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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Healthier Lunches: Coming Soon to a School Near You

By Hansa Bhargava, MD

As a pediatrician, I often see busy parents struggle to put healthy meals on the table. Between working full time and juggling the kids’ different schedules, many parents have to go the extra mile to make sure meals at home are balanced. After trying so hard to make sure veggies and fruits are a part of almost all the snacks and meals at home, many moms and dads have been disappointed to hear about their children’s school lunches.

As a mom, I often cringe when my daughter tells me she ate French fries and ice cream at lunch. Gosh, I think—is it really that hard to serve up a whole wheat turkey sandwich and maybe some cantaloupe? Especially after I’ve worked so hard to make sure her meals are healthy at home! And what is the message, when the school that she learns from is serving up this type of food?

Well, moms and dads, there is some good news that is being ‘served up’ about school lunches—today! First Lady Michelle Obama and the USDA have unveiled new standards for school meals that will lead to more balanced, healthier meals for our children. Schools will need to offer both fruits and vegetables every day of the week, offer only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties and also pay attention to the number of calories that are being given to our children when they are not home.

For example: instead of being offered a hot dog on a bun with ketchup, canned pears and chocolate milk, your child may be offered whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce, cooked green beans, broccoli and 1% milk. This change means a healthier, more nutrient-dense diet that is not full of empty calories, fat, sugar and salt. More information on this can be found here.

So now, when you go home from a long day at work, you can feel better about what your child ate for lunch at school. And at home, you can use these guidelines as well so that you and the school are working as a team to make sure your son or daughter is the healthiest he or she can be.

How do you feel about your child’s school lunches? Do you think that these changes will make a difference? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our Parenting community.

Posted by: Hansa Bhargava, MD at 3:26 pm

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