Back to School with the Food Pyramid!

by SPARK


With all the attention kids’ health is getting these days, it’s no wonder that the Food Pyramid (Improved American Food Guide Pyramid) we all know was deemed insufficient. In 2005 the United States Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A) released the modified MyPyramid version, which incorporates moderation, stresses significantly more activity, and removes the hierarchical connotation of the previous version.

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The new version of the USDA – approved food pyramid includes the following breakdown of daily servings based on a 2,000-calorie diet (adult):

Grains: 6 Ounces
Vegetables: 2.5 Cups
Fruits: 2 Cups
Milk: 3 Cups
Meat and Beans: 5.5 Ounces
Oils (From Fish, Vegetables and Nuts): Consume in moderation
Exercise: Children should be physically active for at least 60 minutes most days of the week.

Let’s face it, the Lunchables and Fruit Roll Ups may be easy and convenient, but they are far from nutritious. Some classic stand-by options of your youth just will not cut it for your kids. The key to healthy school lunches is thinking ahead. Pack lunches the night before, and get your kids to help so they can tell you what they like to eat. Here are a few great lunch items that will energize your kids, without leaving them hungry for more!

Meal #1

  • Avocado and Turkey on Whole Grain Bread
  • Apple
  • String Cheese and Crackers
  • Peanuts and M&M’s
  • 100% Juice box

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Meal #2

  • Chicken Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts in Whole Grain Pita
  • Banana
  • Yogurt
  • Natural Fruit Snacks
  • Flavored Water

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Meal #3

  • Almond Butter and Natural Honey on Wheat Bread
  • Baby Carrots
  • Celery Sticks with Low Fat Cream Cheese and Raisins
  • 2 Small Homemade Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 2% Milk

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Meal #4

  • Wheat Bagel with Lean Roast Beef, Lettuce, Tomato, and Mustard
  • Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
  • Shelled Pistachios, Cashews and Almonds
  • 2% Milk

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Meal #5

  • Peanut Butter and Chunky Jelly on 12-Grain Bread
  • Fruit “kabob”: Pineapple, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Grapes, Strawberries
  • All-Natural Crackers or Popcorn
  • 2% Chocolate Milk

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Each of these lunches provides a healthy portion of the different food groups, without compromising flavor. Whenever adding condiments, be sure to do so in moderation, and only if they ask for it. Consider a “treat” once a week such as Goldfish Crackers, or a Hershey’s Chocolate Kiss to keep your kids satisfied! Remember to listen to your kids when they tell you what they like or do not like for lunch so you can be sure they are eating it all!

Things to avoid

While it may be easy to buy packaged and processed items in bulk from your local Costco or Sam’s Club, many those foods do not add up to a nutritious lunch. Here are a few snacks to avoid, or supply only in moderation.

Flavored Chips and Snacks

Be it corn or potato, these fried and baked snacks are normally loaded with MSG, and a number of artificial additives your kids can’t even pronounce. If you’re looking for a little crunch with a flavor punch, try all-natural alternatives. Crackers, veggie straws, and natural popcorn can provide just enough flavor and crunch to satisfy your kids’ cravings without harming their bodies or draining them of energy.

Pre-packaged Meals

There is nothing easier in the world than handing your kid a pre-packaged Lunchable or other brand of lunch item. They’re happy, and you can check another item off of your early morning to-do list. However, not only are these items often over twice the cost of a bagged lunch, they pack hardly any nutritional value. If you cannot feasibly cut them out of the lunch rotation, try to save them for rare and special occasions, such as field trips.

Tuna Fish

As much as we hate to admit it, our kids will worry about what other kids think. Smelly options such as tuna fish can make their lunch boxes smell, and attract unwanted attention. If they hate certain food items because of the way they smell, they will probably throw them away and just eat their snacks. Listen to your kids when packing healthy lunches!

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