Healthy Eating for Children in Schools

Written by ann perry
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Healthy Eating for Children in Schools
Plan ahead to make a well-balanced lunch box. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Children eat a least two meals at school, and it is important that the foods consumed are healthy. Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, and is partly a result of poor nutrition. Being overweight or obese increases the risks factors for high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems and poor self esteem. Assist children in making healthy food choices by being aware of the food options available at school.

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Benefits

It is beneficial for children to eat a balanced diet both at home and at school. Healthy eating builds strong bones and muscles, lowers the risk of disease, provides more energy and increases children's concentration. A balanced diet not only consists of a combination of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean meats, but eating portion-sized meals also assists in maintaining a healthy weight. The availability of healthy food options at school can help children get the recommended daily food requirements.

School Breakfast & Lunch

School breakfast and lunch play a prominent role in children's dietary needs. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, approximately 8 million breakfasts and 28 million lunches are provided each day through the national school breakfast and lunch programs. Although the rising childhood obesity epidemic encouraged schools to offer healthier food selections, the typical school breakfast and lunch is high in fat and sugar, especially with à la carte items and in vending machines. In addition, many schools do not provide children with meatless, cholesterol-free foods such as vegetarian burgers, nuggets and chilli and soy taco pocket sandwiches. Schools can also improve on the vegetables offered by providing iron rich varieties like kale, collards and broccoli.

Healthy Choices

Parents and children can work together to make healthy food choices at school. Reading the cafeteria menu together helps determine what healthy options are available. Encourage kids to eat breakfast at home, or prepare healthy to-go options like granola or a fruit and yoghurt parfait. At lunch, kids should choose fruits and vegetables and foods that are baked or grilled, while limiting fatty foods like fries, hot dogs, pizza, cheese burgers and chicken nuggets. Although milk is the primary beverage at school, skimmed milk or 1 per cent milk are healthier options. Lactose intolerant kids can drink water, since fruit juices and sodas provide excess sugar and empty calories. Whole-wheat pastas and breads are also healthier than refined grains.

Packed Lunch

Packed school lunches provide parents more control of what their child consumes at school. It is a way to ensure that children are eating healthy foods, while adding variety to children's lunch options. In addition, a child's favourite foods can be made with healthier food substitutions. Packed lunches are also beneficial to children with food allergies. Teach kids to make healthy food choices by allowing them to assist in determining what foods to include in their lunch. Check with the school to determine if there are any restrictions on what kids can bring.

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