School Lunch: What Are Your Kids Having for Lunch? (cont.)
One reason, many experts say, is the "a la carte" items offered alongside the standard school lunch, or sold at in-school snack bars or vending machines (often, proceeds go to help the schools meet their budgets). Further, some physicians' groups believe that the USDA guidelines don't go far enough to ensure that children eat healthfully.
Several recent studies have offered less-than-encouraging news:
All this is despite the fact that poor eating habits in children not only contribute to childhood obesity but also may increase the risk that they will develop certain chronic diseases as adults, experts say. The prevalence of childhood obesity in the U.S. has doubled since the 1970s.
Much as you might like to, you can't follow your children around school all day to make sure they're choosing healthy foods. So what's a parent to do?
McAllister, of course, thinks bringing lunch from home is the best alternative. Not only does this let you decide what they have for lunch, but it also helps keep them away from the vending machines.
"There's no guarantee what the kids will use their lunch money for once they get to school," she says. "You have no control over where that money goes once they leave home."
It's important for kids to have choices, though, she says. So before you pack their lunches or hit the grocery story, ask them what they want: What kind of fruit would they prefer? Which vegetable? What kind of dip? (Kids love to dip, she says; chop broccoli into bite-size pieces and add a container of fat-free dip, and your kids might actually eat their veggies.)