Starting the School Year Right with Healthy Bodies and Healthy Minds

How to teach healthy meal choices and portion sizes to students who eat school lunches

Are you concerned about what your child is eating at school, but too busy to pack a lunch? Is your child on a free or reduced lunch plan? While we’re waiting for the USDA to raise standards on school lunches, we as parents can train our children to make healthy food choices at school. There are some great kid-friendly resources on the net to help you.

PBS Kids
PBS Kids offers great descriptions of portions like “a medium piece of fruit is about the size of a baseball” to help kids understand how much of an item is enough. Read through some of these descriptions and create some of your own to help teach your child how much is enough. Using these descriptions in conversation while serving meals at home will help your child to consider portion sizes at school.

MyPlate
The government just switched from a pyramid to a plate, and as parents we can teach our kids to use MyPlate when they’re looking at their school lunch tray. Here are three points to stress to our kids:

• Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables.
• Switch to fat-free or 1% milk.
• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

By talking about what our plates look like at the dinner table, our children can take this knowledge to school.

Ask your child, “What kind of milk are we drinking? Why is that a good choice to make?” MyPlate is also developing games, activities, and coloring sheets for children that will be finished by the end of the summer and available on their website to help get kids interested in making better choices.

Check Up On Their Progress
If you get off work early or drop your child off for breakfast, visit your child at mealtime. Make sure to praise them for their healthy choices and have a conversation with them and their friends about what a serving of chicken looks like. Remember, 30% to 50% of the calories your child eats is while they’re away at school. It is up to us as parents to give them the tools to make better choices at school during mealtime.

Resources
http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/body/foodsmarts/article3.html
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/food/diet-nutrition/2011-01-12-schoollunch13_ST_N.htm

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