08 July, 2011
School meals should include a caloric-controlled amount of food. Most schools post or publish their lunch menus for the week or the month, which allows you to plan if you want your child to eat at school or bring his own lunch.
Most school lunch menus aim to give your child a healthful balance of foods. School lunches differ across the United States, but most schools try to ensure that kids get some of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-required foods groups with their lunch. These food groups include meat, vegetables, grains, dairy and fruits. The menu for Conard High School in Connecticut illustrates some common lunch choices, including pizza wedge, chicken patty on a bun, vegetable soup, chicken fajita, pasta, and sauce, beef nachos and beef burger with or without cheese.
As a parent, you want to ensure that your child eats right and stays away from unhealthful foods. While most school lunch menus are somewhat healthy, some items on the menu might be high in fat and calories. Most school menus display the calorie, fat, sugar and carbohydrate count for their meals. In order for your child to get the USDA's recommended food allowance, you might want to accommodate dinner around what your child had for lunch.
With many schools, you can seek accommodations if your child has nutritional needs that need to be addressed. This could include meals that are prepared with little to no sodium, low-sugar meals or meals that are meat- or nut-free. If your child has a specific allergy to any type of food, inform your school principal as well as the cafeteria staff. Some kids don’t get a complete healthful breakfast or dinner at home. A school lunch will provide a nutritional supplement for their day that will help keep their brain alert and focused throughout the day.
With a typical lunch menu of a meat, vegetable, fruit and dessert, children are sometimes allowed to make other choices when it comes to their school lunch. Parents might be unaware that some schools allow children to pick and choose certain foods for their tray. They can substitute a fruit for two cheeseburgers or eliminate a salad and add another dessert. Some schools also offer an ala carte that menu that contains high fat junk food or unhealthful options.
Having a healthful school menu will provide consistency with your child’s lunches. It will also allow you as a parent to plan meals for the week or month. You can plan breakfasts and dinners that will accommodate variety in your child’s meal plans. For days when the menu is unappealing to your child, you can pack a cold lunch or make arrangements for a substitute. Most schools participate in the National School Lunch Program, which is a subsidy program provided by the government. To participate in the program, the government requires schools to serve lunches meeting the USDA requirements of vitamins, protein, calcium and calories.
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