When children follow a healthy eating plan, they are more likely to enjoy enhanced emotional stability, better concentration, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases later in life. Unfortunately, many kids bypass vegetables in favor of pizza and cookies—particularly in school when parents aren’t on hand to monitor eating habits. The next time you’re at the local children’s hospital with your youngster, consider talking to his or her pediatrics specialist about the nutrients your child should be getting at school and beyond.
Understanding Nutrition Initiatives
You may have already heard about the national initiative known as Let’s Move! One component of that campaign is a program that sets new standards for school lunches. While schools aren’t required to adhere to these standards, there are financial incentives for them to do so. More recently, the USDA has set aside funds for schools to achieve healthier school lunch standards . These initiatives can encourage schoolchildren to choose more vegetables and fruits in the cafeteria, along with lean protein sources such as vegetable burgers as opposed to beef burgers. The new school lunches also feature more whole grains and appropriate portion sizes.
Evaluating Your Child’s School Lunch
Consider speaking with your child’s school administrators to determine if the school follows the new national standards. If not, consider asking for a copy of a typical lunchroom menu. Scrutinize the menu to determine if your child will have access to vegetables, fruits, low-fat milk, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Considering Healthier Options
If your child’s lunchroom menu appears inadequate, you might consider packing lunch for him or her this year. Start with a whole grain, such as a whole grain wrap, pita, or sandwich bread. Add lean proteins, such as tuna, and top with vegetables such as sprouts and tomato slices. Give your child fruit as a side dish and low-fat milk instead of sugary juice.
At Sunrise Children’s Hospital, our pediatrics team includes clinical dietitians, who provide extensive nutritional counseling for patients and parents. Our community hospital in Las Vegas also offers care for mothers with high-risk pregnancies and emergency care for children, in addition to our state-of-the-art NICU. For more information about our children’s hospital, call (702) 731-5437 and speak with a registered nurse.