By: Hansa Bhargava, MD
I saw an overweight 8 year old in my office not long ago who complained, “I’m too chubby!” His mother told me she had been trying to adjust her family’s diet by cooking at home and not having junk food in the house. But she was frustrated because at school her son was eating school lunches made up of hot dogs, tater tots, fries and other foods full of empty calories.
As a pediatrician, I’ve heard this type of story several times. Many parents are struggling to serve kids nutritious meals despite having tight budgets and busy lives. They are trying to trade junk food for more vegetables. I applaud their efforts — 1/3 of our nation’s kids are overweight or obese. And more kids have diabetes than ever before. Eating well is such an important part of keeping kids from getting sick because they are overweight. And nutrition begins at home.
But school plays an important part in a child’s day too. Kids are there for many hours – many eating, breakfast, lunch, and snacks there. School influences what kids eat, the calorie and nutrition content in their food. And this is why I am excited about the new National Lunch Program.. Starting Oct 1, 2012, your child’s school may choose to enroll in this program. The goal — feed kids healthy, nutritious meals.
Here are some of the changes you could expect:
- Meals that include more vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Whole grains have a lot more nutrition, because they contain more fiber and nutrients.
- Limits on the total calorie count of the meals Offering skim or low fat milk instead of sugary drinks. This way kids get nutrient rich calories instead of empty calories or sugar.
As a mom of two 6-year-olds, I know how hard it is for parents to balance work, kids, homework, planning meals, and running a household. But in this crazy-busy juggle, we still need to make our family’s health a priority. So, as you work hard to serve up the best meals you can, at home and on the go, it’s encouraging to see that schools are making an effort, as well.
How do you feel about the lunch program? Do you think it will make a difference?
For more information on the new school lunches, click here.