As most schools are either back in session or starting this week, one thing that is on the mind of parents is school lunch. Do you let the school handle it by having your child buy lunch, or do you take care of it by packing their lunch? Either way you choose, nutrition should be top priority when making choices about your child’s lunch. As a chiropractor, my job is not just to get your family healthy, but keep them healthy too. Sometimes this goes beyond adjustments and into your diet.

Nutrition & the Brain

The human brain is similar to a car. A car needs oil, gas and maintenance performed to keep it running properly. If your car ran out of gas, you wouldn’t get too far. If the oil leaked out or was not changed on a regular basis, it could lead to other mechanical issues.

The human brain also needs a proper balance of vitamins (maintenance), minerals (oil) and glucose (fuel) to function at its prime. The brain gets its fuel from glucose, and without a proper balance of glucose, vitamins and minerals, the brain will not function properly and could lead to problems with the nervous system. Scholastic.com research shows that learning and processing new information in school depletes the brain’s supply of glucose, and that a healthy lunch can help them to refuel for the rest of their day. Children who eat healthy lunches are better able to pay attention, stay focuses and learn the information presented to them after lunch has ended.

What Goes in a Healthy Lunch?

In 2010, the Obama Administration introduced the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act which helped to revise the national school lunch program policies. These changes have schools offering a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, low fat dairy products, and limiting calories, saturated fat, and sodium. The act also encourages parents who are packing their own children’s lunches to follow these same guidelines. A healthy lunch will help your child have the energy he needs for the rest of the busy day. A healthy school lunch should follow three major guidelines:

Provide Key Nutrients

Your child’s lunch consists of 1/3 of their daily calories, and should contain nutrient dense foods. The website Fuel Up to Play 60 found that children who eat healthy lunches have a higher nutrient intake throughout the entire day compared to those kids who don’t eat healthy lunches. Foods rich in protein, vitamins A & C, iron and calcium will help your child stay fuller for longer and be more focused in the classroom.

Low Fat Options

According to the American Heart Association, children should have no more than 25-35% of calories from fat. These guidelines support growth and development while providing energy needs of the child. These rules also support heart health for the future. Healthy school lunches limit fat consumption to less than 30% and saturated fats to 10% of overall calories for the entire week.

Provide Energy Sources

A healthy lunch allows the child to focus more in class and gives the energy needed to participate in after school activities. The Journal of School Health published an article in 2008 which studied the eating habits of 5,000 children and found that those who ate more fruits, vegetables and protein with fewer calories from fat performed better on literacy tests as compared to those children with a high fat and high salt diet.

Build the Nutritional Foundation Now

Since eating habits are developed during childhood, healthier school lunches can lead to better nutritional choices throughout a persons entire life. Just as our children need good teachers for a better education and caring parents to guide them through life, they also need a strong nutritional foundation to set them up for a healthier lifestyle. If you feel your family could benefit from nutritional counseling, call Dr. Knight today to schedule an appointment!