Rethinking School Lunch
Posted: July 27, 2012
The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans collected extensive nutrition research from across the country to describe current American eating trends and prescribe new dietary recommendations. These new guidelines revealed that on average, Americans are consuming less than 20 percent of the recommended intakes for whole grains, less than 60 percent for vegetables, less than 50 percent for fruits, and less than 60 percent for milk and milk products.
They also discovered that for ages 4 – 13 years old, the top energy food source as reported by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), are grain-based desserts. This includes foods such as cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pies, crisps, cobblers and granola bars. For teen’s 14 – 18 years old, the number one source for energy was from soda, sports, and energy drinks.
Alarms should be sounding in your head!!!!! Both of these top energy sources, beverages and grain-based desserts, provide very little nutritional value to our children’s diets. These eating patterns do not go without consequence.
With the progressing trends of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, researches fear that the current generation of children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. So back to the brown bag.
Although your child has the ultimate choice of what he or she will put into their mouth, we as parents are able to ensure that nutritious foods are available. Here are some nutritious ideas to brighten your child’s lunch box:
For the sandwich: Substitute the “enriched” white bread for 100% whole wheat bread, or try a wheat wrap or wheat crackers. Choose low-fat deli meat options, such as turkey and ham. Bologna has nearly three times as much fat as deli turkey. Load the sandwich with lettuce, tomato and cucumber for a serving of hidden vegetables.
Fruit: Substitute a serving of real fruit for fruit snacks, such as fruit roll-ups, fruit leather and fruit gummies. These processed fruit snacks often have at least twice as many calories and sugar and half the fiber of a serving of real fruit. Try balling a melon instead of cubed fruit, or stack pieces or grapes, pineapple and apple on a skewer for a little fruit kebob.
For dessert: Substitute a mini parfait for the normal chocolate chip cookie. Layer low-fat granola with nuts, yogurt and yummy berries. The nuts will add “good” fat; the yogurt will have calcium and the berries provide a serving of fruit, fiber and vitamins.
Here are a few more recipes to brighten the bag:
Tomato & Corn Salsa
1 large tomato, diced
3 T. black beans
3 T. frozen corn
2 T. Salsa
Toss together and pack in a single portion container, along with some multi-grain tortilla chips.
2 T. peanut butter
1 whole wheat hotdog bun
Spread peanut butter on the inside of the hotdog bun, then unpeel the banana and place in the middle, just like a hot dog!
Keep your children healthy by remembering these food safety tips:
- Harmful bacteria can develop in the “Danger Zone”, 40-140 °F
- Prepackaged combos that contain luncheon meats with crackers, cheese and condiments must be refrigerated or kept cold
- Freeze sandwiches overnight to insure safety (excluding mayo, lettuce and tomato – add these in later)
- Insulated or soft-sided lunch boxes are best for keeping lunches cold
- If using a paper bag, double bag foods for extra insulation
- An ice source should be packed with any type of perishable food
- Foods that are safe without a cold source: whole fruits, vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard and pickles.
Information from the USDA
This article was written by Marcia Weber, Extension Educator and Certified Food Safety Instructor for Penn State Extension in York County, in collaboration with Lauren Martin a former summer assistant. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce. Penn State Extension in York County is located at 112 Pleasant Acres Road, York PA, 17402, phone 717-840-7408, email email@example.com