With back to school season in full swing, packing school lunches is on the brains of many parents. With all of the debate and discussions surrounding school lunches, more and more parents are taking on the responsibility of packing their child’s lunch rather than purchasing through the school lunch program. Although many school lunch programs have made great strides recently to provide healthier options to students, the reality is that many still fall short due to factors like a lack of funding or inappropriate standards set for the lunch program. By packing a student’s lunch, parents can rest assured about what their child is eating each day while they are at school. But, is this really beneficial? Many parents don’t always know how to choose the right foods that will fuel their child through the entire school day. Look at what many adults choose to eat on a daily basis; it’s not hard to see where parents may not always be equipped to make the best choices for school lunches. That’s where it’s our role as dietitians to educate parents on making healthy food choices; both for the parents and for their children.
As many of us already know, packing school lunches on a daily basis is a huge commitment. If you take the time to make sure that your children are getting the right amount of foods from each food group, changing up meal options enough to keep them excited and keeping the pantry stocked with all the right foods to make it happen, you quickly find that it’s much easier to just have your child purchase a school lunch. But, we’ve got a couple of tips to ease the burden and make this important task a seamless part of your everyday schedule. As a dietitian, these are great tips to share with clients.
- Create a Plan: If you’re the type of person who thrives on a schedule, make a meal plan a week or two in advance. If you have a list of common meals that your family enjoys, you can just pull from that list to fill your meal plan. Be sure that you have slots for each food group under every meal. Fill these slots with MyPlate in mind to create a balanced plate for every meal. Then, use your meal plan to create a grocery list. You’ll be amazed at how simple it is to look at your meal plan and make what it says. There’s no guessing or thinking involved. You just read it and do it!
- Pack Meals in Advance: Depending on the lunches you’ve chosen, you can prepare the meals ahead of time. Many times you can take some time on Sunday afternoon and get all your lunches for the week packed and ready to go. If you’ve chosen fresher options, it may be a little more difficult. But, always plan to pack lunches in the evening so you can simply ‘grab n go’ in the morning.
- Always Remember MyPlate: Sometimes it’s hard to look at a blank slate and start filling in a meal plan or packing a school lunch. But, if you keep a copy of MyPlate hanging in your kitchen, just begin going around the plate choosing foods that fit in each food group. For example, as I go around the plate, I can easily fill it with 1 slice of whole wheat toast, peanut butter, green beans and grapes. Top it off with a glass of milk or yogurt and voila, we have a full meal that is packed with everything a student needs to stay energized throughout their day at school.
Like I said before, packing school lunches for your family is a commitment. But, once you get in the swing of it, it will become second nature! Be sure to utilize all the different resources available online that make packing school lunches easier. In fact, some of them will even create balanced meal plans for you if you don’t have the time or energy to create your own. Until next time, here’s to healthy lunches and happy families!
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We hope you all had a happy National School Lunch Week. Like we said in the NCES HealthLinks Newsletter, School Lunch Week is all about raising awareness for this cause and praising those that are doing a great job of actually improving school lunches for children across the country. In our last newsletter, we asked our readers to participate by submitting their list of favorite blogs or websites that they think are the best resources for packing yummy, healthy lunches. Here’s what we got from you! (In random order)
- TheLunchTray.com: The Lunch Tray is a blog all about food and kids, both in school and out. The blog has a big focus on school lunch reform. But, also is passionate about sharing ways to feed your kids healthy both in and out of school. From articles about current trends and issues to recipes that will help your family eat healthy, The Lunch Tray is a great source for healthy families.
- 100DaysofRealFood.com: 100 Days of Real Food has one goal: Eat without processed foods! It may seem like a lofty goal in today’s society. But this blog can help you do it. It’s full of tips, recipes and lots of resources perfect for someone that is just trying to cut out processed foods or a seasoned professional that just wants to stay on top of this industry. If you’re just coming around to the idea, 100 Days of Real Food even helps you with their ‘10 Day Pledge’ to help you get on the right track.
