I know that I kind of missed the mark with this post. It is a little late, because August was Kids Eat Right Month and I know it is now the beginning of September, but I am think this is such a great topic that we should continue to talk about it into September.
As many of you know, I am a pediatric dietitian and I feel passionately about good nutrition for our kids. This week I am was asked to put together a display booth as a Elementary/Jr High Wellness Night at a private school. I also have the chance to be on Indy Style again talking about school lunches (tune in tomorrow at 9am on WISH TV). I thought this would be a great topic for the blog this week and really focus in on recommendations for school-aged children.
There was also a great news article that was released at the end of August from the American Heart Association talking about children and sugar consumption. This statement came from research put out in the publication Circulation, looking at how sugar affect children's overall health. The recommendations are that children/teens (ages 2-18 years old) should not be consuming more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Added sugars are classified as table sugar, fructose, honey found in processed/prepared foods or beverages, sugar that is added to foods at the table or eaten separately. It has been determined that children eating more than this per day (> 6 tsp added sugar) are often consuming more unhealthy food items.
Now you have to be wondering what in the world can you do to cut back on your child's sweet treats? Well thankful there is a great handout from the USDA on this exact topic.
In addition to just sugar intake, overall diet is important as well for children to grow/develop to their full potential. As a parent/caregiver, the responsibility falls to you to help make sure that your child is getting the proper nutrition that they need. You should be aiming for a well-rounded, balanced plate at every meal. I know that feel intimidating, specially if you have a picky child. But keep offering healthy options and encourage your child to take at least 2 bites of each food item offered at that meal.
Your child's plate will be smaller compared with yours, but it should still contain all of the above mentioned food groups (Fruits, Vegetables, Protein, Grains and Dairy) with each meal. Now I know it can be challenging to fit in vegetables with your breakfast, so if that doesn't happen every morning, make sure to offer another vegetable at lunch/dinner and move a fruit to a snack in the afternoon.
Tips for a Healthy School Lunch
- Incorporate fruits and vegetables in a fun way. Variety your produce options in the lunch bag. Use different dips throughout the week with the veggies (hummus, ranch, sunbutter) or with the fruit (like yogurt). Cut up the fruit/vegetables so that your child is more likely to eat them.
- Make the bread on their sandwich whole grain. This could be sliced bread, crackers, pita or a wrap. You can have a variety of types of sandwiches (lunch meat, PB&J, chicken salad).
- Have a snack for them in their bag for later in day – for the ride home on the bus or in between school and a sports practice. Make this something easy to carry that doesn’t need an ice pack – granola bar, crackers, dried fruit, or nuts.
If you have more questions or want more information about planning healthy, meals for your family, feel free to get in touch with me! Have a great Monday and hope your Labor Day weekend has been amazing!