According to a 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine, the past three decades have seen the childhood obesity rate more than double for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and more than triple for children aged 6-11 years. Currently, approximately nine million children over 6 years of age are considered obese.
Statistics like this can be scary to nutrition-savvy parents who are concerned with their children’s health. When children are at home, parents generally have control over what goes into their mouths, but what about when they go to school or day care? It can be a big challenge to ensure that a child maintains healthy eating habits even when away from home.
Most school lunches are loaded with refined sugars, saturated fats, sodium and artificial additives. Packing a lunch for your child (or helping them pack it) is the best way to avoid these negative nutritional influences. The trick is to prepare a nutritious meal that is also fun and tasty so your child won’t be tempted by the lunch line junk foods. Following are some tips to get your ideas flowing:
- In addition to a main course, pack a variety of snacks that are tasty, colorful and low-calorie.
- Luxuriate in vegetables, include a fruit, and avoid too many refined carbohydrates.
- Many healthy items, such as carrots, celery, nuts and fruit, now come in convenient single-serve packages.
- If your child won’t eat plain vegetables, try including a dip or topping such as nut butter or natural cheese.
- Pack baked chips or soy crisps instead of greasy potato chips.
- Focus on whole grains in sandwich bread and crackers.
- A whole wheat veggie wrap is a great main dish that your child can help stuff with their favorite ingredients. Top it with a light sauce of omega-rich vegetable oil like olive oil or flax oil mixed with a bit of soy sauce and nutritional yeast.
- A burrito is another convenient and healthy meal. Fill a whole wheat tortilla with whole beans and grilled vegetables.
- See below for a delicious Mock-Tuna sandwich spread recipe.
- Grill some tofu the night before to make a sandwich or eat with crackers.
- Pack a bottle of water for during the day and organic milk or 100% juice for lunch. Don’t overdo the juice however, as even 100% juice contains a lot of sugar.
- For dessert, pack something naturally sweet like all-natural fruit leather, whole wheat graham crackers, or a fruit & nut bar.
- Finally, maintain a healthy relationship with your child by including a nice note telling them you love them and wishing them a fun day!
Down to Earth is your source for delicious, all natural and convenient lunch foods. We have kid-friendly snacks free of chemical preservatives, refined sugars, and trans-fats. Everything you need, always at affordable, down to earth prices.
- Childhood Obesity in the United States: Facts and Figures. INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES FACT SHEET • SEPTEMBER 2004