School lunch: Help your child make healthy choices


It is important to help your child develop healthy eating habits from an early age. Teach your child what foods are healthy. This will give them the confidence to make good decisions. Set a good example at home. This will affect the choices you make now and in the future. Talk to your child about the importance of eating a healthy lunch. It provides them with enough energy to learn and stay active.

The road to better health

School lunches are designed to provide healthy food for children. To see information about lunch meals offered by your child’s school, see the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Many school districts across the country have changed their school lunch programs to meet USDA food standards.

NSLP promotes nutrition standards that:

  • They offer fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Whole food options are increasing.
  • They only offer options for skimmed or low-fat milk.
  • They serve adequate portions of food that meet the caloric needs of students.
  • They reduce saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.

Students can choose from a variety of healthy and attractive options. Some schools include options such as vegetarian dishes or a salad bar.

You may decide to pack your child’s lunch instead of making him eat what the school has to offer. This may be a better option, especially if your child is picky about nutrition or has special nutritional needs. Be sure to include a variety of your child’s favorite healthy foods. For example, you can wrap fresh fruit, baked chips or pretzels or fresh vegetables with salsa or a low-calorie sauce. You may want to pack your child’s lunch the night before so you don’t run out of time in the morning. If you’re in a hurry, you may be tempted to add pre-packaged foods and unhealthy options.

It is important to keep your child’s lunch at a safe temperature. Make sure your child’s school offers a cool lunch. Otherwise, pack items that do not require refrigeration. Or pack items that can be stored cold with an ice pack. Some products, such as drinks and yogurt, can be pre-frozen and safely thawed in the lunch box. Use a thermos for hot foods.

Aspects to be considered

In addition to lunch, some schools offer breakfast or snack programs. This is useful for children who may not eat enough at home. Children who start their day with good food will make healthier choices throughout the day. These dishes can be served in the café or in the classrooms. You can check in at your child’s school.

There are a few things you can do if you are concerned about your child’s food choices at school. Browse the school menu with them every week. Find out which days you would like to have lunch at school. Talk to your child about which foods and drinks are healthy choices. The school district can provide menus and nutrition information on its website. You can watch this with your child so that he is more informed.

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor if you think your child is malnourished or has food intolerances. You should also contact your doctor if you think your child is overweight. Your doctor can help you create a healthy eating plan for your child. They can refer you to a dietitian or counselor if they suspect a problem.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Do you recommend school lunches or packed lunches?
  • What should I do if my child has food allergies?
  • How will I know if my child is not getting the right nutrients from school lunch?
  • What else can I do to make sure my child chooses healthy food?


United States Department of Agriculture: The school day has become healthier

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Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians

This information provides an overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and for more information on this topic.

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