Home Packed Lunches
By Jodie Parus, RD, LD
There were times in middle and high school when I would have macaroni and cheese, fries, or chips for lunch. After I obtained one of those items from the cafeteria lunch line, I would then get a soda and sometimes even an ice cream from the vending machines that were situated right in front of the cafeteria tables. With such enticing items staring down a pre-teen or teen, how are they to refrain?
Of course laying a foundation for your children to make healthy choices is the first step. Having an open dialog about nutrition, health, wellness and the effects the foods you eat will have on your body. The challenge remains of ensuring that your children's nutrition does not derail when they walk out the front door of their home.
Schools are working hard to upgrade their lunch programs, but they are often held back in their attempts due to budget constraints. The pizza, fries, and chips are going to remain in the picture and it is all too easy to pick the less healthy choice. Packing a lunch can help
Packing a lunch allows your child to avoid the long lunch lines. This will provide them with ample time to sit down and enjoy their healthy lunch, rather than having five minutes to hurriedly consume it.
Another advantage of having a lunch from home is that your child will have much greater variety in their diet. As mentioned, in a school cafeteria you will often see the same foods pop up on the menu, as they are in a short rotation. Providing an array of foods will supply a multitude of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Depending on the activities planned for the day, an appropriate lunch can be packed accordingly. If your child has a sporting event after school, extra snacks can be packed to provide lasting energy.
The cafeteria is a social place for pre-teens and teens, so they will want to be part of the scene. Allow them to eat a school lunch once or twice a week, knowing they are armed to make healthy choices. On the other days, they can bring their lunch packed with some of their favorite foods from home.
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