Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How healthy is your child’s school lunch?

From the desks of Jessica Pech, CPNP and Michelle Maloney, CPNP

Parents may be surprised to discover that the majority of school hot lunches are full of unnecessary calories, fat and cholesterol and are simply unhealthy! It is important to teach our children how to make healthy food choices at home and in school.

By taking a few minutes from our busy routines to put lunch together will greatly enhance your child’s nutrition and reduce empty calories. Here are some ideas that make packing lunch easy!

  • Fresh fruit such as orange slices or an apple
  • Fresh veggies such as carrot sticks, green pepper or cucumber slices
  • Choose packs of baked chips over regular chips, pretzels or popcorn
  • Pack a water bottle or fill a thermos with 1% or skim milk in a thermos
  • Fill a thermos with hot soup instead of Spaghetti Os
  • Make sandwiches with turkey or grilled chicken rather than ham or salami and use whole wheat or 100% whole grain bread, rolls or pita breads instead of white bread.
  • Jello

Avoid packing:

  • Ready made packages such as Lunchables
  • Sweets such a candy bars or brownies
  • Juice boxes or cans of soda
  • Pudding
  • White bread or rolls
  • Butter

If your child is insistent on something sweet being in their lunch, we recommend that parents choose low fat chocolate milk over candy or desserts. The chocolate will satisfy their craving while the calcium, Vitamin D, protein, potassium and phosphorus will provide the nutrients they need to build strong bones. Milk of any kind is preferable to soft drinks and juice boxes and will help your child feel fuller and help maintain a healthy weight.

Limit hot lunches to 1-2 times per month. It will seem like a special treat, especially on days when kids can choose pizza, hot dogs or french fries. Remember the old rule of “everything in moderation” especially when it comes to junk food.

You are invited to find out more information about the future of school nutrition by attending a panel discussion on Wednesday, October 14th from 7 pm – 8:30 pm at the Whole Foods Market located at 2607 W. 75th St. in Naperville, Illinois.

Discussions will center on improving the nutritional value and quality of school food at local and national levels. Panelists are:

1) Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Campaign
2) Darlene Ruscetti of the DuPage Regional Office of Education
3) Local community leaders

This event is presented at no charge but registration is required. You may sign up at: to http://www.healthyschoolscampaign.org/event/2009/oct14.php.

For more information on chocolate milk, go to http://www.milknewsroom.com/latest.htm

Both Michelle and Jessica are part of our nutrition team.

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