Is Your Child's School Serving a Healthy Lunch?

One of the hottest topics in the media today is childhood obesity. For years, people allowed their children to drink juice and eat bologna sandwiches without much thought. However, new research has shown that most affordable juices are made primarily from sugar and that processed meats are high in fat and sodium. Parents know that they have the option of having their kids eat school lunches, but do the schools offer nutritious meals? Anyone who has a child or works with children should be aware of what they are eating for lunch.

Some people think that schools only serve greasy snack-type foods like chicken nuggets and French fries. However, if schools abide by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) guidelines, parents should not panic. The NSLP makes certain that low amounts of trans fat (10% or less) salt and sugar are part of its meals. The NSLP also offers the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables with 2/3 of its meals and many schools offer salad bars. (Some schools even feature locally grown produce, which helps the local economy as well). Of course, salad dressings can be fatty, but if your child chooses balsamic vinaigrette or a low fat alternative over ranch or blue cheese, he or she will not be consuming extra, unwanted calories.

When thinking about "fast-food" style options being offered at schools, parents might feel better to know about the many updates being made to conform with healthier eating habits. For instance, most schools who serve pizza use a whole grain crust with low-fat and low-sodium cheese and sauce. A lot of the menu items are baked, not fried, like in the old days. More fruits and vegetables are featured in main dishes and spaghetti or lasagna will likely be made with whole grain pasta as well. Additionally, school lunches typically contain a third of the recommended daily allowance of important vitamins, such as calcium, iron, protein and vitamins A and C.

One question parents and others might ask is "Is not a packed lunch from home healthier than one purchased at school?" Not necessarily. Abundant research has shown that, in general, students who each lunches overseen by the NSLP maintain a healthier weight than those who bring food from home. They are usually also more likely to eat more fruits and veggies, and they drink less soda, which accounts for large amounts of sugary calories on its own. Finally, kids who eat school lunches tend to maintain an appropriate weight even when they are not in school.

Overall, parents should not fret if their children are eating lunches at a school cafeteria, as long as the school is in accordance with NSLP regulations. It's important to monitor what they are eating and to instill smart habits, but most kids will not be gaining more weight by eating at school. If you are concerned about what is being served at your child's school, ask questions and even get involved if you are dissatisfied with what you learn. The number one goal is that childhood obesity becomes a thing of the past.

Source by Bernard Duke

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