- Only 27% of home-packed lunches met at least 3 of 5 National School Lunch Program standards
- Only 4% of snacks met 2 of 4 Child and Adult Care Food Program standards.
The Boston Globe wrote about this study, and I was thrilled that my thoughts were included in the article. Read At lunch, home-packed may not mean healthy.
Three things stand out from this study for me...
1) The easiest way to improve the quality of your child's diet is to improve snacks.
You could, if you wanted, forget about lunch. Snacks are where the action really is.
Desserts & sweetened beverages are the major source of calories children consume from snacks. But salty snacks are gaining ground! Read The Snack Attack.
Teach your kids that, from a habits perspective, snack is a time of day, not a type of food.
- Make fruits and vegetables the go-to for snacks. You don't have to do this everyday, but most days would be the ideal goal.
- Start off small. One or two bites of fruit or vegetable, combined with other "snack" foods would be a good start.
- Talk to your children before you pack their snacks. Otherwise the fruits and vegetables will definitely come home uneaten!
When I wrote about this on my Facebook page, someone noted that her child got teased when he brought vegetables for lunch. While my general thought is, "Shame on those other children," my other thought is, "Children need to learn lots of life lessons and being different is one of them. This is actually a gentle way to begin that conversation with your kids.
2) It's easy to think we have only two choices: send a healthy lunch or send a junky one. This is a false dichotomy.
Baby steps change habits in the longterm, and that's what you're after. Consider using:
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~
Source: Hubbard, K. L., A. Must, M. Eliasziw, S. C. Folta, and J. Goldberg. 2014. “What's in Children's Backpacks: Foods Brought From Home.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics In press.