Tips for Healthy School Lunch
It's easy to make sure kids are choosing and eating healthy foods at school. Anyone can take time to talk with kids about food, ask school administrators about what's really in school lunch and make quick and easy school lunches using fresh, healthy, local ingredients.
Here are 10 ways to ensure school lunch gets top grades:
1. Ask about school lunch.
Talk with kids, administrators and policymakers about what students are eating for lunch. The low-cost, processed meals often found in school cafeterias can easily be replaced with healthy, fresh foods that are comparable in price.
2.Support lunchroom learning.
Lunchtime is not a time when students should stop learning. Encourage cafeteria staff to interact with students by discussing food choices, offering local alternatives and providing nutrition advice. Students will learn about the benefits of making healthful food choices.
3. Explain how food is grown.
Kids need to know that all food does not come out of a box, as many school lunches might. Show kids how food is prepared and talk with them about where food comes from to help them become aware that farmers grow fresh food that tastes good.
4. Spread the word about school lunch.
Demonstrate how easy it is to pack fresh foods by sharing preparation tips with other parents. Encourage school lunch advocates to challenge soda and candy vending machines in the lunchroom and promote replacing these junk foods with fresh food alternatives at the next school board meeting.
5.Demand change at the district level.
After the USDA approved irradiated meat as an ingredient in school lunch, concerned parents and citizens in New York and Los Angeles spoke out and the decision was reversed. You can do the same by demanding that schools feature fresh, healthy menus in the cafeteria and offer students nutrition education at lunchtime.
6. Promote diverse foods.
Teach kids about diverse foods by encouraging them to understand and ask questions about what they are eating. Introduce kids to seasonal, regional foods so they will understand that different foods grow at different times of the year.
7. Teach kids about nutrition.
Kids feel rewarded when they know they've made the right choice and they understand why. Teaching your family about calories, food groups, food processing and portion sizes will help them take control over their own eating habits.
8. Talk to kids about what's healthy.
Prepare a fresh, healthy, local dinner with your kids at least once a week. Talk about the benefits of eating healthful foods while cooking with kid-friendly ingredients like mashed sweet potatoes and star fruit.
9.Pack a lunch that's "do it yourself."
Pack a healthy school lunch that's fun by filling your kid's lunch box with fresh, local ingredients they can mix and match. Mimic the marketing tools food manufacturers use to target school-age children with healthy alternatives.
10. Get excited about exercise.
Next to a healthy, nutritious lunch, physical education is the most important part of the school day. Advocate for a school wellness program that includes nutrition education, healthy food choices and physical activity.