As the summer comes to an end, millions of students around the world prepare to go back to school. While most parents plan ahead for school supplies, uniforms, and transportation, nutrition during the school day is often forgotten about. Each student has to make a very important decision every day throughout the school year: What do I eat for lunch?
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in teenagers over the past 30 years, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This alarming statistic clearly indicates that more care and attention needs to be paid to the nutrition children are receiving throughout the school year.
However, parents are often put in a tough spot when it comes to their child’s eating habits away from home. We cannot always control the midday snacks, junk food options in the cafeteria, or candy-filled holiday parties. But the good news is that studies have shown that habits we start during childhood and adolescence often carry on into adulthood. By instilling healthy eating habits in our children from a young age, they’re more likely to be healthy adults.
So while preparing your kids for the classroom, you also need to get them ready for the lunchroom. Here are 4 Back-to-School Healthy Eating Tips that will help you.
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Review Lunch Menus
Sit down with your child at the beginning of each week and go over your school’s lunch menu. Discuss which foods they like, and explain why some foods are healthier choices than others. Have your child circle their selection for each day, and give them the menu to bring with them to remind them of their healthy eating choices. By involving your child in the decision-making process, he or she is more likely to stick to the healthy eating plan.
Find Out Your School’s Policy on Snacks
Knowing the snack policies at your child’s school can help you plan and deal with them. Ask the school administration when children are allowed to have snacks, if there are vending machines available, and if there are frequent fundraisers where food is sold. If you come across any policies you don’t agree with, get involved with your Parent Teacher Association. Often no one is aware a problem exists until someone says something.
Pack Your Own
The best way to have more control over what your child eats at school is by preparing and packing their lunch yourself. Make sure the lunch is not only filled with nutritious food options, but with foods you know your child will actually want to eat. Ask for your child’s input and give them options of what they can include. If they make an unhealthy choice, explain to them why it is not the best option and suggest an alternative. Cut fruits and veggies into easy-to-eat pieces so they’re more likely to eat them all. Even if you can’t pack a lunch for your child every day, try to provide a few healthy treats for classroom snack times.
Set an Example
Parents need to set a healthy example at home before they can expect their children to make healthy choices when they are away. Taking the time to plan and prepare healthy meals will not only benefit your own health, but that of your children and entire household. Most children establish their eating habits by the age of 6, so if they’re used to trying new things, they’re more likely to try nutritious options at school. Also, it’s important to teach moderation at home, so children practice it in the classroom as well.
Don’t wait until mid-way through the school year to focus on your child’s nutrition – start planning now! The more time and thought you put into it, the more benefits your child will gain.