Eating nutritional foods can help children be at their best academically, experts say.
A nutritionist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center says that lunches served in school cafeterias are not always the best option, adding that a lunch from home may be more nutritious.
"Lunches served in school cafeterias are not always the best choice and I recommend that sometimes lunches need to be packed. though The Healthy School Lunch Campaign is urging schools to serve more balanced, lower fat meals, a packed lunch means the parents are in control of what children eat, including their portion size," says Mary Pat Alfaro, MS, RD, CNSD, education coordinator in Nutrition Therapy at Cincinnati Children's.
Nutrition is very important for school children, for many reasons. Multiple studies have shown that poor nutrition has an adverse effect on school performance and overall achievement. Improving health and nutrition in underfed children is linked with less non-attendance, more grades completed and better performance on tests.
Alfro says that good nutrition also improves mental and behavioural performance.
She adds that obesity, which is a result of eating unhealthy food, not only impacts children's physical health but also psychosocial health. A study of self reported quality of life in children and adolescents showed that obesity leads to considerably lower emotional, social and school functioning. Prevention and treatment of obesity is an important goal for improving mental and physical health for all children. Healthy eating and exercise are important means of treating and preventing obesity.
"So as we can see, the evidence for providing healthy foods for children can contribute to a better school year academically, physically and socially," says Alfaro.
Alfaro recommends that in order to make their kid's food more nutritious, parents should keep the following things in mind.
· Go for variety to get different nutrients and beat boredom. Try bagels, English muffins, crackers, pita bread, or tortillas paired with your favorite spread or sandwich filling.
· Find healthy alternatives to snack chips. Trail mix, flavored rice cakes, pita chips and homemade tortilla chips can be made easily.
· Pack fruit that is easy to eat. Grapes, strawberries, chunks of melon,
· Involve your children in planning and preparing lunches.
· Write down lunch menu ideas for the week and post it in the kitchen. After planning three to four weeks worth you can rotate the menus throughout the year.
· Encourage your child to choose lowfat white milk or water to drink. Calories and sugar in chocolate milk, juices and pop add up quickly.
· When school lunch menus are printed in advance, help children decide on a balanced lunch before leaving the house.
· Encourage children to choose green vegetables and fruits with the entrée. Pizza and chicken fingers are okay occasionally as long as they are balanced.