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Keep Health in Mind When Planning School Day Menus

Expert urges parents to pack some variety and nutrition into kids' lunch boxes

MONDAY, Sept. 6, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- As parents prepare for their children's return to school, they need to remember that healthy meals and snacks are essential for learning.

"Parents can make the school day easier for their children by providing nutritious and yummy breakfasts, lunches and snacks that promote optimal learning. Everyone is in a rush in the morning, but it only takes a few minutes on Sunday to plan healthy meals to fuel your child's week," Karin Richards, director of the Exercise Science and Wellness Management program, and director of Health Sciences at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, said in a university news release.

Richards offered the following advice for parents as they plan breakfast, lunch and snacks for their school-age children:

  • Include at least three types of foods into each meal, making sure to include some type of protein and complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bagels or pasta. The complex carbohydrates will provide energy while the protein will satisfy your child's appetite for a longer period of time.
  • Bring your child to the market with you and let him or her choose one fruit or vegetable each week. Encourage kids to try new and interesting produce such as kiwi, papaya and edamame.
  • Monitor portion size. Three to four ounces of meat (about the size of your palm) is plenty. Adjust the amount based on your child's age and activity level.
  • Add more vegetables into your child's diet, even if you have to sneak them in. For example, try zucchini bread, veggies with low-fat dip, or shred carrots into tomato sauce and soups.
  • For beverages, suggest low-fat milk or water. If you child prefers juice, make sure it's 100 percent juice.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and healthy eating.

SOURCE: University of the Sciences, news release, Aug. 30, 2010
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