Pack a Healthier Lunch

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The lunch bunch

Cafeteria lunches in some schools have come a long way since the days of menus packed with sloppy Joes and mystery meats. Martha Kohn, the mother of two children in the Chappaqua (NY) School District, is thrilled with the progress made. "Our cafeteria always offers new foods for kids to try. The cafeteria staff has formed a great partnership with the PTA -- parent volunteers help hand out samples of new foods and tell the staff which foods the children liked and didn't like." Children often need encouragement to try a food that is unfamiliar to them. Involving parents helps the cafeteria staff to make changes to the lunch menu.

Thanks to a federal program that began in 1996, all schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program must follow strict nutrition guidelines. School lunches are much lower in fat than they used to be and are required to supply at least one-third of a child's daily requirements for essential vitamins and minerals. So take a closer look when your child brings home the school lunch menu. You'll see more "healthy" foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains. You'll notice that more vegetarian entrees and fewer fried foods. And in a nod to the growing diversity of our population, school lunch menus include many more ethnic entrees than ever before.--Mindy Hermann, R.D.


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