Back To School Lunches: Eating Smart

Aug 19, 2019

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Being hungry has an enormous impact on a student's ability to learn.

Shelby Miller is a pediatric dietitian with the University of Illinois College of Medicine. She encourages families to look at school menus and decide if what's offered is something their child will eat or not. If they don't eat lunch they can come home hungry and either eat a huge snack and won't eat dinner, or they just eat all night.

Miller says it's okay to send your child with some healthy extras to go along with the cafeteria lunch.
"If it's chicken patty sandwich with green beans and a fruit and a milk and the kids like the sandwich and they like the fruit, but maybe they don't like green beans, send them with some carrots. You can kind of fill that hole with something else."
If you pack your child's lunch, Miller says to try to balance it with all of the food groups including fruits and vegetables, and don't go overboard on grains.

One of the biggest issues for high schoolers is them skipping lunch altogether because they can't get to the lunchroom with enough time to eat or they head straight to the a la cart lines with pizza and chips or sugary treats.

Miller says while those are okay every once in a while, they shouldn't be an everyday occurrence.
"So coming up with one, maybe two days a week that you let yourself have that a la carte option, otherwise packing a lunch, having that standard lunch that includes fruits and vegetables or picking from the salad bar line is going to be key."
Miller says another key to making sure children eat healthy is to make sure parents are setting a good example.