|SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center|
You're sitting in class and your stomach is starting to rumble. Finally, the bell rings and it's time for lunch — woo-hoo! After all that time in class, you deserve a chance to head to the cafeteria and sit down, relax, and enjoy the company of your friends over a lunchtime meal.
But wait a minute — what exactly are you eating?
More than at other meals, kids have a lot of control over what they eat for lunch at school. A kid can choose to eat the green beans or throw them out. A kid also can choose to eat an apple instead of an ice cream sandwich.
When choosing what to eat for lunch, making a healthy choice is really important. Here's why: Eating a variety of healthy foods gives you energy to do stuff, helps you grow the way you should, and can even keep you from getting sick.
Think of your school lunch as the fuel you put in your tank. If you choose the wrong kind of fuel, you might run out of energy before the day is over.
So what is the right kind of fuel? What does a healthy lunch look like? Unlike that killer question on your math test, there are many right answers to these questions.
To Buy or Not to Buy
Most kids have the choice of packing lunch or buying one at school. The good news is that a kid can get a healthy lunch by doing either one. But it's not a slam-dunk. Chances are, some meals and foods served in the school cafeteria are healthier than others.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't buy your lunch, it just means you might want to give the cafeteria menu a closer look. Read the cafeteria menu the night before. Knowing what's for lunch beforehand will let you know if you want to eat it! Bring home a copy of the menu or figure out how to find it on the school website.
A packed lunch isn't automatically healthier than one you buy at school. If you pack chocolate cake and potato chips, that's not a nutritious meal! But a packed lunch, if you do it right, does have a clear advantage. When you pack your lunch, you can be sure it includes your favorite healthy foods — stuff you know you like. It's not a one-size-fits-all lunch. It's a lunch just for you. If your favorite sandwich is peanut butter and banana, just make it and pack it — then you can eat it for lunch. Or maybe you love olives. Go ahead and pack them!
If you want to pack your lunch, you'll need some help from your parents. Talk to them about what you like to eat in your lunch so they can stock up on those foods. Parents might offer to pack your lunch for you. This is nice of them, but you may want to watch how they do it and ask if you can start making your lunches yourself. It's a way to show that you're growing up.
10 Steps to a Great Lunch
Whether you pack or buy your lunch, follow these guidelines:
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD