It’s that time of year again – back to school for the kids and back to structure and routine for the parents. The fall brings not only a temperature change, but also a change in foods available. This fall, for all the parents out there, let’s consider what we are feeding our kids while they are at school. There are hundreds of options out there. Let’s think about how we can get healthy, nutritious food into our children’s bodies, through the delicate game of give and take, while planting seeds for lifelong patterns of healthy eating.
In most schools, kids are required to pack a snack and either pack or buy a lunch everyday. The giant food companies like Kraft, Frito-Lay, are aware that America is becoming more health conscious and have started making their foods in 100 calorie packs in an attempt to appeal to parents and give the sense that their snack are “healthier” than before. All you have to do is throw it in their backpacks! There are also those little gems like “Lunchables,” that have made it easy for parents to give to their kids for lunch. My goal is to show parents that there are other choices out there, even though they aren’t as convenient, that your kids will learn to appreciate.
Before I get into the choices, it is important to bring up the subject of bought school lunches. This is a huge topic, one very near and dear to my heart. There is a big movement going on in this country to get healthier choices to kids in the cafeterias throughout the United States. Generally speaking, there are healthy options for the kids, but your challenge as a parent will be getting your kids to make these choices while they are at school – without you encouraging them. If you are a parent who has your kids eat from the cafeteria, I urge you to be an active participant as to the choices they are making. Ask them questions about their choices, without being pushy (a delicate balance). If possible, early in the school year, try and take a quick trip to the cafeteria when you drop them off to school and have a conversation with the lunch staff. If you have ever done this, they really do enjoy talking about what is going on with the food, where it comes from, and how the kids make their choices.
Moving forward to the lunch makers, I have one food rule that I encourage all of you to impress upon your children. At every meal or snack, there must be at least one “live” or “growing” food. This teaches the kids the value of fruits and vegetables, and for you, you’ll know the kids are getting important nutrients in their bodies. A favorite snack of mine is popcorn (air or stove popped, not microwave) and an apple. Popcorn is a whole food, and an apple is a perfect mid-morning snack to compliment it. They will get plenty of fiber, filling them up allowing them to focus and concentrate until lunchtime. On the other hand, if they were to eat one of those 100 calorie packs of whatever, it may only have 100 calories (who cares?) but is filled with 15 plus ingredients that will not only leave them unsatisfied, but may also send them into sugar shock. Of course this leads to a hard time focusing and concentrating on their schoolwork.
As for lunch, try as hard as you can, to not pack the same thing every, single day. Parents can get in the habit of this, and it is not in the best interest of cultivating a healthy eater. I do believe in giving your kids foods they will be successful with. So if it starts the first few weeks that all they will have is a turkey sandwich, so be it. Just rotate the live or growing food you match with it (if you have kids that like fruits and vegetables). I always give in a bit with potato chips at lunch, but I almost never pack them dessert. There is really NO need for them to be having something sugary after they eat. Believe me, by eliminating this habit; your teachers will thank you, and your kids will become calmer more efficient students.
If you have a child who will not eat vegetables, no matter what, stick with fruit at school, and work on getting vegetables in their bodies at dinner. Start slowly, experiment, be patient, and before you know it, there should be at least one veggie he/she likes! Remember that concept that it takes 15-20 tries before a child learns to like a new food.
Moving forward, a few “out of the box” lunchbox ideas for the kids are:
-Burrito (whole wheat tortilla, black beans, salsa, grated cheese), cucumbers, tortilla chips
-Turkey sandwich on whole wheat, carrots or bell peppers, popcorn
-Almond and apple butter sandwich on whole wheat, green beans, potato chips
-Whole wheat pita filled with hummus, celery and veggie chips.
I know some of these may be a bit of a stretch for your kids, so start slowly. Enforcing healthy eating habits takes a long time, so stay committed, be patient, and feel confident that you are creating life long health habits.
I wish you all a successful transition into the school year. If you have questions about this blog, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please visit my website: susanaltman.com. Lastly, if you are on Facebook, “like” my Susan Altman Health Coach page. Every weekday I send out a “tip of the day.”
Thanks for reading!
To you health,