When thinking about what to pack for lunch, there's no need to be fancy - just nutritious. Sandwiches are quick and easy to make, but it's important to use whole grain bread, wraps or pitas, which are not only better for you, but also contain more fiber to keep your child fuller longer - crucial if you want to keep them from snacking throughout the day. Include a protein component in every meal. Try tuna salad with light mayo in a whole wheat pita; turkey and cheese in a whole grain wrap; or peanut butter on whole wheat bread with 100% fruit spread.
Teach them the importance of avoiding soda and junk food. Avoid giving your child access to regular sodas or sweetened teas - pack water or provide milk money. If your child's school does not offer milk, become an involved parent and lobby that lowfat milk be made available. Instead of cookies, cakes, candy or chocolate, try a piece of fruit or homemade granola. Instead of potato chips, try pretzels or popcorn. Dr. Altshuler says, "Ask them what happens when they eat two big pieces of cake at a birthday party. They all know it gives them a tummy ache! Now you point out that their own bodies are telling them it's not good to have too much. This makes sense to a second grader."
Get your children involved in making healthy lifestyle choices. According to Dr. Altshuler, "Parents and children need to work together in making healthy lifestyle choices. The school environment should be supportive of those efforts, but the ultimate responsibility for establishing lifelong healthy habits lies within the family unit." A good thing to do is to take your child with you when shopping for groceries and involve them in food preparation. By allowing children to help plan their weekly lunches, they'll be more likely to eat them.
School lunches have actually improved in recent years. Not only that, but the sale of soda in schools across the country has also been limited in recent years. The school food environment still isn't what it should be, but healthy options are available if your child knows what to look for. You can feel more comfortable sending your child to school with lunch money instead of a lunch box, when you know they are armed with the information needed to make healthy decisions. Dr. Altshuler and The Kids Weight Down Program at Maimonides Medical Center help families make healthy choices about food, physical activity and lifestyle. While weight loss is desirable, the Kids Weight Down Program looks beyond weight to the habits that will help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, heart disease and other medical problems. To learn more about childhood obesity and the ways to fight it, please visit the Kids Weight Down Program website or you can call (718) 283-8020.