Wed | Jan 23, 2019

Tips for school Lunch & Snacks

Published:Wednesday | September 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Marsha N. Woolery , Healthy Eating & Diet

Here are some tips to make lunches and snacks healthier at home, in the school cafeteria, or tuck shop.

Foods items or meals should be:

Low in fat. Use less margarine, butter and oil during meal preparation.
Remove skin and visible fat from animal flesh and bake, boil, steam or
stew instead of frying. Offer baked or kettled-cooked snacks instead of
fried ones. Patties - whether beef, cheese, soy or vegetables - are high
in fat.

Low in sugar. Plain or flavoured unsweetened water is a
better option than juice, drinks, bag juice/drink and soda. Offer less
sugar or honey-sweetened juice or baked goods such as buns, bullas,
puddings, cakes, muffins or pastries. If offered, make products smaller
in size.

Low in salt/sodium. Limit salted snacks, processed meats and foods with added salt (sausages, French fries and chips).

High in fibre. Offer more unrefined foods such as yam, banana,
breadfruit, plantain in various forms whether mashed, sliced or diced.
Offer products made with whole grain products such as 100 per cent whole
wheat, old-fashioned oats or unrefined cornmeal.

High in
vitamins. Offer fresh fruits and vegetables. Up to five servings of
whole fruits and vegetables per day is recommended for a child or
teenager. It would be good to offer two to three of these five servings
away from home. Fresh whole fruits and vegetables, NOT juices, are great
snack items. Peel an orange, dice four ounces of watermelon or
pineapple and store in sealed plastic bag in lunch bag - great during
break time or with lunch. Offer whatever local fruit is in season - even
jackfruit that has been de-seeded with stain removed.

High in
minerals. Offer vegetables with all meals - hot or cold meals. Hide
callaloo, pumpkin, peas, carrot (diced, mashed or grated) in favourite
dishes such as dumplings and rice. Offer more peas, vegetables and beans
in soup and stews and use less animal foods.

Other tips:

limited amount of food should be offered, no matter how much food the
child is used to eating - teach discipline. We tend to overfeed our
children from birth.

Time should be allotted for socialisation
during lunchtime. Most children are usually given too much food to eat
during break and lunchtime with no consideration for handwashing and
play time. So the problem occurs when they get back to class and want to
socialise and then disrupt class.

Let us as parents, teachers,
guardians, manufacturers, and preparers of foods take responsibility for
our children's poor eating habits. Stop making excuses and encourage a
healthier future for our children by promoting healthy eating habits and
more physical activity.

Marsha N. Woolery, RD, is a registered
dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Center, Montego
Bay and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email:

My teenage daughter came home complaining about the new lunch options at
school, because, in the past she was used to eating fried chicken
everyday at school.

"School," according to her, "is where you should be allowed to eat the way you don't at home ... lunchtime is now boring".

Some parents can't wait for the first Parent Teacher's Association (PTA)
meeting to discuss the meal options at school. But let us hold our
horses - are the meals really unhealthy? Or is it that our children have
got accustomed to the 'fry- fry' and the not-so-healthy foods, that
now, with healthier options at school, they are complaining? Or could it
be that the chef is preparing unhealthy foods based on the demands of
these children? What is the situation?

Why is it important for children and teenagers to eat healthy foods? Eating a variety of foods from the six Caribbean Food groups in the correct amounts (based on age and activity) will help them to:

Grow and develop not too fast and not too slow

Reach and maintain a healthy weight

Stay awake and alert in class

Learn and not be the class distraction by being hyperactive or sleepy

Boost the immune system so they will be sick less often and attend classes all year round

Parents and teachers need to set the example by making healthy food choices for the children to follow. Children will more than likely choose healthy foods if they are given the option and, better yet, if it is the only option. Our children are getting fatter and/or unhealthy, because of what adults offer them either at home, at school, or in the restaurants and shops.