Healthy lunches will help fuel students as they head Back to School this year
Yes, we've all had those lunches or seen those lunches that may often enough include a PB&J sandwich but then is filled with sugary snacks like fruit roll-ups or brownies and such, but knowing now what we should have followed more so back then, healthy lunches are really what fuels the school day, not the sugar.
When you're packing a lunch the night before or the morning of for your kids, (and if you're a student yourself here, listen up), be sure to balance things out a bit.
"Nutrition is so important to our overall health, whether it's fighting Covid or maintaining energy through the course of a given day or for the sports that we play," Patty High, Ocean County Assistant Public Health Coordinator tells Townsquare Media News. "We know that it's important to increase our intake of essential vitamins and nutrients to make sure that our kids are growing up not just energetic, but strong and able to fight off the things that they may encounter.
There are very key parts to ensuring that the lunches that we either help our children pack or that they themselves pack are getting everything that they need.
We would encourage fresh fruit, fresh crunch vegetables, some of those high protein dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese and other proteins like meat or eggs or peanut butter or something like a hard boiled egg. Those are always really great options as oppose to some of those less healthy options."
It all starts at home too, teaching your children how to make a lunch and encouraging them to make their own healthy choices as well.
"One of the biggest things is helping to empower your children to begin to make those right decisions for their lunches that'll carry them through for the long-term," High said.
You can do that by bringing your kids grocery shopping, High suggests, and finding the healthier alternative food and snack options, some of which may be fun as well like fruits instead of fruit drinks or sugary drinks and snacks.
Leading by example and encouraging healthy eating habits and decision making will help your sons and daughters be as healthy and strong as possible.
"Children are also very visual and respond very much to their senses, so when you're packing a lunch for the kids, keep things like color and crunch in mind. What is going to be that's going to be exciting for them to eat both visually and texturally and that may get them excited about healthier options," High said.
The onus for a healthy lunch at school is not just on children and their parents but on the schools themselves to offer all kinds of healthy options for when the student is buying lunch or in a program where they'll be betting their meals at school.
Over the years, that trend has grown in a positive direction.
"I think our school systems, from a prepared lunch program, do a really wonderful job offering a variety of different lunches that are lower in sugars and fats and salt. Sodium is a very big thing that we were concerned with for a while and schools have made significant changes in the recent years to improve what's being offered," High said.
While the food options have become healthier in the cafeteria, around the buildings and school grounds, one glaring option has some health officials concerned.
"Vending machines are probably the final frontier for many of our schools to be able to make changes towards healthier options for students when they are on a school campus," High said.
She says it's important to have healthy options and less sugary ones in vending machines from snacks and sodas to some of the deceiving sports drinks that may look healthy but have a lot of sugar in them.