Reading, Writing and Appetizing, Nutritious Lunches

By Natalie Ratz

It’s that time of year again — back to school! As parents and kids are getting the school supplies ready, and trading in the pool schedule for the fall sports and music schedules, it’s also time to ask “what are you going to have for lunch tomorrow at school?” Will it be hot lunch or a brown bag?

Both hot and brown-bag lunches can be nutritious and filling. While school lunch has gotten a lot of bad press, it can be a tasty and healthy option. In January, the USDA announced improvements included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010, which will help schools provide appropriate and healthful foods. Most schools will post their menus online with nutrition information. As a parent or caregiver, take a good look at the menus and ask:

  • Is there a fruit and vegetable offered at each meal?
  • Are whole grains offered?
  • How many times per week is dessert offered?
  • And — the most important question — will my child eat the food provided?

If your kids want a brown-bag lunch, try these tips to provide a nutritious and delicious meal:

  • Remember to make half of the “plate” fruits and veggies.
  • Choose lean meats (turkey, chicken) and whole grains (100 percent whole wheat bread)
  • Try to mix it up by cutting the sandwich with cookie cutters or using a whole grain wrap instead of bread.
  • Remember food safety! Pack foods that won’t spoil, use an insulated lunch box and send ice packs. You can also freeze the milk, yogurt or water, and it will thaw by lunch and keep the foods cold, too.

Check out these websites for more ideas:

Natalie Ratz, MS, RD, CNSC, LDN, is a nutrition support dietitian in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Rush University Medical Center.

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