The Family Table

Educating Families About the Benefits of Family Meals

Archive for the tag “fruit”

What’s in that lunch box? 5 Tips to Make Packed Lunches Healthier

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Recipe of the Week

School is starting and parents all over are gearing up to pack school lunches. I have always had the perception that a lunch packed at home is healthier than what’s being served in the school cafeteria. Turns out that’s wrong – very wrong. A recent study from Tufts University  shows that on the average school day 41% of children are bringing a packed lunch from home, and most of those lunches are far less healthy than the cafeteria food being served. In fact, only 27% of the lunches reviewed met the same nutrition standards the cafeterias have to meet. Instead, most lunches packed at home were an assortment of snack foods and desserts.

I have to make a confession: I never pack my kids a school lunch. They actually love the school cafeteria lunches, which may not say too much about my cooking. My 8 year-old daughter sometimes packs her own lunch, but before it goes in her bookbag it has to pass my inspection to ensure it isn’t a lunch made up totally of junk. So from the research article and my own, albeit limited, experience packing school lunches, here are a few tips to make packed lunches healthier:

  1. The study found a big problem was sugary drinks in packed lunches. Pack water or have your child buy milk at school.
  2. Fruits and veggies are also lacking in most homemade lunches. Make a fruit or veggie requirement for each lunch – and work with your child to find fruit and veggies that they will enjoy eating and that won’t end up in the trash at school.
  3. Many homemade lunches lacked a protein-rich entrée item and were mainly carbs and sugar. Even something as simple as a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread is a healthy kid-friendly choice. My kids also love yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and cheese.
  4. Encourage your kids to pack their own lunches. Have a “Healthy Lunch Checklist” they can follow that includes fruits and veggies, a protein, water, etc. I allow one snack or dessert item in the lunch and am clear with my daughter about what I consider a dessert serving – one cookie, not five cookies! Letting kids pack their own lunch makes it more likely that they will eat it and teaches them the valuable skill of how to create a healthy meal for themselves.
  5. Make it a rule that a parent checks the lunch before it goes in the bookbag.

Need ideas for healthy packed lunches? Pinterest comes to the rescue with 100s of healthy school lunch ideas!

Holli-Seabury-2012

Holli Seabury
CEO and Mother of Seven

Tip of the Week: Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

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Recipe of the Week

I was at a conference recently and I got into a very heated “discussion” with a vendor who was representing a processed fruit product. He was telling everyone who walked by that this highly processed fruit was perfect for preschoolers because they would love the brightly colored packaging and the processed fruit tasted better than real fruit! Plus, it had a shelf life of two years!

So what was my issue with this whole sales pitch? Here’s my issue: we live in a country where childhood obesity and diabetes in children is at epidemic proportions. Part of this problem is due to children eating so much processed food. We all need to work hard to teach young children what real fruit and vegetables are, and how they should be the biggest part of a healthy diet. Do kids love super-sweet fruit products with bright packaging? Yes! But they are nowhere near as healthy as real fruit and vegetables, in their natural state.

So how can we help our children to eat real, unprocessed foods? The most important thing we can do is to serve real fruits and vegetables at each meal. I define a real fruit or veggie as something that looks like it did when it grew in the ground or on the tree. There are no trees with brightly colored packaging growing on them!

Establishing the habit of eating real fruits and veggies with every meal makes it much more likely that your children will enjoy eating healthy foods. Today I was packing my 6 year-old son’s lunch for day camp and I asked him what fruit he wanted. He said, “I don’t need fruit.” I told him that wasn’t an option and that his lunch wouldn’t be healthy without fruit (I also told him his older sister would be watching while he ate lunch!) I gave him a few options, and he thought about it and chose apples slices as his fruit. My children see me eat lots of fruit and veggies, so this is the norm in our family, and I talk to them frequently about how I try to make healthy choices.

It’s important to let children have some control over what they eat. Ask them to choose the veggie for dinner or what foods they want for lunch. This gives you a great opportunity to talk about how to make healthy choices and how sometimes we may want to eat certain foods, but they aren’t healthy, so we eat them only once in a while. When children are shopping with you, let them pick some new fruits and veggies to try. There are some exciting, exotic fruits at our grocery stores – give some a try! Children are much more likely to eat foods they have chosen and allowing them to make food choices as a child prepares them to make healthy choices when they are older.

Holli-Seabury-2012

Holli Seabury
CEO and Mother of Seven

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