should my child drink at lunch?
Water is always a great option to keep your child hydrated. If plain water is not your child’s favorite, try making your own flavored water with lemons, berries, or oranges. Encourage your child to drink low fat milk from school too. Limit intake of sports drinks, pop, and sweetened teas/juices. Whole fruit is preferred, however 100% fruit juice is an acceptable option.(6oz per day is recommended for children 1-6yr. 8-12oz per day is recommended for children 7-18yr.)
What if my child doesn’t like sandwiches?
Although sandwiches are a common lunch item, they are not required for a healthy lunch. Your child’s lunch can contain a wide variety of foods. Does your child like salad? Pack a large salad full of vegetables, shredded chicken, beans, salsa, cheese, etc. Does your child prefer pasta? Pack a container of whole wheat pasta with cheese and broccoli. Tortilla roll ups, whole grain cereal with yogurt, whole grain pita and vegetables with hummus dip, even whole grain waffles topped peanut butter and fruit are great lunch options.
What if I don’t have time to make my child lunch?
Most public school lunches are part of The National School Lunch Program and must meet guidelines set by the USDA. These guidelines require school lunches to have meal patterns and nutrition standards based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If packing a lunch every day is not realistic for you, your child’s school lunch is a perfect option for you.