When it comes to kids and teens:
- Studies suggest that the consumption of diet beverages has doubled in the last decade
- Surveys suggest that kids and teens are consuming too many calories from sweetened drinks
- Experts feel that child and teen snacking habits add too many calories to their daily diet
- Cuirrent research suggests that kids are not engaged in enough physical activity
School lunch programs in particular, are trying to meet new guidelines that require more servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while staying on budget and pleasing kid’s and teen’s palate preferences. New targets for sodium, saturated fat and refined sugar levels are also a strong consideration in the newly revised lunch program nutrition goals. One school in the Tampa, Florida district is offering a tasting menu to about 250 students to get ratings on the lunch menu options being contemplated. A spicy black bean veggie wrap received a thumbs up; sweet potato salad was banished. In another school district, yogurt parfaits and plucots were well-received, but collard greens and blood oranges failed miserably. Younger children seem to embrace the reality that they need to be eating healthier fare, and now typically ask about the health grades of the school lunch foods they are served. Some school officials nationwide intuitively realize that if the lunch food presentation is similar to restaurant food, it may get a better response from the students, especially teens. And stealth nutrition, which can involve incorporating fruit or vegetable purees into an existing recipe, helps nudge the nutrient value of foods, without modifying the taste substantially.
A new lunch model also being presented to students is the concept of MyTray and how their lunch tray should look. It should include a fruit and vegetable serving or two vegetable portions, a serving of meat for protein, a whole grain serving and a dairy-based beverage, preferably low fat or non fat. Kids with dietary restrictions and those who follow a vegetarian lifestyle, will be offered an alternate protein. Don’t be surprised if you still see flavored low fat milk on the agenda. Kids need the calcium and vitamin D fortification, and despite the extra calories from the flavorings, it is superior to other high calorie drinks like soda. Milk served in school may be the only dairy serving that a child from a lower socioeconomic situation receives, so school officials consider it a necessary lunch component.
If you are packing a brown bag lunch for your child or teen, discuss the beverages they should purchase at school, preferably water and milk, and then consider these combos:
- Whole grain tortilla wrap with cut up vegetables and melted part skim cheese, berries and a low fat pudding.
- Half a whole grain sandwich with low sodium turkey slices, mashed avocado and tomato slices plus cut up carrots, a small yogurt and an apple.
- Half a pita pocket filled with either tuna, beans or egg salad plus shredded lettuce and jicama or shredded lettuce and cucumbers; string cheese and some grapes.
- A Greek –style yogurt with berries, cereal and nuts (if allowed) on the side to mix in, plus carrots and celery.
- Whole grain pasta mixed with beans and vegetables, with an orange and a small wedge of low fat cheese.
- Two hard boiled eggs plus baked crackers and a small salad and 2 small plums
- Two whole grain waffles with peanut butter (if allowed) or soy nut spread plus banana slices, cut up vegetables and a yogurt dip.
- A serving of edamame (soybeans) with baked crackers, a serving of low fat cheese, peppers and cucumbers, and frozen grapes.
These suggestions follow the healthy guidelines that school lunch programs will be following this year. Want to share your child’s favorite healthy brown bag lunch??