It’s Back-to-School Season 2018! This is the time of the year when parents are bombarded with… well, everything! Between school supply lists, new school clothes or uniforms, teacher meet and greets, first day photos, and finding the perfect backpack, the last thing on a parent’s mind is packing a healthy lunch. Meals at school are essential to student health and well-being. They ensure that children have the nutrition they need to learn.
My son was a picky eater and always at the bottom of the weight percentile on his growth chart. As a Registered Dietitian, I thought I could make him healthier lunches from home. But studies have shown that school meals are healthier than meals from home. School meals are rich in lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. School meals also limit unhealthy fats and sodium.
School nutrition professionals focus on providing healthy school meals that help students succeed in the classroom and beyond. Planning meals that your family will like is difficult. Imagine planning meals for a child nutrition program. School nutrition professionals have to plan meals the meet strict nutrient standards with limited budgets. Plus they have to accommodate food allergies, special diet restrictions, and the tastes and preferences of children.
School meal programs play an important role in supporting obesity prevention, overall student health, and academic achievement by improving children’s diets and combatting hunger. This is why we love lunch ladies:
• Children receiving school lunches consume fewer empty calories and more milk, fruit, vegetables, and fiber than their peers.
• School lunches have less calories, fat, saturated fat, and sugar than lunches brought from home.
• Children that participate in school lunch have a lower body mass index (BMI.)
• School meals reduce food insecurity, which is linked to negative health, development and educational outcomes such as slower progress in math and reading and a higher likelihood of repeating a grade.