As the school year is in full swing again, parents and children must start to think about 2 very important meals of the day: breakfast and lunch. For many families, these meals are eaten at school so it’s extremely important that the options are healthy and sufficient enough to support growth and development.
A recent article in the media noted that a small portion of school districts are discontinuing programs to provide healthy options at school. The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act mandated that schools offer healthy options based on set numbers of fruits, veggies, and grains being offered each day. It also limits the amount of calories that can make up the school lunch. Schools that have discontinued the lunch options have noticed that many students are choosing to go hungry and throw away the food, instead of eating things they either don’t like or aren’t used to eating. So what can parents do to be certain their children are getting a good balanced meal and breakfast and lunch?
- Prepare ahead of time. If your family has the resources to provide breakfast and lunch, plan ahead and have breakfast items that are quick ready in the morning. Get the help of you children to choose foods they enjoy, but try to limit sugary drinks, sweets, or high salt foods. For lunch, pack a lunch the night before so it’s easy to grab and go in the morning.
- Aim to have balance. Each meal should have a grain, fruit/veggie, dairy, and protein. If you notice that your child is only grabbing fruits to pack, that isn’t going to be enough to sustain them for the day. Include a variety of foods to eat.
- See what is offered at your child’s school. Look at the school lunch menu. It can be fun to look with your child and see that pears and sweet potato fries are offered each Tuesday especially if those are your child’s favorite foods. You can even make up a game to try a new food each month if your child doesn’t seem to like what’s on the menu. Challenge them, they might find a new favorite item!
- If your teen is an athlete and they need more than what is offered to get them through athletics, pack extra snacks. This way, they avoid going to local fast food or vending machines to supplement their lunch.
- If you don’t like the school menu, speak up. If you don’t like the options, get involved in your child’s school. Talk with the district and ask for changes. Schools want children to succeed and well balanced nutrition is the key to keeping our minds bright.