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Lunch improves learning

In a time when both parents are usually working and very busy, it is important that they still take time to prepare nutritional lunches for their children.

Making sure children get a nutritional lunch every day is important because balanced meals promote health and growth, as well as provide energy for play and learning.

Oct. 20-24 is national School Lunch Week and is sponsored by the American School Food Service Association.

A report published in 1997 by the National Education Association states, “Nutrition has a strong physical, emotional and intellectual impact on a child’s ability to learn.”

When children are undernourished or hungry they are less active physically, less attentive, less curious and less able to concentrate.

“The four basic food groups — milk, meat, fruits/vegetables and grains — are still the best way to evaluate a meal,” Kathy Mount, chief clinical dietician at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, said.

Balance is the most important thing for parents to remember when packing a lunch. Foods from each food group should be included,” she added.

It is recommended a child has three servings per day from the milk group (teenagers need four), two from the meat group, four from the fruits and vegetables group and four from the grains group.

Mount encourages parents to pack their child’s lunches or prepare meals a home whenever possible because parents have no way of controlling the food eaten by their children at restaurants, which usually have a higher fat content than those prepared at home.

If parents are not able to pack lunches, Mount does encourage children to eat school lunches.

“I do support school lunches, and schools are responding to concerns about nutrition. Schools have to keep in mind what children like to eat as well as what is best for them,” she added.

The food itself is not the only thing that makes a good lunch.

The Nutritional Services Department at ETCH suggests lunch is more appetizing if it is fun.

“Children like to find ‘extras’ in their lunch box, such as fancy napkins, a personal note, baseball cards, stickers or an interesting picture from a magazine,” Mount said.

These suggestions also will help make a better lunch:

• Meat sliced thin and then stacked is easier to bite than one thick slice.

• Spread mayonnaise, mustard etc. to the edge of the slice of bread so the moist filling will not make the bread soggy.

• Wrap tomato slices, lettuce leaves and other vegetables in clear plastic wrap or foil so they will stay crisp. The child can put them on the sandwich just before eating.

Making sure children eat a variety of foods each day is the most important thin to remember.

Even if parents are in a hurry nutrition is important.

“A peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich on whole grain bread, a piece of fruit and milk is a quick, easy and nutritious lunch,” Mount said.


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