Attention mom and dad: School is almost back in session!
Whether that’s something to celebrate or not, now’s a good time to remind parents who pack their child’s lunch that a healthy noon meal is very beneficial – even critical – for active school kids.
“A healthy lunch provides the fuel kids need to stay focused and have energy for activities,” said Kristen Nagy, MS RD with Bon Secours in Motion. “Balanced meals can help improve cognitive function and concentration, as well as give them the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.”
A registered dietician, Nagy said that in the long-run, unhealthy meals can adversely impact a child’s overall health by contributing to poor eating habits, which in turn could have negative effects on their health in the future, even if a parent doesn’t see a problem now.
“Lunches that are lacking adequate nutrients could leave a child feeling less than satisfied, which could affect their ability to listen or concentrate, and to perform even simple tasks,” she said. “Also, packing foods that are high in fat or sugar could make a child feel sluggish or tired because of the way those foods are digested.”
When making lunch (or breakfast or supper) for your child, Nagy said parents should try to focus on putting together a balanced meal.
A good guide to follow is the “My Plate” portion sizes and food groups, which tends to include lean protein, whole grains, fruit, veggies, and dairy.
“Each of the food groups serves a purpose in the body and help to keep children nourished and satisfied,” she said.
A few online resources Nagy recommended include:
- Eatright.org, which she said has lots of ideas and articles on making balanced meals and tips for feeding children;
- The article “Banishing Brown Bag Boredom” is good for strategies on how to prevent food waste and keep kids interested in eating the healthy lunches that are packed for them;
- And ChooseMyPlate.gov also has a lot of helpful information, including where parents can explore types of foods to include within each food group.
Healthy school lunches – and healthier meals in general – can also help reduce the risk of a child becoming overweight or obese.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one-in-five children in the United States is obese.