Pencils and notebooks and new clothes all create school year excitement. School lunches can be exciting as well, or they can be sources of tension and worry. With planning and cooperation, however, registered dietitian Allison Lachowitz says you and your children can enjoy packing lunches, your children can enjoy eating them, and you can trust your children are getting the nutrients they need to get through the day.
"School-age children should be involved in the decision-making process when it comes to what goes in their lunchboxes," Lachowitz said. "Giving them say-so helps empower the child and makes it more likely that they'll eat and enjoy what is packed."
Lachowitz reminds parents that making decisions about lunches with their children presents excellent opportunities to teach about good nutrition. "Talk about what healthy choices are," Lachowitz said. "Talk about including an item from each food group to create a balanced meal. Be sure to include low-fat milk instead of a juice box, or a serving of cheese or yogurt and bottled water."
She also says making healthy foods more appealing is key. Parents can do that by cutting vegetables into fun shapes, or providing healthy dips like hummus.
She suggests parents refer to www.choosemyplate.gov for information on food groups, and for sample menus and recipes.
For children with allergies or special dietary needs, Lachowitz acknowledges that packing lunch requires extra thought, both for the parent and the child. "It is important your child understand what food or foods to avoid, no matter how young," she said. "The school cafeteria staff can be helpful here, too, especially when children are tempted to share their treats."
If you have questions for Allison Lachowitz, RD, CSP, LDN, CNSC, or would like to make an appointment for your child, please call 704-384-3402. You do not have to be a patient at Novant Health Pediatric Gastroenterology to take advantage of this service.