You're sitting in class and your stomach is starting to rumble. Finally, the bell rings and it's time for lunch — woo-hoo! After all that time in class, you deserve a chance to head to the cafeteria and sit down, relax, and enjoy the company of your friends over a lunchtime meal.
But wait a minute — what exactly are you eating?
More than at other meals, kids have a lot of control over what they eat for lunch at school. A kid can choose to eat the green beans or throw them out. A kid also can choose to eat an apple instead of an ice cream sandwich.
When choosing what to eat for lunch, making a healthy choice is really important. Here's why: Eating a variety of healthy foods gives you energy to do stuff, helps you grow the way you should, and can even keep you from getting sick.
Think of your school lunch as the fuel you put in your tank. If you choose the wrong kind of fuel, you might run out of energy before the day is over.
So what is the right kind of fuel? What does a healthy lunch look like? Unlike that killer question on your math test, there are many right answers to these questions.
Most kids have the choice of packing lunch or buying one at school. The good news is that a kid can get a healthy lunch by doing either one. But it's not a slam-dunk. Chances are, some meals and foods served in the school cafeteria are healthier than others.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't buy your lunch, it just means you might want to give the cafeteria menu a closer look. Read the cafeteria menu the night before. Knowing what's for lunch beforehand will let you know if you want to eat it! Bring home a copy of the menu or figure out how to find it on the school website.
A packed lunch isn't automatically healthier than one you buy at school. If you pack chocolate cake and potato chips, that's not a nutritious meal! But a packed lunch, if you do it right, does have a clear advantage. When you pack your lunch, you can be sure it includes your favorite healthy foods — stuff you know you like. It's not a one-size-fits-all lunch. It's a lunch just for you. If your favorite sandwich is peanut butter and banana, just make it and pack it — then you can eat it for lunch. Or maybe you love olives. Go ahead and pack them!
If you want to pack your lunch, you'll need some help from your parents. Talk to them about what you like to eat in your lunch so they can stock up on those foods. Parents might offer to pack your lunch for you. This is nice of them, but you may want to watch how they do it and ask if you can start making your lunches yourself. It's a way to show that you're growing up.
Whether you pack or buy your lunch, follow these guidelines:
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2012
|Allrecipes.com This site offers more than 40,000 free recipes, plus lots of cooking tips and information.|
|Meals for You This site contains extensive categories (including vegetarian, diabetic, and low fat meals) and the ability to search recipes by ingredient.|
|MyPlate Kids' Page This portion of the ChooseMyPlate.gov site offers a Blast Off game for kids, coloring pages, and posters.|
|Plastic Fork Diaries Plastic Fork Diaries is a site especially for kids that has stories about school, nutrition, and other kids.|
|What's the Right Weight for Me? TV shows, movies, and magazines show pictures of people who are thin. Does that mean being thin is best? Not necessarily. Find out more by reading this article for kids.|
|Eating for Sports Eating nutritious foods and the right drinks can help you perform better on the playing field. Learn how to eat for sports by reading this article for kids.|
|Go, Slow, and Whoa! A Kid's Guide to Eating Right Want to eat healthier? It's easy when you learn the difference between Go, Slow, and Whoa foods!|
|Flash Game: Mission Nutrition Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is good nutrition. Try this game to see how you do!|
|Figuring Out Food Labels The food label on a food package is a lot like the table of contents in a book - it tells you exactly what the food contains. Read our article for kids for more about food labels.|
|Food Guide Pyramid Becomes a Plate Goodbye, Food Guide Pyramid! Hello, MyPlate! The USDA's new divided plate is designed to make it easier to understand healthy eating.|
|Garden-Fresh Lunches Let's step into the garden for some ideas on what you can pack for lunch. PB&J is great, but not every day!|
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