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MOV Parent: Time for the lunch bell

The summer months are ending, and back to school is quickly approaching. With going back to school, it can be difficult to begin or continue a healthy lifestyle. It is easy to choose unhealthy lunches and snack ideas. However, I would like to share with you the importance of packing a healthy lunch and preparing a healthy snack for when your children go back to school.

1. A healthy eating routine can help boost your health today and, in the years, to come. Think about how your food choices come together over the course of your day or week to help you create a healthy eating routine.

2. It’s important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy and fortified soy alternatives. Choose options for meals, beverages, and snacks that have limited added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.

Some negative impacts that unhealthy school lunches have on children is mental and physical issues. Improper nutrition can cause obesity or other weight issues. A child with poor nutrition is more likely to develop diabetes, kidney stones, and heart disease. Without proper nutrition, a child’s academic performance will decrease. Sleep patterns are also affected when children do not eat enough nutritious foods. These children may also show more aggressive behavior, and a lower attention span.

When I was in school, I packed my own lunch. Most of the time I just threw whatever I could find in a bag and called it lunch. I would pack anything from cookies to left over pizza. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I understood why I should be choosing healthier options. I decided that I would work on keeping a healthier lifestyle, and now my favorite item to include when packing a lunch is cucumbers and cantaloupe.

Being more conscious of what you are sending with your child for lunch, what your child is choosing to pack for their lunch, and the food items you are allowing in the house, can help them feel better, do better, and be healthier.

As parents, you can help your child choose healthier options by:

1. Having regular family meals

2. Serving a variety of healthy foods and snacks

3. Being a role model by eating healthy yourself

4. Avoiding battles over food

5. Involving kids in the process

Trying to figure out the best lunch options for your child can be difficult. You could try a few of these options:

* Turkey + cheddar roll-up, fresh berries, yogurt, and trail mix

* Cheese quesadilla, guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips, and strawberries

* Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, graham crackers, string cheese and a peach cup

* Turkey slices, cheese cubes, pita wedges, hummus, baby carrots and celery

To make lunch more appealing to your child, try varying different foods. Some ideas include:

* Make potato salad or pasta salad multi-color. Use fun-shaped noodles or add hard-boiled eggs, beans, peas, or small cubes of meat for additional protein.

* Cut up raw vegetables, such as carrots, celery, green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumbers. Send them with a small container of low-fat dip.

* Include a piece of fruit for dessert, washed and ready to eat, or a container of fruit salad.

* Try cubes of reduced-fat cheese or string cheese with whole-grain crackers.

* Few kids can resist yogurt, a good source of protein and calcium, which now comes in many different flavors and forms.

* Choose healthy snacks. Pack pretzels, popcorn, rice cakes, whole-grain crackers, dry cereal, or trail mix.

After a long day at school, your children are going to be hungry. It is important to have healthy afterschool snacks for your children. You can have a snack ready and waiting on them or allowing them to choose from the healthy options you have in the house.

The American Heart Association has a list of healthy snack options broken down into categories based on cravings. Some of these snacks include:

* Apples and pears

* Bell pepper slices

* Popcorn

* Nuts and seeds

* Carrots and celery sticks

Be sure to find the right ones that fit the needs of your family.

While I was in grades 3-12, I was involved in afterschool sports. It was important to have a healthy snack before practices and games. The snacks that I always chose was, apples and peanut butter or bananas and peanut butter.

I also enjoyed apple sauce. My parents would buy the sugar free version, and I would add cinnamon. These were easy, and healthy snacks that I was able to grab on my own.

“There is nothing unhealthy about educating youngsters about nutrition.” — Pierre Dukan

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Megan Zwick is the Family and Consumer Sciences Program Assistant at Ohio State University Extension, Washington County. She can be reached at zwick.54@osu.edu.

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Resources

* Stadler, M. (2018, August). Back to school kids lunch ideas. (2018, August 14).

* Hopkins, A. (2019, August 15). 15 healthy after-school SNACKS your kids will actually eat.

* What is MyPlate?

* Dukan, P. (n.d.). Healthy eating quote. 34 Best Healthy Eating Quotes for You and your Kids.

* Schuna, C. (n.d.). The effects of children eating Unhealthy school lunches. LIVESTRONG.COM.

* Ben-Joseph, E. P. (Ed.). (2018, June). Healthy eating (for parents) – nemours kidshealth. KidsHealth.

* School lunches. Harvard Health. (2015, July 16).

* Healthy snacking. www.heart.org. (n.d.).

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