Back to School: Packing a healthy lunch can help with energy, attention

KNOXVILLE (WATE) — All week long we’re getting you and your family ready for another school year. A big part of the school year is figuring out what your child will eat for lunch. There are ways to make your child’s school lunch help them power through their day.

Ask any teacher and they will tell you that students start to lose their energy and attention half way through the day. A healthy lunch will help them finish strong for the day. 

“You don’t want to just send someone who is used to having Lunchables every day and a soda,” says Lisa McCune, a registered dietician with UT Medical Center. “You don’t want to send a child who’s used to that with a total makeover one day. They are not going to eat anything and be hungry.”

She says before making a huge change to a kid’s regular lunch, first evaluate what really needs to be nixed first.

Related: Keeping children safe on the way to school

“One of the things you are going to want to watch out for is all that added sugar. So that’s a big thing with kids. They like sodas, they like candy bars,” says McCune.

Many Lunchables and similar products come with candy and Capri Suns.

“These are really high in sugar. Sugar is good for a little bit. You get that high and then the kids are going to crash.”

In fact, the box she showed us had 24 grams of sugar — way too much for a growing child. Not to mention 6 grams of saturated fat and 870 milligrams of sodium. McCune says to focus on balance.

“Fruit and nuts are a wonderful combination. It’s balanced. Your fruit, you have some good carbohydrates. Your nuts, fat and protein. So, that’s a balance that’s going to keep you full.”

She does say occasional bending of the rules is fine but push for as much of the good stuff daily as possible.

There are resources to help you reduce the amount of sugar and saturated fat in your child’s diet: HealthyChildren.org and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

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