Are Your School Lunches Healthy?

Studies have shown that good nutrition, improved hydration and proper sleep all contribute to academic success. One of the best ways to guarantee that the students in your home start the year off right is with a healthy and nutritious diet.

Parents can help their children in the area of nutrition by making sure they begin the day with a healthy breakfast. There is a variety of suggested nutrient-rich foods to choose from such as fruits and dairy, dairy substitute products, foods high in fiber and those with nutrient-rich whole grains.

Mary Pat Turon-Findley MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian in the Division of Nutrition Therapy at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center, advises that parents need to make sure their children have a healthy lunch. Many studies have shown that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches arent just more alert throughout the day, they also earn better grades than those who dont eat healthy, she said. Eating a balanced lunch also improves a childs ability to concentrate on afternoon subjects and decreases their chances of overeating and making unhealthy choices for their after-school snack. Many children do not drink enough water and should be encouraged to have water along with meals and snacks.

Plenty Of Healthy Nutrients

Meal planning and preparation is a great way to get kids involved and educated about why nutritious meals are so important. Discuss healthy food options and how they can take responsibility for packing their own lunch. Set a family goal to shop on the weekends and complete as much prep work with fruits and vegetables as possible. Go easy on fats and sweets and always include a lean source of protein and low-fat dairy.

Performance is improved and injuries are reduced with proper nutrition and hydration. Pack plenty of fluids and easy-to-eat snacks for kids who have sports or other activities after school. Pack easy-to-eat fruit, such as grapes, apple wedges, strawberries or chunks of melon. Include a dipping sauce made of yogurt or peanut butter to make this healthy meal fun and easy.

Be careful about what children drink because even 100 percent juice is loaded with sugar. Avoid drinks containing added sugar or caffeine. Encourage them to drink plain water or low-fat white milk - preferably grass fed and/or organic and non-homogenized - available at health food stores. Organic milk is the best dairy choice because it doesnt contain added synthetic hormones and antibiotics. Organic, plain yogurt is usually best because it has no added, refined sugars and there are no synthetic hormones or antibiotics.

Even if you pack a lunch for your child, the school lunch program can be a great supplement to food brought from home. Check out the menus from your childs school to learn what is being served for lunch.

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