Making Lunch-Making Fun!
Make sure the lunch is well-balanced. A well-balanced meal includes something from each of the food groups: dairy (preferably low-fat), meats (preferably lean) and beans, vegetables, fruit, grains (preferably whole grains) and oils (preferably unsaturated).
Here are some healthier alternatives for some kids' food favorites:
- Deli sandwiches-use chicken, turkey or low-fat meats, mustard or low-fat mayonnaise, and whole-grain breads.
- Pizza-use low-fat cheeses on whole-wheat pita bread or a corn tortilla.
- Peanut butter sandwich-switch celery sticks for the bread.
- Chocolate chip cookies-use oatmeal cookie dough.
- Potato chips-used baked versions or substitute nuts (but not candied versions).
- Fruit juices and soft drinks-use 100 percent juice varieties and water them down--or pack water.
Making Smart Cafeteria Lunch Choices
Read through the school's cafeteria lunch menu with your child and discuss what's healthy, what's not, and the health benefits of eating smart (for example, maintaining a healthy weight and preventing life-long medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease).
Smart food choices include low-fat milk, sugar-free soda, lean meats, steamed or grilled vegetables without butter, fresh fruit (with no added sugar), and sandwiches with whole-grain breads. Avoid fried foods and fatty, sugary desserts.
If you're concerned that the school's menu doesn't offer enough healthy foods and includes a disproportionate amount of fatty, sugary, high-calorie items, speak with the school's administrators. Suggest that they seek certification as a HealthierUS School Challenge School. For more information about this program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, visit HealthierUS Schools. Their web site also includes a Menu Planner for Healthy School Meals.
If you need help convincing school administrators to improve the quality of school lunches, contact the Healthy School Lunch Campaign sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). The PCRM Healthy School Lunch Team works with school districts and organizes meetings and presentations for school boards, PTAs and student groups to encourage school cafeterias to offer more healthy low-fat, cholesterol-free options.