- FedUpWithLunch.com: Are you a parent looking for ideas to help your youngsters be fit and active? If so, this is a great spot for you! You’ll find everything here from blogs about how to spend less at the grocery store to cookbook reviews to help you make buying decisions. Looking for more than just a blog? Fed Up with Lunch even has a self-titled book out. The tagline; “How One Anonymous Teacher revealed the truth about school lunches-and how we can change them”.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: ChooseMyPlate.gov is the official website for everything MyPlate. So, although their site covers a lot of topics outside of child nutrition, they offer great resources on school lunches, healthy snacks and even physical activity for kids. Have you seen the Super Tracker yet? The USDA’s super tracker allows you to track your food and activity to make sure they balance! Sounds familiar, huh! Learn about balancing Energy In and Energy out with the NCES EIEO handout.
- NourishInteractive.com/Blog: Great for parents, teachers and everyone interested in kids health and nutrition. Nourish Interactive’s ‘Nourishing Thoughts’ blog is here to help you dig through all of the news you hear about nutrition these days. With more and more studies, products and trends constantly being thrown at us, the goal of Nourishing Thoughts is to do some of the legwork for you and only bring accurate, relevant information to the table.
Well, there you have it; our reader favorites! Going through each of these websites to research their purpose, I found each one of them to bring their own special piece to the table. I guess what Simon Cowell would call their “X Factor”. Using the links above, you can go check out each of the blogs for yourself! From the blog, you can easily follow them on Facebook and other social networking sites. If you like this list, but feel like we left your favorite off, please feel free to leave it in the comments sections so that we can all check it out!
For more great resources, you should check out the NCES Educated Kids section. Here a couple of our favorite products from this section!
MyPlate Munch and Learn Placemat:
Make eating out or in fun with these Placemats. Each one provides activities to teach young children about eating healthy and being active while waiting to eat their food. This placemat is great for in-home, restaurants and any school or hospital cafeteria. Grades Pre-K-6. Pkg of 50, 2012.
Pack lunches fast with these sturdy and reusable containers. Great for work, school or travel and perfect for both children and adults. Dishwasher, microwave & freezer safe. Made of non-toxic, food safe polypropylene (PP) BPA, PVC & Phthalate free. FDA-approved.
Let’s take a closer look at one of the recent “7 Nutrition Trends of 2010.” The first of these predictions is certainly a bold prediction, and not too hard to see taking a strong hold in the near future. But what does that mean exactly?
People will be looking to the foods that are naturally full of nutrients and minerals. Anything that says “fortified” or “enriched” might be sitting on the shelf for longer than planned. There’s a significant movement towards our roots, literally speaking. Vegetables and fruits that are grown fresh and grown right are going to be flying off of the shelves in 2010, or so we think.
Things like leafy greens are going to be full of nutrients that help with all sorts of things, ranging from better vision to improved heart health. Any items from the cabbage family are a hot item for cancer prevention. Orange and yellow veggies have lots of nutrients that also help with cancer prevention and heart health, as well as helping the immune system.
Be sure to know when certain vegetables are in season and when they aren’t. Finding a fruit or vegetable when it’s in season is not only going to help immensely with the flavor of the produce, and the cost, but it also will contain more nutritional value when it’s in season as well.
Having a shopping guide to buying good-looking produce, like our ‘Veggie Quickflip’, will help you not only decide what vegetables are worth their price, but ways to help coax the most flavor you can get out of them with complementary spices and recipes.
We’ve had so many responses to our music video! Thanks to everyone who helped with the video, and to everyone that keeps passing it along.
To answer some of your more common questions:
1.We shot this over a few days in various locations. A lot came from a local middle school’s library. (hence, all the books) Other locations included a grocer, and a local farmer’s market.
2.The Pom Boms are Kirsten, Mikayla, and Sophia, they love to dance and sing (and be on camera!).
3.Yes, this video and song are free to download and share with whoever wants to listen to it. This was a non-profit endeavor, and we want everyone to have fun with it.
