Back to School: What’s In Your Child’s Lunch Box?

By: Franciscan Health Last Updated: August 14, 2012

It’s no secret that school lunch in America has its issues. Kids get the option of choosing pizza, fries, and chocolate milk on almost a daily basis. Although the kids may not have an issue with eating these foods every day, it can be very damaging to their health and development.

The nutritional standards for schools are improving, yet sugar laden and fattening options are still readily available in the school cafeteria. Many would say that the answer is to pack your child’s lunch from home. And although this may be healthier, it could be an even worse option as far as nutritional value is concerned if you buy the wrong foods.

Knowing what is truly healthy and what isn’t is the key. Picking up sugary snacks, fattening snack crackers, fruit in heavy syrup and sports drinks to pack in a lunch is comparable to buying flavored milk, fried potato chips, and a cookie at a school cafeteria. Baked snacks, low sodium lunch meat, whole grain breads, fruit, veggies, and real fruit juice are much more viable options when packing your child’s lunch.

Childhood obesity is still a major issue in the US. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years in America. Although in some cases genetics may play a role, most cases of childhood obesity occur from lack of exercise and poor food choices.

Setting a good example at home of what to eat will show your child that eating healthy is “the norm”. If children are getting nutritious meals while at home, choosing healthy options at school will be less difficult for your children. Almost every food distribution company is jumping on board with making America healthier and most brands now have a low sugar, low fat, lite, low sodium, or fat free option.

Here are some "tips to enforce good health" for your kids as they start the new school year:

  • Encourage them to expand their horizons by offering incentives for trying new foods
  • Try to fix a new meal at home that is appealing to kids like homemade baked chicken tenders instead of frozen or fried options
  • Start reading the back of labels for how much sugar, sodium, and fat is in what you are feeding your children
  • Eat healthier yourself -- Monkey see, monkey do!
  • Take your child grocery shopping with you and let them pick out one of their favorite things to pack in their lunches
  • Have your child bring home their school lunch calendar and go over it with them as to what options would be the best for each day
  • Make a list of your child’s favorite foods and think of what healhtier options may be comparable

Educating your child from an early age on what healthy foods can do for you and what unhealthy foods will do to you should be a fundamental lesson from home. Whether your child chooses to buy lunch at school or brown bag it, having your child know what healthy options consist of is just as important as getting their homework done.

If you’d like to learn more about childhood obesity, please visit our Franciscan Physicians Hospital Health Library by clicking HERE.