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Hungry for a Change? 9 Tips to Ensure Healthy Lunches for Your Kids This School Year
With the start of the classroom bell comes the need to pack school lunches again. As the school year draws closer, some parents worry about their child’s food choices in the classroom and on the playground.
Jane Uzcategui is an associate teaching professor of nutrition at Syracuse University’s Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. She is also a registered dietician who specializes in lifecycle nutrition and medical nutrition therapy. Prof. Uzcategui says it’s important to remember lunch is a big part of your child’s day and will help them stay focused and reach high academic achievement.
Uzcategui recommends these nine tips to ensure healthy lunch options for kids:
- “Provide a source of protein. Protein helps to keep the mind sharp and bellies feeling full and satisfied. Include lean sources of animal protein such as turkey, chicken, ham, hard-boiled eggs or plant-based proteins such as peanut butter, almond butter or hummus. Finally, low-fat dairy is a great source of protein such as a Greek-style yogurt or milk in an insulated thermos.
- “Always provide a vegetable. Vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals that allow the body to use the energy in food. They also help to keep the immune system strong and prevent illness. One great tip that keeps it interesting is to provide different color vegetables. Try something red or orange such as carrots, tomatoes, or bell peppers twice a week. Other days include something dark green like a salad in a fun container or lettuce on a sandwich.
- “Always provide a fruit. Fruits are a great source of vitamins that keep the body healthy but also provide a natural sweet treat. Include your child in selecting different fruits. The usual apples, bananas and oranges are great but also think about others like kiwis, grapes, cut up melon or whatever else looks interesting in the produce section. Keeping fruit cool makes it more palatable as well.
- “Choose the snacks wisely. When you can, find whole grains, consider the added sugars in granola bars, fruit snacks and other snacks marketed to kids. Talk to your children about the nutritional value of whole foods. I like to tell my kids they should pick something they can recognize from nature whenever possible.
- “Consider leftovers from last night’s dinner in a thermos.
- “Use the internet to find creative meals. A Google search for healthy school lunches is a gold mine of ideas!
- “Use creative containers and keep foods hot or cold. Not only does this prevent foodborne illness it makes lunch more interesting.
- “Time is a great resource. Remember children don’t have a long time to eat lunch and they are easily distracted by catching up with classmates. Provide what they need to help them be efficient. Consider packages that are easy to open, include utensils and napkins in their lunch box.
- “Finally, don’t stress if your kid needs to buy school lunch. Research consistently shows that school lunches are more nutritious than most home-packed meals.
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