If you know someone who’s related to someone who knows someone that wants to give this music video a little love in a big way, then get ahold of us! First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign needs as much national support as it can get (which is why we named the song ‘Let’s Move’!). Please join us in the fight against childhood obesity!
The release date for the “Let’s Move” video is rapidly approaching. The players have played (a lot), the score been struck (over and over and over again), and we here at the office are left to wonder: What’s going to happen.
First, we envision rapid success, catapults to stardom, and possibly a run on all of the night-time talk shows. But if that doesn’t happen, we have some goals in mind that aren’t Hollywood-oriented.
We want to inspire. Not just children to move (though that would be good enough), but for people of every age to be motivated to get their daily exercise in. 45 minutes of moderate activity is good enough to keep most of us in healthy condition. If we can make you dance for just a few minutes each day, well, then we’ve got you part of the way there.
What would be even better is to lead by example. The Let’s Move campaign, started by First Lady Michelle Obama is an admirable cause. It takes all of us to give it the hands and feet that it needs to be successful. Everyone who is involved in health and wellness areas should be finding their own ways to contribute to this noble movement.
After all, it’s not our future at stake, it’s the next generation’s.
Oh, and for grins, here’s a pic of our dance crew, clad in their raucous threads.
Meet the Pom Boms.
As you may be aware, August is National Healthy Lunch Month, which provides a good opportunity to talk about making healthy lunches, for you and your loved ones.
Feeding a picky child doesn’t necessarily have to be a big chore. In fact, there are several little tips that you can employ in order to help your child be a little more ‘open-minded’ when it comes to the fruits and vegetables that are good for them.
Let your child be a part of the process. You can do this by letting them help grow the fruits or veggies in question. Or, even by letting them help pick it out at the store. You may see some surprising results in their willingness to eat the vegetables. The more a child is involved in what they’re eating, the better and easier it is to instill good eating habits early on in life, that will stick with them as they get older.
Letting your child help prepare the dish also can go a long way towards getting them to eat it. A matter of pride then pops up, and they might choose to eat it, and might even accidentally like it, since they provided it for the family (and themselves). Even at very young ages, some children have enough fine motor skills to shell peas, wash lettuce and pop beans.
Presenting the vegetable or fruit in a different manner can also help. Now, we’re not suggesting dipping it into honey glaze or anything like that, but allowing for a light ranch dip, or peanut butter can make that celery a bit more appetizing. Even sprinkling parmesan cheese on top goes a long way to improve the appeal of vegetables and fruits.
Tips like these, as well as helpful recipes, can be found in the book “Meals Without Squeals.” A good guide for parents, and a great guide for childcare providers when it comes to what foods you choose for your children. Look in the ‘Educated Kids’ section of our catalog, or search for item #3925 at www.ncescatalog.com.
In the spirit of August being National Healthy Lunch Month, we’ve posted some helpful ideas for you on how to spice up that drab brown bag lunch that you dutifully bring to work.
“Bag Lunches and Snacks to Fit Your Food Plan” from the International Diabetes Center is a helpful and informative tool to add a little health and variety to your everyday lunch. Giving you 30 quick and easy recipes to try out, you could go a whole month without having the same thing twice, and feel secure that everything you tried was great for you. For the carb-conscious, all of the carbohydrates have been counted out for you.
Whether you’re looking for a fun side dish like the Peanut Butter Fruit Dip with Apple, or a main dish that whets your appetite like the Broccoli, Ham, and Shell Pasta Salad, this book has something for you to at least try.
The menus even come with accompaniments for your meals that help round out the nutritious experience, and supplying any key vitamins or minerals that might have been left out by the other fabulous parts of the meal.
Try the Oatmeal Casserole Bread or the Creamy Butternut Soup. Maybe mix the Wild Rice and Seafood Salad with some Spicy Cranberry Muffins. Enjoy it, because with these recipes, it’s all guilt free.
You can find “Bag Lunches and Snacks” in our catalog in the Cookbooks section, or at www.ncescatalog.com.