I you’re counting on your child’s school to give them a great lunch based on the money that you’re paying for it, you’re mistaken. Though school districts do what they can to make sure that children have enough of the good stuff to eat, they’re hampered in multiple ways. First of all, they don’t want to include too much food. Childhood obesity is on the rise, and portion control at public schools is one of the many ways that it’s being fought… even though some children need more nutrition during the morning and early afternoon (as in, lunch time) than others. Here’s why you should make sure that your child is packing healthy snacks on their way to school even if you’re also paying for the school’s lunch program.
High Sodium Foods Are Too Common
Despite the fact that most schools have moved on to trying to be healthier, there’s still the fact that high sodium foods are far too common on a school’s lunch menu. If you want your child to have enough liquid to go with all that salt you’d be better off packing it yourself.
The Time to Develop Their Palate Is Now
Frankly, most schools aren’t known for introducing the children to a wide variety of foods. Sure, you do what you can at home to broaden their palates, but the truth is that the more different foods children like and want to eat, the more likely they are to grow into adults who like to cook their own food… and thus save money and calories over prepackaged meals right from the start. Plus, there are better odds that they’re going to be cooking nutritious meals with plenty of different fruits and veggies.
Picky Eaters Go Hungry
If your child likes to turn their nose up at things, as every kid does now and then, they will be in for a really long afternoon. Most schools only offer a couple choices, if that, and if your child doesn’t want to eat it they’re going to be left hungry for the rest of the day. If you know that your little one can get a bit stubborn at the sight of carrots, pack them some string cheese every day just so they have something to fall back on.
Allows Them Some Control of Their Food
School lunches are really convenient, but they don’t offer your child much chance at meal planning on their own. If you want them to grow up taking charge of their own nutrition, it’s never too early to start them out. A great way to do it is to set up a supplement snack drawer in your house. On the way out the door in the morning your child can choose what they’re going to bring for snacks or supplemental food for lunch. They get to feel like they call the shots and you know that they’re learning the skills they need to thrive on their own.
Offers a Double Dose of Vitamins
You should supplement your child’s meal simply because there’s no such thing as too much nutrition. Your child isn’t running a risk of ingesting too many vitamins. In fact, school time can be where they need fuel and nutrition the most. They have to learn and assimilate knowledge on their own, in addition to running around at recess, playing hard in PE, and just staying awake all those hours when even a third grader probably wants a nap. There’s just nothing wrong with making sure that they have the fuel that they need to get through a day that’s more hectic than adults remember.
Helps Cut down on Snacking after School
Remember, portion control is a big deal in public schools. However, the “one size fits all” approach has never been shown to be effective for controlling weight in a population. If your child comes home from school starving every day and eats a big snack right before dinner, that’s more of a problem than them eating a bit more at lunch. If you want them to save their appetite for dinner (but don’t have the heart to deny them when they’re clearly starving) then packing them some extra is a good compromise.