Eating healthy lunches – it’s a great choice to make

November 12, 2012

Eating healthy lunches – it’s a great choice to make

Most of us are, no doubt, aware of the increasing numbers of overweight children in society – childhood obesity, with its attendant health problems, is something that affects children from all races and social backgrounds. Although many parents are fully aware of the need for a healthy, well balanced diet it may be all but impossible to monitor exactly what food choices are being made by children outside of the home. Even if you make your child a healthy lunches, it may be that they are supplementing it with unhealthy choices. If your child is one of the 26 million in the US who eats healthy lunches as provided by their school cafeteria you may be surprised to find that even though these are promoted as being ‘nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches’ they are often just the opposite. Research has shown that many school cafeterias offer menu choices with far too much cholesterol and saturated fat, not enough fibre, and little or no fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains or legumes. Even cafeterias that do offer healthy lunches often, in addition, also have a readily available supply of snack bars, pizzas, French fries, and sodas – not to mention the vending machines full of unhealthy snack options.

Education

Parents may well feel that controlling what children choose to eat at school is all but impossible – however, with careful education of your children about good nutrition it is possible to influence their food choices even when away from home.

Teaching your children about the benefits of choosing healthy lunches and the consequences of bad food choices is an important part of encouraging them to eat healthy foods even when you are not there to guide them. Parents may find the use of the so-called ‘food pyramid’ useful to illustrate exactly what constitutes a healthy diet. It is essential that children know and understand the value of eating a healthy, well balanced diet that contains a wide variety of foods from each food group. It is also essential to teach children the nutritional importance of eating fresh and whole foods rather than pre-packed and processed foods.

Campaign

If you feel that the cafeteria at your local school is failing to provide healthy lunches it may well be a useful exercise to join with other parents and campaign for the removal of vending machines full of junk food and the provision of healthy lunches for all children. Research clearly shows the benefits of eating lunch – as with eating breakfast – children who have eaten a nutritionally balanced lunch are seen to be more alert during the afternoon, more able to concentrate and have more energy. This is a useful fact to note if you are campaigning for healthier food choices in your school cafeteria.

Make your own

If you are unhappy with the food options available for your child at school it makes a sense to create your own healthy lunches for them. Making healthy, nutritionally packed lunches which also taste great is not difficult and if you involve your children in the choices and preparation they will, no doubt, feel more inclined to eat the food you have provided. A healthy lunch should provide around one third of a child’s daily nutritional requirements and this is easy to do by using whole grain bread, fresh fruit and raw veggie sticks, a healthy yogurt and fresh water or milk to drink. Avoid using pre-packed and processed lunch items, which tend to be expensive and nutritionally bereft.

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