The month of August has recently been named Kid’s Eat Right month by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I find this quite fitting considering for most families, August is also back to school month. Of course, August is not the only month we need to focus on our children’s nutrition, but perhaps it’s a good time to refocus our efforts and renew our commitments to helping our children eat healthier.
Transitioning from summer to the school year can be a barrier or a benefit for families. Either we love the extra time in summer to dedicate to healthy eating or we eagerly await school time for a more structured routine to keep us on track with healthy eating. I know for many of us it comes down to a fine balance of having a solid routine and enough time to plan meals into that schedule.
August is a great time to commit to planning and ensuring that our children are getting well-balanced meal throughout the day. From toddler to teen, fuel from food is important for kids to perform well in academics and physical activities. A common concern this time of year is what are our kids are eating in the lunchroom. You are likely often wondering: What should I pack them for lunch? Will they eat what I pack them? Should they eat school lunch?
It’s important to consider what works best for your child and your schedule. Some parents find that allowing their children to eat school lunch saves on planning, shopping, and that precious morning time before you run out the door, but school lunches are unhealthy, over-processed, and down right mushy, aren’t they?
When we think of school lunch, we no longer need the image of the lunch lady scooping disintegrating brown broccoli and greasy chicken nuggets onto a plastic tray. Schools are taking mighty steps towards making meals healthy and more appealing to children, spurred by the government for the first time in 15 years. I would say these changes are long overdue.
One of the biggest changes I have noticed on school menus is the choices; not only are they healthier, there are more of them. Choices are important to help encourage children to eat healthier foods. When children have a choice between apples or grapes, they are more likely to eat the fruit when it was their personal preference. Take a look at your child’s school lunch menu this year. Of course you will find the old standbys like chicken nuggets and cheese pizza (which are now healthier versions), but you will also see that they are giving children more options for fruits and vegetables. Some schools even offer fresh fruit and salad bars. Even the entrees got a makeover and have seen a reduction in sodium, fat, and added sugars.
Of course, there are always more improvements to be made. If you think it’s hard pleasing your picky eater, imagine making menus for hundreds of picky eaters! Perhaps this year you can review the menu with your children, and let them pick a few days were the entrée looks appetizing. Talking about food options and allowing them to choose is a great way to get them more interested in making healthy choices whether it’s a school lunch or a home cooked meal!
For more information on Kids Eat Right Month check out: http://www.eatright.org/kids/