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Q. "Although I try to pack a healthy lunch for my 7-year-old daughter every day, we do not always have time in the morning. I have spoken to several parents with the same problem. What suggestions do you have for us to help encourage our children to select more nutritious foods when they have to buy lunch at school?"
A. You're right to recognize the importance of children eating a well-balanced lunch, especially when they're at school. A healthy lunch will help your child perform well and pay attention in class for the rest of the day. It also gives children the energy they need to participate in after-school activities. At the same time, kids often are tempted to indulge in less nutritious meals and snacks, especially when they are away from home. While all foods can fit into a healthy diet, children need to be taught which foods to select. School lunches and lunches packed by your daughter at home can teach her this responsibility. Fortunately, recent studies show that children most often cite their mothers as their diet and health role model. Your daughter is more likely to choose a healthy meal in the cafeteria if she is regularly given healthy foods at home. As a parent, the most important thing you can do is set a good example. In addition, schools across the county are reviewing their cafeteria menus to offer more healthier-for-you food choices. All of which will help your daughter learn how to make the best decisions about which foods fit her own needs.
Talk with your children about their favorite healthy foods and be sure to keep them on hand as often as possible. If healthy food is easily accessible at home, your children are more likely to want a homemade lunch, or even to pack their own.
Here are some ideas: