When it’s time for your kids to head to school, you may be wondering if is it healthier to pack a lunch for them instead of purchasing school lunch. While the decision process is different for every parent, there are many advantages to packing a lunch for your child. While school lunch has gotten healthier over the past few years, you can control what your child gets for lunch when you pack it.
Eating School Lunch
When your child eats school lunch, you don’t have much control over how the food is prepared or the ingredients that are used. Many school lunches are made with processed foods, which are higher in sodium and sugar. There are many healthier options in the school lunch line, like milk and vegetables, but much of the food your child gets there is laden with extra fats and ingredients you may not want them eating.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does regulate the school lunch program and insists that the programs around the country are meeting certain guidelines. The USDA guidelines recommend that no more than 30 percent of calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent come from saturated fat. Each school lunch also needs to provide one-third of daily recommended allowances for protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron and calcium.
So, if your child eats school lunch, you can assume that he is getting at least some nutrition, even if it is laden with some of those items you would rather your child not consume.
Packing a Lunch
The question remains, is packing a school lunch a healthier option for your child? The answer is yes and no. When you pack a lunch for your child, you are controlling what goes into the lunch. You can provide fresh vegetables, whole-wheat bread on sandwiches and a water bottle. You know that the ingredients you use are fresh and what you would want your child to consume.
When you pack a lunch for your child, you can also think beyond the sandwich. You can pack vegetables and dip in separate plastic containers so your child can have a healthy snack. You can send left over stir fry of sautéed vegetables or even a salad from the night before. A sandwich is always a good choice, but don’t feel like you are limited.
Packing a school lunch does seem healthier, but when packing that lunch it’s important to keep food safety in mind. Make sure your child has a cool place to store his lunch sack. If you’ve sent fruits or vegetables with our child, it’s important for those items to stay cold in order to be safe. Same goes if you’ve packed any salad dressings or mayo-based foods. You need to know that your child’s food will be safe when he goes to eat lunch, especially if you’ve taken the time to pack a healthy lunch.
When it comes to packing a lunch or eating a school lunch, the choice is really up to each parent. When you pack a lunch for your child, you are in control of what he is eating. Check with your child’s school to see what option is best for your family.