It’s that time again. Time to think about reading, writing, and arithmetic. But are you thinking about school lunches? If not, you might want to give it some thought. Lunch represents one third of the food consumed by students each day. And today, one in three children and adolescents, ages 2-19 are overweight or obese. Providing healthy options during lunchtime can set positive patterns and habits for a lifetime to come.
The American Heart Association offers tips and heart-healthy ideas for your student.
Keep it simple. Portable and pre-sliced items are usually preferred by kids. Try sliced cucumbers, fruit slices such as apples or pears, and strive for a variety of colors and textures to keep it interesting.
- Make it interesting. Individual dips such as hummus, peanut butter (without added sugars and salt) are great with celery, sliced sweet peppers or whole grain crackers. Apples and pear slices with non-fat plain yogurt is a great heart-healthy option for a sweet tooth.
- Make a smarter sandwich. Use different breads like 100% whole grain breads, tortilla wraps and whole wheat pita pockets. They are more nourishing and are the better choice over white breads.
- Make it fun. When the kids are bored with their sandwiches, cutting them in to shapes is an easy way to make it interesting again. Cookie cutters can be used to cut shapes and chances are you already have them in the kitchen.
- Family time. Planning and preparing lunches together gives kids the opportunity to talk about their food choices and learn about nutritious decisions. By helping in the kitchen they are more likely to eat it and it’s a great way to spend time together as a family.
- Stay fresh. Avoiding packaged foods will cut down on the amount of sodium your kids consume. For example, instead of canned fruit or fruit snack packs in syrup – make a fresh fruit salad.
- They’re Sweet enough. Limit added sugars. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars. Soda, sports drinks and energy drinks and fruit drinks are full of sugar. Look for low sugar alternatives, but plain water is the best choice.
- For more information on keeping kids healthy, visit heart.org/healthykids.
- Now that you have your kids making and eating healthier choices, make sure they are staying active. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. The American Heart Association recommends all children age 2 and older should participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day. This can easily be broken down to two 30-minute periods or even four 15-minute periods. Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults, so get them moving today for a healthier tomorrow.
For more information on keeping kids healthy, visit heart.org/healthykids.