School lunches have changed a lot in 10 years and many are evolving to include better choices.
“We are changing, slower than a lot of nutritionist perhaps would want,” says Grace Ricci, a registered dietician at
Ricci gave us three easy ways parents can keep their children eating healthy away from home.
“I really feel that it needs to be a homemade lunch as opposed to going to somewhere and buying a pre-packaged lunch,” says Ricci.
Many prepackaged foods can be high in sodium and fat without many nutrients. The first change Ricci suggests is to change the bread in your child’s lunch from white to whole wheat or whole grain.
“It's no extra time on your part,” says Ricci, “double check and make sure the ingredient list lists 100-percent whole grain or whole wheat as a first ingredient.”
The next change is in beverages. Low-fat milk or water are the best choices for lunch. Juice boxes and juice-flavored drinks are considered a “no-no” by nutritionists. The
“Not a lot of juice boxes, juice is not bad but it's literally a lot of sugar and not a lot of other things,” says Ricci.
Finally, a piece of fresh fruit is a must for any healthy lunch. Fruit cups and fruits snacks are not adequate substitutes for fresh fruit because, like juices they are laden with sugar.
“I think if your kid has to actually peal the orange, they have more appreciation of the fruit itself, there's nothing like a fresh orange,” says Ricci.
Snacks are ok in any lunch, just keep it small.
“We can't eliminate all snacks so again, keep it to a minimum,” says Ricci who even encourages parents to, if they have time, bake their own cookies and snacks so they can better control the amount of sugar and salt.
If your child wants to eat school lunch, sit down and read the menu ahead of time and figure out which days are the healthiest to eat at school and which are better to pack a lunch.