PARENTING Packing healthy for kids' lunches
Nutritional meals are vital for kids' development. Experts offer some advice for getting it right.
By STEVE INFANTI
Q. I pack the lunches for my children every day. I feel that they are very healthy, but I'm worried that the lunches may have too much fat in them. How can I keep my children eating healthy?
A. If you're packing eight candy bars with each lunch, your children aren't eating healthy. Recent studies show kids are courting disaster when it comes to the long-term health consequences of their diets. The foods parents pack into kids' lunch boxes and the meals served at school cafeterias are among the main culprits, contributing to alarming health trends.
Fat and sugar comprise at least 60 percent of the caloric intake of Americans. Thirty five percent of American schoolchildren have high cholesterol.
Three out of 12 school districts recently surveyed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine did not meet USDA nutrition guidelines.
Only one of the 12 elementary school districts is substituting lower-fat, cholesterol-free protein for meat on school menus. And only one district routinely offers calcium-rich milk alternatives, a surprising finding given the growing concern with milk as a potential factor in a variety of health problems.
A recent medical research study in Baltimore County in Maryland established that 35 percent of America's schoolchildren have abnormally high cholesterol levels.
"One of the best lessons kids can learn in school is how to be healthy by eating well. But for the most part, we're dumbing kids down and fattening them up when it comes to eating right," says Mark Mincolla, Ph.D., a Boston nutritionist and author.
Mincolla offers the "Great Eight" lists of school lunch nutrition do's and don'ts: "The 8 Great Do's"-- Put these in your kids' lunches:
UOne fruit: apple.
UOne vegetable: carrot or celery sticks.
UOne protein in sandwich: chicken, turkey, tuna.
UWhole grain bread, not white.
UDiluted Juice (50/50).
U1-percent milk (lower in fat).
ULow-fat vanilla yogurt.
"The 8 Great Don'ts"-- Take these out of your kids' lunches:
UPrepackaged foods (with increased sodium, fats, sugars and food coloring).
UWhole milk, chocolate milk, higher-fat milk.
UNondiluted drinks high in sugar.
UProcessed meats high in nitros.