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Healthy School Lunches

- By Greenshoot Media

More kids than ever before are obese and, for many parents, making sure their kids get a healthy school lunch is a priority. Healthy lunches also help keep kids from getting sick and ensures they can pay attention throughout the school day.

Review the Menu

Whether you’re packing a lunch or your child is eating school lunch, the Cleveland Clinic suggests reviewing the week’s menu with your student ahead of time. Talk to them about options and what would make for a healthy and balanced plate.

“This strategy gives parents a great opportunit­y to discuss the benefits of different meal options and why certain foods may be healthier and make them feel better than others,” Cleveland Clinic pediatric dietitian Jennifer Hyland says. “Plus, involving the child in any decision-making process typically leads to better outcomes and acceptance — and the meal-planning process is no exception.”

Packing a Good Lunch

Spend some time as a family picking out food that everyone likes, then rotate those options into your menu. This will decrease boredom and help ensure they actually eat their packed lunch, the clinic says. Start by asking what fruits and vegetables they would enjoy, but you may have to make some things more child-friendly. For instance, apple slices may be more appealing to young children than a whole apple. Have children pick one food from each category of protein, grains, fruit, veggies and healthy sides and snacks.

Mind the Drink

Watch out to make sure your children aren’t drinking their calories. Sodas and sugary sports drinks and juices may be the cool choice, but not the healthiest. Instead, encourage your children to pack water or unflavored lowfat milk. Freezing a small bottle of water and using it as both the drink and the ice pack works great, too. If you have to send juice, choose a four- or sixounce bottle of 100% juice.

Some of these strategies may be more time-consuming than many parents are used to, but remember that we’re building healthy habits for life. When children learn to eat healthy, balanced meals at a young age, it tends to be a practice that follows them into adulthood, helping them live a healthier life at a healthy weight.

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