Giving your child money to purchase lunch at school might seem like an easy and convenient way to go, but it can come at a cost to his or her health. Learn the facts about school-prepared lunches—and discover the benefits of packing a homemade lunch for your child.
Switching to homemade, packed lunches—at least a few times a week—can have a positive impact upon your child's health and nutrition. However, there’s no way to be sure that what you’re packing in your children’s lunches is what they are actually eating: since foods can be traded and snacks can be bought from vending machines or local stores.
Help your kids to make the right choices by explaining how a nutritious lunch will give them the energy to finish the school day and enjoy after-school activities. And allow them to participate in choosing their favorite foods—recommending the healthier ones—so they’re more likely to eat them.
If you decide upon a packed lunch, some simple choices can make all the difference. For example, give your child’s lunch a nutritional upgrade by substituting a lean turkey on whole wheat sandwich for beef bologna on white, grapes for a fruit cup and homemade trail mix for cookies.
Compared side-by-side, the difference is clear: far fewer calories and less fat.
|Typical lunch||Nutritional upgrade lunch||Difference|
|980 calories||725 calories||255 fewer calories|
|48 g fat||13.5 g fat||34.5 fewer grams of fat|
|13.5 g saturated fat||2.5 g saturated fat||11 fewer grams of saturated fat|
Whether you pack a lunch or your child buys it at school, remember to follow these simple guidelines: Let whole grains reign, steer clear of packaged snacks and balance your lunch by including a mix of food groups for good nutrition.
For more information on making healthy decisions for your child, check out our Children & Teen Fitness offerings.
Sources: Children.WebMD.com, KidsHealth.org