September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month – an observance that coincides with the return of children to the classroom. This convergence of events leads many parents to ask one question, “how can I ensure that my child receives a nutritious diet now that they are back in school?”
Obesity rates among children have tripled over the past three decades. It’s now estimated that approximately 18% of children living in the United States are classified as obese. It is also estimated that children who are obese are ten times more likely to become obese as adults than other children. Since most children consume half of their daily caloric intake while in school, concentrating on providing them with a healthy and balanced diet while they are there is essential in the battle against obesity.
For many parents, the decision of whether to pack lunch from home or buy lunch from school is a difficult one. Some parents question the nutritional value of school lunches. Parents who have this concern should know that in recent years, schools have implemented new standards for the nutritional value of meals to align with U.S. dietary guidelines. Processed lunches that used to be high in fat, sugar, and sodium have been replaced with meals that meet or exceed national standards. School meals now also feature a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low or fat-free milk.
For those who still opt to pack their child’s lunch, they can improve their child’s diet and reduce their chances of becoming obese by following some simple tips:
- Choose whole wheat breads instead of white bread when making sandwiches
- Use fresh fruits instead of canned or processed alternatives
- Fill a sandwich bag with something other than a sandwich. There are many other food options for your kids to snack on, such as carrots, nuts, granola, or raisins.
- Initiate a salad day. Prepare the basics the night before and have your child choose some toppings including sliced chicken or turkey or low-fat cheese.
- Introduce wraps as an option to a boring old sandwich. Give it extra flavor by coating with a low-fat spread and fill it with lettuce and protein. You can cut the wrap into pinwheel slices for fun.
- Invest in a thermos and fill it up with mac and cheese or your child’s favorite soup, stew or pasta.
- Encourage your child to drink plenty of water instead of sugary juice boxes or soda. Sugary drinks are considered one of the leading causes of childhood obesity.
Whether your child buys or packs lunch, it’s important to stay involved. Talk to them about what food choices they made and discuss the many benefits eating a healthy diet has on both their mind and body.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.