News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Prioritize Healthy School Lunches

JCCHD | Sun, August 17, 2014 | [Family and Food][Healthcare]

Whether you buy a hot lunch for your child or pack a bento box, brown bag, or vintage metal Batman lunchbox, prioritizing a healthy lunch is critical. Eating a variety of healthy foods can give your child energy, improve their learning, and build healthy habits.

As you write out the to-do lists for back-to-school, make a plan to ensure your child will eat a healthy meal at school each day.

If you plan to buy hot lunches through your school, give the menu a close look and know what options might exist. Is there a salad or sandwich bar available? Are there ways to avoid less healthy choices that are full of sugar? Review the menu with your child and talk about the options, encouraging him or her to give the healthy foods a try. If you can, join your child in the cafeteria and talk about the menu options and how to make good choices.

If your child has food allergies, talk to the school and partner with the food services staff to come up with appropriate menu options. Make sure they know who your child is and are up-to-date about what alternatives may be available. Educate your child and teach them to speak up and ask questions about what they are eating. We know 4-year-olds who are not shy about speaking up about their allergies!

Angry Birds

If you choose to pack a lunch, add the appropriate supplies to your back-to-school shopping list. Bento boxes, Laptop Lunchboxes, and similar supplies all make packing up a healthy lunch quite easy.  Be sure your containers are BPA-free and easily cleaned. Get in the habit of making the plan in advance, either over the weekend or the night before, to avoid the last minute rush.

Include your child in the meal planning and preparation. If a child is involved in choosing their lunch, they are far more likely to eat it. There are several age-appropriate tools to help facilitate this process, or you can make your own.  Check out this chart as an example. There are many creative ways to make lunches from home more fun. Use cookie cutters to cut fun-shaped sandwiches, cut your fruits and vegetables into shapes, and throw in an encouraging note or love card.

There are many great resources online to help you avoid or break out of a lunch rut. Talk with your family about their preferences and learn what students around the world eat for lunch. Most importantly, have fun with it and use it as an opportunity to teach your child skills and lessons that will serve them for a lifetime.