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How does Your Child's School Lunch Rate?

Posted on Jan 09, 2015 by Maggie LaBarbera

Is it better to make your child's lunch or have them eat at the school cafeteria?  Well that questions depends on what your school provides and what you provide.

Of course, all food will provide children with energy that their body needs to keep growing.  They are, after all, a high output factory creating thousands of new cells as they continue to develop.  Their brain, in particular, is not only growing but it is learning!  And food provides the fuel for these activities.

But, children also need specific nutrients to help them grow optimally and fight off disease.  These nutrients come in food naturally as minerals, vitamins and fiber.  The body also needs protein, some healthy fats and plenty of fresh water.

Schools are now mandated to provide a healthier meal to children.  They have guidelines that their meals must provide.  

Schools must offer students foods from each of the five food groups.  A school lunch would offer:

  • ½ to 1 cup of fruits,
  • ¾ to 1 cup of vegetables,
  • 1 cup of 1 percent or fat-free milk (if sweetened, fat-free only),
  • 1 to 2 ounces of grains (half of which are whole grains, to a maximum of 9 to 12 ounces a week),
  • 1 to 2 ounces of meat or a meat alternative (to a maximum of 10 to 12 ounces a week).
  • A variety of vegetables — not just potatoes — must be served,

Children must select at least three of these options each day, including at least one fruit or vegetable. 

A new study indicates that lunch made at home may be less nutritious and here's why.  Lunches made at home:

  • contained less servings of fruit
  • contained less servings of vegetables
  • contained less whole grains versus process grains (for example 100% whole wheat bread versus white bread)
  • contained less milk
  • contained more snack chips
  • contained more sugary beverages
  • contained more desserts

Hmmm. I am a big proponent of bringing lunch from home, it is usually more economical, kids can help prepare their lunch and you can customize it to the foods your child enjoys which means they are more likely to eat (versus dumping it or trading it)

 So take a look at the list above that school use as their guidelines and create a healthier lunch for your child using the same guidelines they are using.  If you want to put a special treat in your child's lunch, pick only one and pick a special day.  This way you are giving them a choice and teaching them that these are once in a while treats.


Nourish Thought for the Day:  

A healthy lunch starts with healthy plan made up of a variety of foods from the five food groups.


More Lunch Tips For Parents

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Parents Guide To Making a Healthy Lunch For Kids

Our dietitians share their tips for what ingredients makes a healthy lunch box for children. School lunch article with suggestions on buying school lunch and tips for making a well balanced healthy lunch for school aged children.

Tips For Parents - What To Do When Children Won't Eat Their Lunch

Solutions For Children Who Ditch Their lunch. Tips and suggestions from our dietitians on what to do with kids that throw away their lunch.

Healthy Lunch Foods For Children Organized By Food Groups

Create a balanced lunch that meets the MyPlate nutrition guidlelines. Food ideas and suggestions for creating a healthy well-balanced lunch for children from each of the five food groups. Lunchbox ideas from the food groups of My Plate.






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