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Make Your Lunchtime Quick and Healthy

Nutrition Plate (post)Do you always hop to the same sandwich shop for a la boring turkey sandwich, or the same-old same-old salad when you are in the midst of another food rut? Same cereal, two pieces of fruit, oh, lunchtime grows more stale and boring. Not only do my own lunches become insipid, right now I must start considering healthier and more vibrant lunches for my second grader who returns to public school in just a few short weeks. (Signal the wailing mommy guilt and weeping.)

In response to the healthy school lunch guidelines implemented this year as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, lawmakers, school officials, parents and kids are expressing their opinions on how the new requirements are affecting lunchtime fare.

The guidelines limit excess fatty calories that most school lunches can contain, as well as calling for reduced sodium and saturated fat levels. American Council on Exercise Senior Health Strategist, Natalie Digate Muth RD, MD, reported how parents can help kids adapt to the new lunch rules and encourage all adults and role models to start eating more diverse, colorful and well-rounded midday meals.

(1)  Learn how to eat healthier food. Much research shows that it takes children 15-20 times to accept a previously rejected food item. Students will eventually come around to liking them, and trying new global dishes. (I started making my son, Sam, a gigantic Caesar salad for his school snack because he craves those ingredients and it fills him up before lunch.)

(2)  Make it taste and look scrumptious. Taste is the number one predictor of whether a child will eat a food. School officials need to work with younger students to develop a menu that not only meets nutritional requirements but that also tastes good. (If I could afford it, I’d take out from a new restaurant every day for my own lunch.)

Not surprisingly, students accustomed to lunches filled with high-salt, fried foods will not adjust as readily to planned Federal changes.

Given the levels of obesity and physical inactivity, however, schools and communities cannot afford to cater to a child’s preference for sweet and salty foods.  The school lunch should serve as an example of the highest health standards in practice.

I am going to keep an eye on Sam’s healthier school lunches, and I am going to pack a lunch brown bag more often during the week at work.

How will you freshen up your boring old lunch regimen? Burp. (Excuse me.)

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