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Healthy Kids' School Lunches

What do your kids eat at school for lunch?

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Updated January 26, 2008

What do your kids eat for lunch at school?

Although your kids may be eating well if they eat a balanced meal prepared in the school cafeteria or if you pack them a healthy lunch, it is increasingly likely that they are making poor choices and eating an unhealthy lunch, which may be one of the reasons that more kids are becoming overweight.

Many parents feel like they have a hard enough time working to get their kids to eat well at home and think they don't have any control over what they eat at school, but if you are aware of the choices they have, you may be able to influence what they eat. Or even better, influence what choices they have.

In most schools, competing with the relatively healthy choices the school cafeteria offers, are snack bars, a la carte programs that offer pizza and french fries, and vending machines with soda and snacks.

But do school cafeteria's really provide healthy lunches? If your child is among the '26 million children each school day' that eat the 'nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches' provided by the National School Lunch Program, you may think that they are eating healthy. But did you know that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Healthy School Lunch Campaign say that the 'menus served in school lunch programs are too rich in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fiber- and nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes'?

Still, eating in the cafeteria is probably a better choice than some kids make who might bypass the cafeteria altogether and head straight to a vending machine, which might provide a lunch made up of a bag of chips and can of soda.

Or better yet, if you are not sure your school is really providing a nutritionally balanced lunch, pack your own and send it to school with your child. Leftovers, or a sandwich with lean luncheon meat or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with some raw vegetables, a piece of fruit or other snack, plus some milk money, can make a fun and healthy lunch.

Be sure to keep your packed lunch safe though, by keeping everything clean when packing the lunch, keeping cold foods cold in an insulated lunch box, and hot foods hot in an insulated bottle stored in an insulated lunch box.

If you are having trouble planning your child's lunches, ask your kids for their input and let them help pack the lunch. You can also use the food pyramid as a guide and plan on the lunch providing about 1/3 of your child's daily vitamin, mineral, and calorie requirements.

And keep in mind that prepackaged lunches may be convenient, but they are often higher in fat, sugar and calories then meals that you might prepare yourself, and they are more expensive.

So, what do your kids eat for lunch at school?
Take our school lunch poll and see what other parents say.

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