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.
Fruit salads, light cream cheese on fruit, and cheese on whole-grain crackers are healthy lunch options that can keep energy levels up throughout the school day, said Sharon Roller, assistant manager of Health Education for Kaiser Permanente in the Diablo area. Baby carrots with a small container of vegetable dip, pita bread and hummus and low-fat yogurt are other good ways to maintain healthy blood-sugar levels and provide the vitamins and nutrients children need.
“There are so many creative options for lunch,” Roller said. “Lunches have really evolved from just sandwiches and apples. The key is offering your kids variety while appealing to their individual tastes.”
As the obesity problem among children continues to grow throughout the nation, there is more attention 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.
But packing a lunch instead of buying one is still 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, 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 home-made trail mix using peanuts, raisins, dried cranberries, almonds and coconut.
“I also suggest that parents involve their kids in meal time preparation. Go to your local farmers market and sample a new fruit and/or vegetables together. Your child is more inclined to eat their lunch when they have had an active role in putting it together,” Roller noted.
For additional tips for parents on healthy eating, visit,kp.org/recipes .