Students need healthy lunches to get through school day
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Monday, July 30, 2012
7/30/12 at 3:53 AM
It's almost that time again - when your children grab their lunch bags and line up for what is among the most social, eventful and important times of the school day: lunch.
Second to breakfast, it's what keeps everyone powered through the day. And when done right, it sets your child up to be healthy, energized, alert and productive from morning announcements to class dismissal.
For young people, a healthy lunch incorporates a balance of carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, some protein and a measure of good fat, which board-certified pediatrician Scott Cyrus said is a good energy source. Think milk or cheese, if your student can tolerate dairy.
Or turkey breast on wheat with a little mustard.
Or a thermos of vegetable soup and side of low-sodium Triscuits.
Or grapes and peanut butter for a snack.
"It may be an odd combination to you, but if the child will eat it and it's healthy, that's a winning combination," said Cyrus, chief of staff at Hillcrest South.
What's important is the lunch's nutritional value, one that features few processed and sugary items and more that place emphasis on what a child will need to grow.
Items with calcium and Vitamin D for bone growth, proteins, grains, and fiber for regularity are among the necessities.
Earlier this year, the USDA rolled out new standards for federally funded school lunch programs calling for more fruits, vegetables and whole gains and less saturated and trans fat and sodium to address rising childhood obesity rates. Proposed menus could constitute a starting place for parents who pack their kids' lunches.
And with so many healthy food options available and ideas circulating with how to mix and match them, Cyrus said there are a lot of ways parents can help their children stay in the nutritional parameters they need to be in.
"Children eat what you buy," Cyrus said. "If you want healthy options, buy healthy options."
Look at labels. Talk with your children about different foods they like to eat.
One thing parents can do is work with children on likes and dislikes but still buy healthy items.
"I have children tell me all the time, 'I don't like bananas,' " Cyrus said. They'll tell him they don't like any fruits but then he'll ask if they like grapes. Oh, they like grapes.
All that to say, there is always some way to get your child to eat and eat healthy, even in the hours they are away from home. Pack what they like.
Peanut butter and jelly
The main course shouldn't necessarily be peanut butter and jelly, especially with peanut allergies growing among children. Still, the focal point of your child's meal should provide a source of protein, whether that be in the form of a portion of lean meat, your classic PB & J, a simple salad with sliced boiled egg or even tuna salad on whole-grain bread.
Realizing there's a good chance your child will turn his or her nose up at your brown wheat bread, companies such as Wonder have created lighter breads that mimic the nutritional value of whole-grain fare.
In fixing up those lunch sides, parents have the opportunity to guide their children in making healthy snacking choices. Pack in the fruits and vegetables: bananas, carrot sticks, celery, grapes, apple slices, oranges, a small fresh fruit salad or vegetable mix, cheese cubes and a few whole-grain crackers.
Cyrus said water is the best option. And if not that, a low-sugar or sugar-free option or skim milk. Even if the milk has chocolate in it, that's still a better option than fruit juice.
Juice is something people are idealistic about, Cyrus said.
Just because a fruit juice has vitamin C in it doesn't mean it doesn't also have a high amount of sugar, which can cause any number of problems.
If your student will be participating in the school lunch program, which at the public school level must meet federal standards, talk to him or her about making good food choices. Help kids choose things that are grilled, instead of hamburgers and pizza, picking up the day's serving of fruits and vegetables and making sure to add in some carbs - often a whole-wheat bread option.
The lunch hour can be a great time for so many reasons, but start exploring what your child will eat and what is healthy now.
Original Print Headline: Students need proper lunches to stay healthy
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
A reusable sandwich bag is made from dishwasher-safe, food-safe fabric. LUNCHSKINS / AP