Simple Steps for a Healthy Weight :Making School Lunch Healthy (page 3)
September is back-to-school time - and the perfect time to think about school lunches. Whether kids eat in the school cafeteria or carry a Spiderman lunchbox, there's good news on the menu.
"Lunch at school is important for two main reasons," says Katie Bark, a registered dietitian who is co-chair of Montana Action for Healthy Kids and coordinator of Montana's Team Nutrition programs. "A mid-day meal provides brain food that kids need for afternoon classes and homework. A healthy lunch also helps maintain a strong body for after-school athletics and activities like dance and music lessons."
Meals funded by USDA's Child Nutrition Programs, including breakfast and lunch, must meet specific guidelines for menu balance and fat content. School lunches served in kid-sized portions are nutritious and appealing. A May 2004 study showed that kids who eat school lunch consume 29 percent fewer calories from fat and twice as many fruits and vegetables than kids who eat a typical bag lunch.
According to Bark, parents can play an important role in creating healthy nutrition environments at local schools.
"Read the menus carefully, visit the cafeteria, buy a meal to eat with your child, and talk to foodservice staff about the healthy changes they are making. If you see room for improvement, look for constructive ways to support positive changes - like through PTA/PTO or other parent groups."
Families can also create lunchbox makeovers at home - packing fun, nutritious meals for optimal performance. All it takes is five items: a fruit, a veggie, a whole grain, a protein, and a dairy food. It's as easy as a lean roast beef sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato, a single-serving cup of canned fruit, and a carton of low-fat milk purchased at school. You can also cover the nutrition bases with peanut butter on crackers or rice cakes, string cheese, baby carrots, and a box of 100% juice.
Eat Right Montana, a statewide coalition promoting healthful eating and active lifestyles, urges Montanans to take a fresh look at school lunch. Support healthy changes in school cafeterias and look for new lunch treats at the supermarket - like drinkable yogurts and individual packs of fresh fruit slices.
"Small changes make nutrition fun," says Bark. "Give your peanut butter sandwich a new shape with a cookie cutter, or try 'zebra bread' - white bread on one side and whole wheat on the other!"
12 Delicious, Easy Ways to Enjoy Fruit
Fruit is a double-sweet treat. It's a delicious treat for your taste buds - and a nutrition treat for your whole body. Fruits are naturally nutrient-rich. That means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytonutrients, yet they are still low in calories. To maximize the health benefits from fruit, nutrition experts suggest 2 to 3 servings per day - in a rainbow of colors. All types of fruit are nutritious - fresh, frozen, canned, and dried - so here are a dozen easy ways to treat yourself to good health!
1. Berries, berries, berries: Canned blueberries in muffins, dried cranberries (craisins) in a salad, or fresh, juicy strawberries for dessert.
2. Citrus fruit: Oranges, pink and white grapefruit, tangerines, tangelos, Clementines, lemons, and limes.
3. Melons and more melons: Slices of watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, or Crenshaw - in a fruit cup or for a sweet snack.
4. Bananas: Bananas: Bananas: Bananas: Bananas, nature's fast food, come in their own wrapper - convenient to take in the car or eat at your desk.
5. Kiwi fruit: Slice kiwi fruit into a mixed fruit or fresh spinach salad - or just scoop them out of their thin, brown peel.
6. Pineapple: One of the most versatile fruits, pineapple is perfect fresh, canned, dried, as juice, or on a pizza!
7. Tropical fruit: Fresh produce departments and canned food aisles now serve up mangoes, papaya, and star fruit.
8. Apples and pears: pears: pears: pears: A fresh, crisp snack, a juicy addition to green salad, and a tasty pie, tart, or cobbler for dessert.
9. Summer tree fruit: Nectarines, peaches and apricots are fabulous when fresh - and still quite tasty when canned in their own juice.
10. Plums and prunes: prunes: prunes: prunes: Fresh plums are another juicy taste of summer; dried or made into juice, prunes are very nice for regularity!
11. Cherries and grapes: grapes: grapes: grapes: Fresh or dried, cherries and grapes make a great snack or addition to salads (mixed fruit or tossed green).
12. Trendy tomatoes: tomatoes: tomatoes: tomatoes: That's right, tomatoes are a fruit - and now they come in sweet, fruit-shaped cherry, grape, and strawberry varieties.
12 Fun Ways to Make Schools Days Active Days
Very few kids today get the activity they need for a healthy weight and overall fitness. Helping kids get fit can help them do better in school, have a better attitude all day long, and sleep better at night. When you help your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or next-door neighbor get active, you can improve your own health and weight at the same time. Walking to school is a wonderful first step - but look at all the other enjoyable ways to add physical activity into the school day!
1. Walk to school: school: school: school: For new ideas on the tried-and-true path to fitness for generations, visit www.walktoschool-usa.org/
2. Put on a pedometer: pedometer: pedometer: pedometer: Pedometers come in kid-friendly colors, sizes, and shapes. Ask if your school has a pedometer program.
3. Create a "walking" school bus: Designated adults pick up kids for a group walk to school. Learn more at www.walkingschoolbus.org/
4. Use pedal or push power: Bikes, trikes, and scooters are all fun ways to get to school. Remember to wear a helmet and bring a lock.
5. Take 10 in the classroom: classroom: classroom: classroom: Simple idea to get kids moving during regular class time; see one program at www.take10.net/
6. Start a walking club: club: club: club: Students, staff, teachers, and parents all need easy ways to get fit; work with the PE teacher to start a club.
7. Volunteer for active recess: Most schools welcome volunteers. See what you can do to make recess more active, fun, and inclusive.
8. Take on a challenge: At www.presidentschallenge.org/, you (and the whole school) can register for recognition and awards.
9. Walk home from school: Meet the kids - and have some fun on the way home. Play ball at school or have a walking scavenger hunt.
10. Pick a verb, any VERBT: Sports tips, places to play, games you can only imagine, it's all at this very cool site: www.verbnow.com/
11. Switch to active videos : : : : Exercise videos now come in every flavor - from Elmocize to Yoga Fitness for Kids (ages 7 to 12).
12. Play, play, play: Anywhere, anytime, at the park, or in the yard - it's simple with a ball, Frisbee, jump rope, or hula hoop.
Reprinted with the permission of the Montana Workforce Services Division.
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