Catrinel Stanciu | 7/15/2005 3:01:59 AM
Whether your children eat lunch in the school cafeteria or bring a sack lunch, the youngsters still need a balanced, nutritious meal, says LSU AgCenter food and nutrition expert Catrinel Stanciu.
Schools offer a variety of foods, more or less nutritious. Stanciu points out, however, that the problem is, most times, children will choose the less nutritious foods, like fried chicken, French fries, pizza or hot dogs. They usually skip the salad bar and completely ignore the milk containers.
But if you pass the vending machine, you’ll see a long line there! And why not? It’s cool to sport a can of soda. This kind of "cool," however, is high on calories and low on nutrition.
Stanciu asks, "Do you know that children are at particular risk for developing poor eating habits that may contribute to childhood obesity? Do you know that childhood obesity has doubled in the past 20 years and that one in five U.S. children is overweight? Do you know that childhood obesity is epidemic in Louisiana?"
The nutrition expert notes that almost one quarter of the U.S. population from ages 2 to 17 is obese. Almost one in three Louisiana school-age children is overweight. She says that obese children are likely to become obese adults, and they are at greater health risk than those who are not overweight or obese.
All these facts should be reason enough for all parents to watch what their children eat. Keep in mind that even though heredity and the environment are important influences, your eating and lifestyle behaviors help determine your body weight. Encourage healthy weight in children. Children need enough food for proper growth, but too many calories and too little physical activity lead to being overweight.
If you pack a lunch for your child, Stanciu offers these tips to help you offer healthy choices:
• Use the USDA Food Guide (www.healthierus.gov ) when you plan the lunch. Include foods from at least three groups for each meal. For example, if you prepare a turkey sandwich with whole-wheat bread, lettuce and tomato, mustard and low-fat mayonnaise, you have two servings from the bread group and one serving from the vegetable group. Add an apple (which is about one serving from the fruit group) to the lunch sandwich, and you’re set.
• Make sure to include fresh fruits or vegetables in the lunch bag for dessert or snack.
• Use whole-grain bread or pita pocket for sandwiches. They provide more fiber and vitamins.
• Most kids don’t get enough calcium into their diets. Consider 100 percent fruit juice or low-fat milk for a beverage. Don’t ever tell your kids "You’re not allowed to have a soft drink." Instead, talk to them and explain why they shouldn’t replace milk or fruit juice with sodas.
• Instead of regular chips, offer baked chips or pretzels.
If your kids have lunch at the cafeteria, talk to them about why they need a balanced, healthy lunch and how they can do that using the foods offered by the school.
"Don’t be too strict. Spoil your child a little," Stanciu says, adding, "Let them have some of the foods they enjoy, but try to make the base of the meals centered on whole grains, fruits and vegetables."
For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
On the Internet: Healthy People 2010: www.healthypeople.gov/
On the Internet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/
On the Internet: Dietary Guidelines: www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/
On the Internet: Food and Health newsletter: www.foodandhealth.com/
Source: Catrinel Stanciu (225) 578-6924, or firstname.lastname@example.org