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Tips for packing healthy school lunches

Reviewed By: Martha Upchurch, registered dietitian (Last Updated: August 22, 2013)

Mom and girls packing lunch

ack in Back-to-school time? Start the school year right with healthy eating habits. Nutrition experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt offer parents tips for packing healthy school lunches.

One in three American children is considered overweight or obese. Obesity increases a child’s risk of developing serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure or cholesterol.

School lunches should be well balanced, include a protein, and lean more heavily on grains, fruits, and vegetables. Keep sweets and fats to a minimum.

“Healthier eating habits have well-documented health benefits, such as helping prevent obesity and other diseases. But healthier eating habits also help to fuel children’s brains for academics, their bodies for athletic performance, and also promote healthy skin and body weight,” said Children’s Hospital registered dietitian Martha Upchurch.

“Teaching children healthy eating habits will help set the stage for a healthy teenage and adult life,” added Upchurch. “Children discover they love certain healthy foods. When they realize this, they are more likely to make smart choices when a parent is not present.”

Healthy lunch tips

  • A healthy lunch contains at least three food groups. Anything else is a bonus!
  • Switch to whole grains, which contain more nutrients compared to refined grains.
  • Sneak veggies into a sandwich by adding spinach, avocado, or carrots.
  • Liven it up with hummus, ranch, yogurt, or peanut butter for dipping fruits and vegetables.
  • Fresh fruits and veggies are preferable to canned or jarred.
  • Try to avoid sugary drinks such as sodas, sports drinks, and flavored milks.
  • Make sweets a special treat, not an everyday indulgence.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes.

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Additional sites rich with information and resources on a variety of health conditions and tips include:

Health & Wellness Library

Growing up Healthy

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