Buying lunch at school may be the first time kids get to call the shots on which foods they'll eat. Luckily, school lunches have improved over the years, both in taste and nutrition, with many serving healthier dishes, such as grilled chicken sandwiches and salads.
But some still exceed recommendations for fat. In the typical school cafeteria, kids can still choose an unhealthy mix of foods, especially the less nutritious fare often available a la carte or in the vending machine. For instance, a kid might decide to buy a hot dog, day after day.
Use school lunches as a chance to steer your kids toward good choices. Especially with younger kids, explain how a nutritious lunch will give them energy to finish the rest of the schoolday and enjoy after-school activities.
Here are some other tips:
- Look over the cafeteria menu together. Ask what a typical lunch includes and which meals your kids particularly like. Recommend items that are healthier, but be willing to allow them to buy favorite lunch items occasionally, even if that includes a hot dog.
- Ask about foods like chips, soda, and ice cream. Find out if and when these foods are available at school.
- Encourage kids to take a packed lunch, at least occasionally. This can put you back in the driver's seat and help ensure that kids get a nutritious midday meal.