Gearing Up the Back-to-School Lunchbox
With school starting this week, many of us have equipped our children, grandchildren, and relatives with colorful school supplies and backpacks. We have made sure our students are vaccinated and are ready to start another school year. Unfortunately, in all this hustle and bustle, we forget to consider how we are fueling up our kids for success.
The foods children eat throughout the day are important for their bodies to grow, develop, and for their brains to learn. Unfortunately, not all foods are created equal. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy protein sources provide your student with the nutritional support needed to help them be successful in school. Some kid-friendly choices in each of these groups include:
- Fruit: watermelon, apples, bananas, grapes, blueberries, pears;
- Vegetables: carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, snap peas, grape tomatoes;
- Whole Grains: whole-wheat bread, quinoa, rice cakes, whole grain pretzels, unsalted popcorn, oatmeal, whole grain muffins; and
- Protein: peanut butter or almond butter, low-fat cheese, hard-boiled egg, beans, nuts and seeds.
Children may be picky with their food choices, so encourage them to try a favorite in a different way or to try something new.
Besides the foods our kids eat, we need to be thoughtful about the beverages they drink. Many drinks marketed towards kids are full of added sugars. When students drink these beverages, they get a burst of energy but then experience a sugar crash. When reading a food label, remember that every 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than three teaspoons of added sugars per day for children 4-8 years of age and no more than five teaspoons of added sugars for children 8 years of age through the teen years. To help reduce the amount of added sugar in your student’s diet, choose healthy beverages such as milk and water. Fruit juice is also a healthy choice if it is 100% juice and is limited to about a half a cup a day.
It may feel challenging to purchase healthy foods on a tight budget. To overcome this challenge, select fruits and vegetables that are in season as they tend to cost less. If you are concerned about how quickly food spoils, choose frozen fruits and vegetables as a healthy alternative with a longer shelf life. The United States Department of Agriculture has a great website with resources and activities for kids, adults, teachers, and families. At ChooseMyPlate.gov, you can find healthy recipes, learn more about which foods fit into the different food categories, and build a shopping list with foods that are in season and grown locally. You can also visit a local Farmer’s Market to find in-season fruits and vegetables. To find a Farmer’s Market near you, visit NevadaGrown.com and click on Farmer’s Markets.
Carson City Health and Human Services (CCHHS) staff wish all students a safe and healthy school year. For more information about CCHHS services or how to help your family stay healthy, check out our website at http://gethealthycarsoncity.org/ or visit us at www.facebook.com/cchhs.