School Lunch

Between The Bread: How Nutritious Is Your Child's Lunch?

Recent studies demonstrate that home-packed lunches are likely to be considerably less nourishing than the meals offered in schools that abide by current nutrition guidelines for the National School Lunch Program.  This is significant considering about 60% of children consume more than half their daily calories at lunch.  

Lunches brought from home contained fewer servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains than the national program mandates.  They contain more desserts, chips and sweetened drinks.  As published in the New England Journal of Medicine, lunches contain surprisingly few fruits and vegetables and little variety.  Potatoes accounted for 1/3 of vegetable consumption; consumption of refined grains was high and 80% of children consumed more saturated fat than was recommended and sodium intake was excessive in all age groups.  Children ate more than 500 excess calories from solid fats and added sugars per day.  

Of course, parents pack the school lunch box with foods their children like to eat.  This insures that they will actually eat the lunch.  However, this is exactly how we got into this epidemic of childhood obesity and disease-promoting eating habits in the first place.  These food addictions start in childhood and continue into adulthood.  Nothing is done in school to educate children about fostering healthy bodies and minds.  

If you would like to try to change your child(s) eating habits, get them involved...

1) Try taking  your children food shopping.  Buy them healthy fruits and vegetables - allow them to help you select the produce, weigh it, etc.  Make it fun!

2) Let them help you prepare the meals and the lunches.  Kids are adaptable and will eventually eat good foods if they are exposed to them.  There are various blogs and cook books dedicated to healthy, kid-friendly recipes.

3) Lead by example. If parents do their job at home by eating healthier foods along with making better choices for school lunches, the kids will adapt.  It does happen. 

Although your children may refuse to eat the new foods, it is better for them to complain, not eat and ultimately withdraw from the processed foods to which they have become addicted.  If you give them chicken nuggets, french fries and useless carbs and fats, that is what they will like to eat.    Like every change of habit or lifestyle, incorporating a bounty of healthier food options into your family's diet is hard work and may seem difficult but the rewards can be life changing.