By Nutritionist Blogger Jeni Tackett, RD, LD
School has already started for some kids in the Quad Cities, and will soon for the rest. It’s time to think about how to pack your kids’ lunches. Let’s make the food healthier than ever for their growing bodies and brains!
For one thing, according to a report shared in the Wall Street Journal, a new study has shown that the body-mass-index measure (BMI) may not identify as many as 25% of children who have excess body fat.
Our kids are heavier than we thought!
For another, did you know that the average American consumes 132 pounds of sugar a year? Not only does sugar add inches to our waistlines, it has been implicated with taking a bite our of our brains.
So as school starts, here are some great tips for helping feed smart and strong kids!
Before you pack the first lunch:
1. Have the nutrition talk. We talk to our kids about drugs and sex and other bad things we want them to avoid. Talk to your children about eating healthy and why it’s important. Explain how to read a food label and why fruits and vegetables are so good for them. Explain why starting the day with a pop tart sabotages both their bodies and their minds!
2. Set a good example. Actions speak louder than words. If you want your children to develop healthy lifestyle habits then you need to show them how! I have a friend whose daughter needed to lose some weight, so she suggested that they start exercising together. Her daughter cried and stated, “If I need to exercise then that means you think I’m fat.” My friend asked her where she learned that from, and her daughter explained that every time her Mom wanted to lose weight she started to exercise. Kids are smart. They watch everything you do. You need to eat healthy and exercise regularly if you expect them to do the same.
3. Be informed. Have you seen what the kids are served for breakfast and lunch at school? Does anyone think an “uncrustable” – unless homemade – has any nutritional value? I have a friend who didn’t read the school breakfast calendar until her son came home with glaze all over his shirt. She asked where all the sticky glaze came from and he said, “From the giant glazed donut I got for breakfast!” She started reading the calendar after that. Let your school know how they can improve the breakfast and lunch program. If you’re not happy with what the school is serving then pack a healthy lunch for your children.
4. Provide a healthy after-school snack. Kids come home really hungry after a day at school. Many kids get in the habit of munching on junk food until dinner. Not surprisingly, they don’t have any room for broccoli at dinner! When your kids get home from school, make them a healthy snack and have them sit down at the kitchen table and eat. Kids who eat in front of the TV or while playing video games tend to overeat and not focus on their snack.
5. Buy healthy foods. Fill your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy snacks for kids. Keep a fruit basket on the table, keep cut up veggies in the fridge, and include your children in making healthy choices at the grocery store. If you have a busy evening, plan healthy quick meals such as whole-wheat pasta and steamed veggies. Eating healthy has to be a priority in a busy household!
Make tasty – and healthy – school lunches
- Pack mainly whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, meats, dairy products, whole grains, and nuts. Avoid processed and high-sugar foods like cake, cookies, chips, and candy.
- Balance the lunch: include some lean protein (lean meats, beans, tofu), a healthy source of carbohydrate (fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grains), and healthy fats (nuts, avocado, olive oil).
- Include a cold pack to keep cold foods cold! And invest in a good thermos to keep soups and chili hot.
Quick and yummy alternatives to the sandwich
- Red pepper hummus with baby carrots, celery, and whole-wheat pita triangles.
- Fat free Greek yogurt with low fat granola and sliced berries.
- Whole-wheat crackers, slices of low fat cheese, and grapes.
- A salad with diced chicken or hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas, and your child’s favorite salad dressing on the side (low fat ranch is a favorite with kids).
- Homemade soups made in bulk on the weekend and put in a thermos for a warm, comforting lunch during the week. Here are some healthy soup recipes: http://www.cookinglight.com/food/quick-healthy/healthy-soup-recipes
Finally, Healthy foods are just as tasty and fun as junk foods. Try cutting sandwiches into fun shapes. Cut up a variety of fruit for a colorful fruit salad. Include some low fat ranch dip or low fat whipped topping to make fruit and vegetables fun at lunchtime. With proper planning, your children’s diet can be high in fiber, fun and the nutrients they need to grow!
|Meet Jeni Tackett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Nutrition Blogger. Jeni is a registered and licensed dietitian for Unity Point-Trinity. Jeni counsels her clients on weight loss and nutrition. Read Jeni’s bio and other blog posts.|