More than a break: Lunch provides the energy for more learning

September 2012 Posted in School, Your Health
Lunch Box Safety Tips

Wash your hands. Seems like common
sense but unfortunately many people forget.
With cold and flu season around the corner,
it’s really important to remind students to wash
their hands before eating lunch or snacks.

Carry it cold. Perishable foods
packed in a paper sack may be unsafe
to eat by lunchtime. Some foods, such as
yogurt or cold cut sandwiches may only be
safe for two hours at room temperature.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
recommends packing a lunch from home in an
insulated lunch box and chilled freezer gel
pack to avoid foodborne illness.

Freeze what you can. Some items,
such as juice boxes or yogurt tubes,
can be used as additional freezer packs.
Freeze them overnight, place in your insulated
lunch box in the morning, and by lunchtime
they are thawed and ready to eat or drink.

Keep hot foods hot. Use an insulated bottle
to keep soups hot.

By Katie Tolmachoff


What seems like eternity – plus one of your English teacher’s relentless lectures on literary elements – is finally interrupted by the resplendent resonance of the lunch bell.

This well-deserved break in the school day gives students a chance to relax and visit with friends over a mid-day meal.

But what are kids choosing to eat?

One way to power boost your child’s energy, protect them from getting sick and ensure proper physical and emotional growth is making sure they are choosing a variety of healthy foods for their school lunch.

What does a healthy school lunch consist of?

There are a myriad of options to ensure that kids are eating a well-balanced meal that is able to sustain them through the day.

School lunch versus Lunch from Home

Surprisingly, kids can get a healthy lunch by choosing to pack a lunch from home or buy one at school.  Be aware, though, that some school cafeteria meals are healthier than others.

One way to decide whether or not to buy lunch is to check the school menu the night before; some schools even post the menu on the school website.

Just because a lunch comes from home does not mean it is automatically healthier than school lunch.  A bag of Flaming Hot Cheetohs plus leftover Halloween candy followed by one of the “fiendish” super-caffeinated drinks does not constitute as wholesome eatables.

But a packed lunch from home can be a custom-made culinary delight that pleases the palette solely based on personal preference.

If your child loves cream cheese, cucumber and cranberry sandwiches, then let them make it, bag it, and enjoy it.  Perhaps they love pretzel sticks dipped in almond butter—go for it!

To make the most out of a lunch from home, make sure to talk with your kids about what they like most in their lunches, and have those items on hand. Some parents will pack their child’s lunch, and by observing this for a time, kids can learn how to efficiently and responsibly pack their own. recommends these guidelines for healthy lunch choices, whether you buy or pack your own lunch:

Select fruits and vegetables. They present a colorful plate and are packed with plenty of vitamins and fiber. Fit in at least one or two of your five recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables at lunch time.

Figure out the fat. Although children need some fat in their diets to stay healthy, limiting fat intake is the best.  A few examples of  higher-fat lunch foods include french fries, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. These foods are not bad, but in order to get the best out of what you eat, you will want to eat the higher-fat foods less often or in smaller portions.  Paramount choices are low-fat foods such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk.

Whole grains are the best. As we learn more about good nutrition, it’s clear that whole grains are better than refined grains.  Breads, cereals, rice and pasta are all considered grains, and can be found in the whole grain form.

Drinks count! It’s not just about what you eat; hydrate yourself sensibly.  Milk and water are the best choices for lunch-time drinks.  Avoid juice drinks and sodas.

Include a variety. A balanced meal includes a mix of food groups:  some grains, some fruits, some vegetables, some meat or protein foods, and some dairy foods like yoghurt  or cheese.

Bag the packaged snacks. It’s OK to have these foods once in a while, but they should not be on your lunch menu.

Mix it up. Perhaps your child eats the same lunch every day.  Take time to transform that boring brown bag.  Eating lots of different kinds of food gives the body an assortment of nutrients which will give them what they need for a healthy and successful school year.

Do you have great lunch ideas?

Go to Our Town’s Facebook page at and share your ideas. Recipes are welcome too!

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