You are what you eat. But what about what your kids eat? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently unveiled a new, broader approach to take towards children’s nutrition. They challenge parents, and schools, to take a closer look at a child’s whole diet pattern, rather than just focusing on specifics, such as exact amounts of fat, sugar, and carbohydrates, etc.
No one single ingredient should be banned or off limits if the child is routinely eating a well-balanced diet.
And good news for school lunches — the AAP reports that schools in particular, are making the grade with their meal programs. Lean meats, more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products are increasingly more available on menus. The result is an impressive 92 percent of school districts nationwide meeting the U.S. Department of Agriculture school meal standards (as of 2014).
The AAP encourages parents who send packed lunches from home to follow the same guidelines for a balanced meal. Here are a few suggestions:
- Include a mix of foods from the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy, and protein (lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs)
- Incorporate a variety of textures, colors, and tastes to make eating a fun experience
- Steer clear of highly processed or packaged foods
- Pair sugar, salt, fats and oils (sparingly) alongside nutritious foods to make them more enticing
- Offer appropriate sized portions
Finally, remember that children like to voice their opinions and be heard. Give them healthy options to start with, and then let them choose for themselves what they might like.