Here's one that may make you pause. A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics indicates lunches brought from home are often less healthy than those served in America's school cafeterias.
Researchers found that home packed lunches for elementary and middle school students living in the Houston area were higher in fat, sodium, and calories than the lunches served in the schools. They lacked adequate fruits and vegetables and often contained salty snacks, sweet desserts, and sweetened beverages, which aren't permitted in school cafeterias.
Do you need to create a healthier lunch for your child? Here are some tips:
- When you go grocery shopping, pick out easy to prep vegetables that kids love: baby carrots, red or orange peppers, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, baby cucumbers. I like to prep my vegetables on Sundays and grab them throughout the week as I pack lunches
- Include fruits as your sweet treat: sliced apples, clementines, grapes, strawberries, and bananas are favorites
- Choose whole grain bread for sandwiches
- For protein, try sending in a hard boiled egg or chicken strips
- Strain some of the liquid from a favorite soup and send it in a thermos
- Invest in some ice packs so you can send milk to school, or have your child buy his milk when he gets there
- Skip the chips and pretzels and instead include healthy extras like nuts, cheese cubes, applesauce without sugar, dried fruits, and Greek yogurts