08-15-2011 (Dayton, OH) -
As summer ends, parents watch as their children race to the bus in hopes of starting the year off on the right foot. Parents do their best to make sure their children have all the necessary essentials for their first day of class by filling their backpacks with pencils, erasers, and notebooks. However, it is just as important to make sure your child goes to school with a healthy lunch. Not only does a healthy lunch provide children with the nutritional value they need, but it can also lead to healthy eating habits later in life.
Parents mean well and have good intentions when it comes to their kids but sometimes a lack of knowledge on healthy living may be the only thing standing in the way of a clean bill of health. According to the 2011 Children’s Medical Center of Dayton’s Regional Pediatric Health Assessment, the majority of parents of overweight and obese children do not perceive their children as having any weight problems. Between seven and eight percent of parents of overweight and obese children believe that their child is underweight and five percent of parents of underweight children believe their child is overweight. To help fix this problem, Dayton Children’s recommends following the recommended 5-2-1-0 plan.
- Five fruits and vegetables
- Less than two hours of leisure time on TV, video and/or computer games
- One hour of active play each day
- Almost no sugary soda or juice flavored drinks
Parents can set their kids on the right track to healthy living whether their child packs or buys their lunch at school. If kids don’t pack their lunches they can still follow the plan.
To incorporate the plan, try packing small packs of carrots in your lunch at school for an afternoon snack. Avoid foods that are processed or canned in syrup that may contain sauces or sugars. If you can’t get fresh vegetables, switch to frozen instead.
Spend less than two hours of leisure time on TV, video and/or computer games. It may be tempting for children to come home and relax in front of the TV after a long day at school, but screen time takes away from physical activity and active play that every child needs. Instead of watching TV, you can walk your dog, fly a kite, toss a frisbee, ride your bike, or play tag.
Get at least one hour of active play each day. Try activities that both parents and kids will enjoy. Commit to taking a walk or bike ride after dinner, play wiffle ball, or go skating.
Drink almost zero sugary soda or juice flavored drinks. Have your child drink more water and milk, or 100% fruit juice. Remember, eat your fruit, don't drink it. It's best to limit real fruit juice to one fruit serving (4 oz) per day.
If your child is buying their lunch, use it as a chance to steer them toward good choices. Especially with younger kids, explain how a nutritious lunch will give them energy to finish the rest of the school day and enjoy after-school activities. Here are some tips for making sure your child is still healthy with a school bought lunch:
- Look over the cafeteria menu together. Ask what a typical lunch includes and which meals your kids particularly like. Recommend items that are healthier, but be willing to allow them to buy favorite lunch items occasionally, even if that includes a hot dog.
- Ask about foods like chips, soda, and ice cream. Find out if and when these foods are available at school.
- Encourage kids to take a packed lunch, at least occasionally. This can put the parent back in the driver's seat and help ensure that kids get a nutritious midday meal.
It will take some time to convert into a healthy lifestyle, so set a goal to make this school year healthier than the last for your kids. “It takes the average person 30 days to make a new behavior a habit,” says Christie Bernard, registered nurse at Dayton Children’s. Start this year off right!
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