Healthier Lunches for Children Start at Home

Sep 25, 2015

School lunches take a lot of heat from all sides, especially the lunches that students buy at school. Kids complain about the taste, and nutrition advocates complain that they’re often not healthy enough.

But what about the lunches kids bring from home? Often in the shuffle of getting ready in the morning, nutrition gives way to expediency -  to the point that some schools have sent home notes with children, admonishing parents to pack them a healthier lunch.

Lake Effect turned to Ellie Duyser for advice. She is the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee's Healthy Living director and a dietician.

With many parents favoring ready-made snacks for on the go, Duyser suggests incorporating healthier alternatives that not only provide proper nutrition, but are a good source of energy for kids growing and learning in school. She recommends items like unsalted, roasted nuts; dried fruit and whole grain cereals.

"Popcorn is a whole grain and you can eat a lot more of it and fill up those tummies with less calories than chips and pretzels,"she says. Other lunch and snack alternatives include trail mix rather than a granola bar, whole fruit over fruit juice, and always keep in mind to include as many colors of the rainbow as possible in a child's lunch.

For parents who are trying to be mindful of what is going into their own and their child's body, Duyser says that here are a lot of healthy options, but limiting things to less than five ingredients and choosing items with sugar after the first three ingredients, if it does need to be a part of it, is a good rule to follow.