Lunchboxes Need a Healthy Makeover, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News, Nutrition: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Big Kids

Kids' lunches could use a boost if nutrition. Credit: sherimiya ♥, Flickr

School lunches are under attack again. But it's not what's being served in the cafeteria that's drawing fire, but what they are bringing from home. A recent study of lunchboxes found a staggering amount of junk food, according to a study done by University of Leeds in England. Most kids' in the study carry foods with high amounts of fat, sugar or salt that had been packed at home.

Of the kids that packed a lunch, 82 percent brought cookies, sugary drinks, chips among other high calorie lunch options, according to the study. Researchers looked at 2,000 lunchboxes in the study. For years, school lunch programs have been under attack for serving foods with low nutritional values. The British study took a different tact, and is specifically targeted at lunches packed at home.

Professor Janet Cade, head of the Nutritional Epidemiology Group at Leeds said in a statement: "While we absolutely understand that many children prefer to take packed lunches to school, it is clear that they are not getting the same benefit from their midday meal as their classmates on school dinners. The poor quality of these meals could have serious implications for levels of childhood obesity and its long-term consequences."

While there is not a recent similar study looking at U.S. kids lunch boxes, nutrition expert Elisa Zied says there is some middle ground for parents.

I would say it's a mixed bag," Zied, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips (2009) tells ParentDish.com "A lot of parents do pack more healthful options like whole wheat bread and fresh fruit." But there are social pressures in the lunch room and also kids who don't always like the healthy options, she says.

She says giving kids choices of lunch options helps get good food into their lunchbox and then into their mouths without trad
ing or wasting it. She packed turkey on whole wheat with a little mayo, grapes, 100 calorie pack of Gold Fish crackers and cookies for her two sons yesterday. They don't like hummus and she knows better than to send what they don't like.

"If you have a child who likes edamame and hummus and can tell friends that's her lunch choice, that's great," Zied says. :But if you try to force your child to take something healthy they don't like because it will backfire.

"it's a challenge, but remember it's one meal a day," Zied cautions."You have so many opportunities to feed them well during the week, this is five meals a week."

Related:
Kids Bombarded with Internet Junk Food Ads

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.