Packing a healthy lunch during the school year can be a daunting task. Between homework, extracurricular activities, and the chaos of the start of the school year, people can agree that packing a lunch, let alone a healthy meal, isn’t always a top priority.
However, to make the most out of students’ school days, they need food to keep them focused, driven, and nourished. It all starts with a healthy meal. If your child is opting out of the hot lunch that the school serves, it is on parents, guardians, and/or students, who are capable, to pack their own meals.
To equip students with foods that fuel their bodies, this school year, UW-Extension’s Jillian Frideres, M.S., the FoodWIse Nutrition Educator of Racine and Kenosha shares ways to ensure you know your child is eating healthy by packing a nutritious lunch.
1. Use online resources
The U.S. Department of Agriculture improves the nutrition and well-being of Americans through various avenues including MyPlate. The food guidance system assists people to understand ways to eat healthier.
Frideres says, “use the MyPlate tool, as a visual of the five food groups and how they should ideally be proportionately eaten for health.”
2. Meet the mark
“Try to get/serve at least three of the five food groups in every meal,” states the Nutrition Educator.
The 5 food groups are:
When packing lunches, make sure you pack at least three of the five food groups. Discuss which foods your child likes and which category they fit into. You can find more details about what foods are in what category by clicking on the name.
3. Pack water
“Drink water! Water should be the drink we turn to most often, and for many people in our area, it is perfectly fine to drink right out of the tap,” says Frideres.
Instead of packing your child various juices, sodas, teas, or other sports drinks, choose water for your child. Water is the ultimate go-to. Use a reusable water bottle so that your child can continually fill the bottle throughout the day.
Students with hot lunch
If you aren’t packing a lunch and your student is taking school’s breakfast and/or hot lunch, be confident that they are getting their nutritional needs met.
“If your child eats his or her school’s breakfast and/or hot lunch,” says Frideres, “know that there are federal nutritional requirements that must be followed related to variety of food groups, limits on saturated fat and sodium content, etc.”
Talk about it
Having a conversation with your children is important. Keep an open discussion about what they eat during the day while away from home. If they are not receiving certain food groups while at school whether from hot lunch or lunch packed from home, implement the foods they miss at home.
She says, “if you know your child likely would not have touched the vegetable on the menu today at school, try to provide a vegetable you know they like at home for dinner.”
Parents and guardians can also discuss concerns they may have with their student’s teacher or lunch room staff.
Other important lunchroom topics to discuss with your children before the school year is their allergies or food sensitivities, any medical information that may impact their experience in the lunchroom, and manners.
Read more by visiting our school news section below.
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