Eating a healthy lunch gives students the mental energy to focus on schoolwork in the afternoon. Whether children “brown bag” their lunch or select it from the school cafeteria, it’s important to include all the food groups to ensure a nutritious meal.
“A school’s food service team must follow state requirements to provide a balanced meal,” explained Victoria Stewart, Newark Public Schools Health Coordinator and a registered dietician. “Children are offered a hot or cold lunch, each comprising carbohydrates, protein, vegetable, fruit, and milk. The key is encouraging children to eat it.”
The same components should find their way into a lunch a child brings from home. Stewart advises making the nutritious choice — whole wheat or multi-grain in place of white bread — and packing sandwiches with lean meats like turkey or chicken, instead of bologna. Substituting string cheese or peanut butter for meat is also a wise alternative.
What the adult eats will guide what the child eats. Parents and guardians who eat a nutritious lunch set an example for their children. Kids who watch an adult eat a piece of fruit or munch on a carrot are more apt to try it themselves.
Stewart advises getting involved in what is served at your child’s school: “Schools publish their menus so look at what’s available and if you don’t see enough healthy and balanced choices, speak up. Talk to the food service manager, the principal or the school’s wellness committee.”
Become an advocate for good nutrition—in the home and the school. You have a voice in what children eat.SHARE: