5 Quick Steps to Packing a Healthy School Lunch
PHOENIX, Ariz. (Summer, 2011) – As summer break comes to an end, parents and children start making their back-to-school shopping lists. The clothing store, shoe store, and office supply store are all places full of back-to-school shoppers – but don’t forget the grocery store! Equally as important as having pencil and paper, is having a healthy and well-balanced lunch, says Nora Carrillo, Program Manager, Early Childhood Development Program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Kids may have a hard time choosing a well-balanced meal from the school cafeteria or may prefer to bring foods from home. Parents are encouraged to use the following steps to pack a healthy lunch.
Step 1: Pack in protein and nutrient dense carbs. These two food groups are necessary to keep kids energized and alert. Protein plays an important role in building muscle, keeping organs healthy and supporting a strong immune system. Carbohydrates are essential in giving children a readily available source of energy before hitting a mid-afternoon slump.
As with all foods, there are some choices that are healthier than others. Packing a lean deli meat sandwich like turkey over one with more fat, such as salami, will reduce both fat and calorie intake. Other protein-packed foods include beans, nuts, milk, and eggs. Also, choosing unrefined, complex starches such as whole-wheat bread will provide essential vitamins and minerals as well as fiber which can make the child feel fuller and reduce overall calorie intake.
Step 2: Add in fruits and veggies. It is recommended that everyone have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and veggies contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and some are good sources of simple carbohydrates. Vitamins and minerals are important for helping children grow and develop. Important vitamins include vitamin A for eyesight which can be found in carrots and other orange foods. Vitamin C is great for the immune system and can be found in citrus, broccoli and other foods. One essential mineral is potassium which helps keep the muscles and nervous system working right and can be found in foods such as bananas, broccoli, and tomatoes. Along with keeping children full, fiber also aids in digestion and is found in high amounts in many fruits and vegetables.
Step 3: Quench thirst with water or milk. The entire body needs water to work properly. It is used in digestion, keeps the body cool with perspiration, is found in large amounts in the blood and is vital to many other bodily functions. Water is found in every fluid we drink, but plain water and milk are the best choices for growing children. Sugary juices and sodas contain a lot of calories with little nutritional value, so intake should be limited. Low-fat milk, on the other hand, has protein, vitamin D, and calcium so calories consumed are packed with nutrition.
Step 4: Pack a small treat. Being healthy is hard work and let’s face it – almost every kid has a sweet tooth. Reward kids for eating a nutritious lunch by serving a 100 calorie snack pack or a fun-sized candy bar and satisfy a craving for something sweet.
Step 5: Give a little encouragement. Kids love finding a special message from Mom or Dad in their lunch sack. Simply wishing good luck on a test or leaving a note on a banana may make a child’s day.
About Phoenix Children’s Hospital
Phoenix Children’s Hospital, ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals, is Arizona’s only licensed children’s hospital, providing world-class care in more than 40 pediatric specialties to children from throughout the state and region. Phoenix Children’s is in the midst of a major expansion to meet the needs of the Southwest’s rapid population growth. The signature element of the expansion is a new 11-story, 750,000-square-foot tower which will enable the hospital to grow from 345 licensed beds today to a total of 626 licensed beds once the project is complete. The hospital’s expansion also includes an aggressive physician recruitment effort and new satellite centers in high growth areas of the Valley. For more information, visit the hospital’s web site at www.phoenixchildrens.com.