The Importance of Healthy School Lunches

Recently I was asked to help our school district with ways to promote healthy eating in school. This included healthy snack ideas, healthy lunch ideas and how we can ensure that all children have healthy food while in school. We were focusing on both lunches that are brought from home as well as lunches that the school provides.

When I was a school aged kid my mother made sure I had a healthy lunch every day. Now, I was in school during the Stone Age (OK it only seems like it was prehistoric times) and parents did not have all the nutritional information that is available today. Parents just put together lunches that they thought would be good for their children. Even though my mom did not have all the knowledge that we now possess, she still would not fall for my pleas on behalf of having candy for lunch. She was too smart for that!

Parents back in the day had a good idea what was good for lunch, and what was bad. A typical lunch for me would have a sandwich of some type. Often it would be a turkey sandwich with lettuce and mayo or a ham sandwich with lettuce and mustard. But the real treat would be the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Those days were special occasions! In addition, mom would also include a vegetable such as carrot sticks or celery sticks. She would also put in some type of fruit such as a banana, an apple, or an orange. My lunch was always a good, healthy lunch, which my mom says is important to have a good day in school. Every few weeks my mom would allow me to buy my lunch at school, especially when it is a good sounding hot lunch. Overall, my lunch time in school was always healthy and tasting good!

I have tried to pass along those ideas when I have been making lunches for my kids. Fortunately, my kids are good eaters and do not mind having healthy lunches. Although it has not stopped them from asking for less than healthy items for lunch. I wonder where they got that from…hmmm? Must be my husband! Lol

“middle school lunch room” by woodleywonderworks is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In following in the footsteps of my mom, I try to give a variety of healthy foods, but also try to include some fun items. Following the guidelines of the basic food groups is always a good start. I have always tried to follow using the five major food groups. Throughout the day I try to make sure my children have dairy, fruits, vegetables, grain, and protein. While you may not have an opportunity to use all the groups at every meal, including lunch, it is important that over the course of the day, you provide food in all the categories.

In addition to being good for them, one of the main reasons to have a good lunch is to help children in school. Researchers have determined that a good, nutritious meal will help children maintain focus in school. Also, a good balanced lunch will help give them the energy that they need throughout the school day. I have been an advocate for a free lunch program for many years. A good lunch for a lower income child can make the difference between success and failure in school.

My mom used to say that a good lunch can carry you through the day, and she is right. That is why I will encourage all parents to make sure that their child has a nutritious lunch, whether they bring it to school or if they buy it in school. Thanks for the tip, mom!

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