Summer breaks seem to get shorter and shorter. As the old adage goes, “time flies when you’re having fun!”
The youth in Forsyth County are already back in school, ready to absorb as much knowledge as possible for a successful school year. But what should they be filling their stomachs with now that the hot summer days are slowly coming to a close? Are their bodies absorbing enough nutrients to ensure that their brains will absorb the information that are being taught? Being involved in your child’s nutritional decisions is as important as being involved in their education.
To avoid an afternoon brain “slump,” it is important that children eat a well-balanced, healthy lunch. Whether your children pack their lunches or choose from the options provided in the cafeteria, it is important as a parent to discuss making healthy choices with your children. A healthy plate consists of low-fat dairy, lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Encourage your children to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Even though many schools offer items for purchase that are not as healthy as the food in the cafeteria line, have an open dialogue about the health risks associated with eating food high in fat and calories.
For parents and children that enjoy packing a lunch, below are some easy tips for making lunches that your child takes with him or her to school a breeze.
Get them involved
• Involve your child in packing his or her lunch. When children have ownership in what they are doing, they are more likely to follow through. If you like broccoli, but your child does not, do not put broccoli in their lunch box. Discuss healthy options — “Would you like carrots or cauliflower today?”
Avoid convenience foods
• Do not pack pre-packaged processed foods in your child’s lunch box. Even though they are convenient sizes, these foods are often calorie and fat laden, and a detriment to your child’s overall nutrition.
Vary the sandwiches you pack
• Use whole grain tortillas or bagels in lieu of bread. Load up sandwiches with plenty of fresh vegetables.
Include plenty of protein
• It’s important to include protein to help keep your child fuller longer. Include a hard-boiled egg in their lunch, or make tuna salad. Hummus or black bean dip is also full of filling fiber and protein.
• Pack leftovers from last night’s dinner in a thermos, or use the roast chicken on a salad or sandwich.
Forget the chips
• Instead, include healthier side options like cheese sticks, whole grain snack crackers, dried fruit, fruit salad, nuts, baby carrots and vegetable dip, or low-fat yogurt.
Keep them hydrated
• Water, milk and 100 percent fruit juice are the healthiest drink options to pack with a lunch. Never pack sodas, energy drinks, and fruit-flavored juice pouches, which can quickly decrease the nutritional value of your child’s meal.
• Pack lunches properly right before leaving home to ensure food safety and freshness. Invest in a reusable ice pack to keep perishables cool, a thermos to hold warm foods, and a variety of different sized containers. Insulated lunch boxes are best to use.
Don’t save what they bring home
• After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.
For more information on food, health, and nutrition, visit Forsyth County Extension at ugaextension.org/county-offices/forsyth.html.
Forsyth County Extension is supported by The University of Georgia, Forsyth County Government, Forsyth County Board of Education, and United Way of Forsyth County.
Barbara Worley is the Family and Consumer Sciences agent for the UGA Extension Forsyth County.