Are Packed Lunches Always Healthier?
Communities around the country have placed a strong emphasis on healthy school lunches. However, up to 40 percent of the lunches that children consume at school are brought from home. A new study shows that most of those lunches do not meet the dietary guidelines set out by the National School Lunch Program.
“A balanced lunch should include some kind of protein, whole grains, fruit, dairy and vegetables,” said Heidi Shoemaker, Registered Dietitian with Renown Health. “If your child does not like vegetables, at least pack some fruit. Strive for balance in your children’s meals.”
And while fresh foods like dairy and meats can be perishable, there are ways to make sure they stay cool and safe throughout the day. “Try freezing fruit, like grapes or melon pieces the night before and packing in an insulated pack or cooler,” adds Heidi. “Not only will it keep lunches cool, but it also makes a great desert.”
Parents can pack the healthy lunches, but still cannot be there to make sure their kids eat them. However, variety can help to ensure that they do. “Try using cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes,” adds Heidi. “Use raisins or dried cherries on peanut butter instead of jam. But the biggest thing you can do to ensure your child eats health is to set a good example. If you tell Johnny to eat his broccoli while you are eating potato chips, chances are he won’t want to eat the broccoli.”
Kids’ Packed Lunches Often Fall Short of Dietary Guidelines
Packed lunches that children bring from home are often missing the vegetables, milk and other healthy items recommended by dietary guidelines, says a new study.
More than 40 percent of U.S. kids bring their own food to school, but there have been very few studies of what kids have in their lunchboxes, the authors note.
For the new study, they examined the lunchbox contents of 626 third and fourth graders who attended 12 public elementary schools in Eastern Massachusetts.
“Most of the foods we saw were pre-packaged salty snack foods and sugary desserts – we saw much less fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy,” lead author Kristie Hubbard told Reuters Health in an email.
She is a researcher and registered dietitian at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.
“The findings highlight the challenges associated with packing healthful items and the opportunities for nutrition experts to help parents and kids pack lunches and snacks that are healthy, convenient, cost-effective and taste good,” Hubbard said.
About 48 percent of the students in the study brought lunches from home, and 97 percent of those lunches included a snack, the researchers report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. [...]
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