East Jefferson General Hospital

Now that it is the middle of August, parents and their children are making final preparations for the upcoming school year. It's a new school year and parents want to do all they can to ensure their kids have everything they need to do their best with studies and extra curricular activities.

We all know that a healthy breakfast jump starts metabolism and significantly helps with concentration and learning. What I want to discuss, however, is the meal that is overlooked the most – lunch. Parents will have to make the decision to either let their children purchase lunch through the school or send it with them each day. If you decide to purchase it, I recommend that you take the proactive step and ask for the nutritional information of the lunch being served. I think you would be surprised by the amount of fat, sugar and calories your children are consuming.

Just like breakfast helps the mind and body to focus in the morning hours, it is equally important to eat a good lunch to ensure your children can tackle the afternoon hours without being sluggish and tired. This is especially important for children with activities or sports immediately after school.

If you can pack the lunch each day, you are in control of what foods they are eating. By making healthy lunch choices, your children can have more energy, a stronger immune system and an appropriate weight. My top five foods for a healthy lunch are:

Fruit – always include a fruit they enjoy. Consider easy and convenient fruit such as an apple, banana, grapes, strawberries or oranges.

Vegetable – it may not always be easy to get them to eat a full salad, but look for a couple vegetables they will eat. It is easy and healthy to include items such as baby carrots, cucumbers or edamame.

Sandwich – if you make a sandwich for their lunch, make sure you are using lean meats. Also, always use whole wheat bread and avoid white bread.

Dessert – kids often want some kind of a dessert. Look for healthy options and be creative. It is quick to use low fat yogurt and mix with fruit and granola. Stay away from the candies that have high sugar content.

Drink – You can never go wrong with water, but kids often want something with flavor. Try to mix in a little of their favorite fruit juice in the water to add color and flavor. By diluting it in water, it will cut down the sugar content found in some fruit juices.