By Joan Avolio, R.D., L.D.N., Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia Division




Summertime has come and gone, and now that kids are back at school, parents should keep a few things in mind when preparing their lunches and providing healthy snacks.

Fruits and vegetables are important components of any healthy lunch. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its food icon, MyPlate, half of every meal should consist of fruits and/or vegetables — especially of the colors red, orange, and dark green. Healthy protein, like chicken and turkey or peanut butter, provides long-burning fuel for afternoon lessons and classes. Lunch portions should vary based on age and needs. Younger children typically need smaller portions; however portions for kids of all ages should be controlled. Some other useful things to keep in mind when it comes to packing lunches include providing whole grain foods which will provide more nutrients, avoiding extra fats such as sauces, and choosing foods that do not spoil easily.

When kids stay after school for practice or other activities, snacks containing carbohydrates and protein, such as peanut butter and crackers or cheese and crackers, work well. For kids involved in sports, when they are practicing for longer than an hour and a half, juice and sport drinks are important to help keep them fueled.

Parents should be encouraged to include their children in packing lunches and preparing snacks so that they too can learn how to prepare healthy meals. By encouraging kids to participate and to try new foods, they will be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle and body weight.