Wellness

The Value of Healthy Eating Habits

Recognizing National School Lunch Week, October 11-15, 2010

School lunchtime provides kids a break from classroom learning experiences. The lunch meal should supply kids with important nutrients to energize their minds and bodies for the remainder of the day. Too often this goal isn’t met due to the food choices kids make or the options available.

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A plate of piping hot French fries, fresh-baked roll and a soda may look appetizing for lunch, but it won’t provide the energy kids need to complete the activities of the day.

Whether the school lunch is packed or purchased, parents should spend time educating their children about the nutritional value of the foods they ingest. Consider these suggestions for improving the health value of lunch:

  • Purchased lunches—review the school lunch menu options in advance with your kids. Identify foods that provide the best nutrition, energy and health value, as well as those that are favorite choices.
  • Packed lunches—shop with your kids to choose a few items to include in their lunch, such as fresh fruits and vegetables or packaged applesauce or fruit. Encourage kids to try new foods. For beverage options suggest low-fat milk, water or 100 percent fruit drinks.

Instead of the traditional peanut butter and jelly or meat sandwich, look for interesting alternatives, such as pitas or wrap sandwiches with a grilled meat, lettuce and low-fat cheese. If bread is preferred, use a whole-grain selection instead of white. Other options to consider are whole-grain crackers with low-fat cream cheese or peanut butter, or a cold pizza made with low-fat cheese and pizza sauce on a whole-grain pita, tortilla or an English muffin.

And as you discuss lunch food items that develop healthy bodies, encourage kids to take good care of their oral health by brushing and flossing their teeth after meals to remove particles of foods that may be lodged between their teeth.

What are your kids’ favorite foods for lunch? How do you plan lunch menu choices? What advice on school lunches would you give to other parents? I’ll compile your responses in a future blog. –Karen

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