Cut obesity risk by making lunch fun
You do the laundry, shuffle the kids to and from their various activities, clean the house, walk the dog, and have dinner on the table by 6 o’clock. You’re exhausted, a little crabby, and chances are nutrition is the very last thing on your mind as you turn in for the evening. But the studies and numbers are undeniable: If you don’t promote healthy eating habits soon, your child could be facing childhood obesity.
Nearly one-third of all American children and teens are either overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting your family to break bad habits and start eating healthy is no easy task, especially when sugar-filled snacks and fast-food restaurants are so convenient.
“It’s important to make your child’s lunch fun so he or she will actually eat it,” says Dr. Kerry Sheehan, a pediatrician at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “There are many easy things that can be done to get your child excited about opening up that brown bag.”
Many children are picky eaters who are comforted by routine. On the other hand, kids can grumble or, worse yet, toss their brown bag into the trash when faced with the same meal day after day. Make your child’s brown bag lunch nutritious, fun and appetizing with these tips:
- Use a cookie cutter to make mini sandwiches in the shape of hearts, stars, dinosaurs – the possibilities are endless.
- Ask your child to help you pack it the night before; doing so makes him feel like his input is valued, which should make him more likely to enjoy eating his lunch.
- Create kebobs by skewering fruits, veggies, bread, cheese and other bite-sized items.
- Cut off crusts, peel fruit like apples and take other steps to make sure healthy food is ready to eat.
- Include a note of encouragement to let your child know you love him or her.
“Planning your meals ahead of time by packing water, fresh fruit, vegetables and sandwiches allows you to skip the drive-thru, saving on calories, sodium and fat for families on the go,” says Dr. Sheehan.
Whether planning breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s important to follow these CDC guidelines to ensure a healthy diet for your child:
- Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
- Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
- Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein.
- Serve reasonably-sized portions.
- Encourage kids to drink lots of water.
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
Serving your kids a healthy meal doesn’t have to be just another chore on your list of things to do. Simply making better choices can reduce the risk of childhood obesity and ease your child into an overall healthier life.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.