National School Lunch Week October 10-14, 2016

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Give a big hat's off to school foodservice. They are the front line of a wave of students crashing into a cafeteria or classroom looking for food. They are the ones serving food as quick as possible. They are the ones encouraging food choices.

During October 10-14 this year, it is National School Lunch Week. As parents and guardians, this is a great time to talk with your kids and your school about lunch. Consider these talking points.

1. What did you eat at school?  What did you think of it? Even if your kids do not eat school-provided lunches, ask them about their favorite foods, the foods they do not like so much, and why.
  • Are their favorites salty, crunchy, soft, sweet, sour, etc?
  • Are their "no thanks" foods mushy, soft, too sweet, too sour, etc?
2. Was there enough time to eat? By the time many students get to a cafeteria (or if they are eating in a classroom) and get food, they may only have 10 minutes to eat. Many older teens can eat fast, but younger students may not be able to finish a meal in that amount of time.
  • Ask your kids if they had time to finish eating?
  • Were they full or still hungry?
  • How much of their plate did they eat?
3. What did you try new? Whether a lunch from home or one provided at school, it is important to have students try new and different foods. Some foods may take 8-15 tries before a kid (or adult) decides she likes it. Give them just a couple choices.
  • Do you want to eat a banana or a kiwi today? (If they have never had a kiwi, think about trying one at home.)
  • Do you want to try the glazed carrots or the lettuce salad?

4. What does the school offer? New nutrition standards for meals have been a rough transition for many schools and students. Understand that whole-grains provide needed fiber and nutrients and reducing fried foods limits fat in kids' diets. If the food options are a concern for you, talk with your principal and food service staff.
  • My child does not like the whole-grain pizza. Are there other kids that do not eat it either? Can we try another brand or recipe?
  • I would like to see a themed-meal once a month. Can we do a school-spirit themed menu in a couple months?

5. If you could try anything, what would you eat? There are many school programs that teach on nutrition, including community groups (including UI Extension) and often kids sample foods they may not get at home. While they liked it at school, parents and guardians may not think their kids like it, maybe because of previous attempts to try that food at home or maybe because you as the adult do not like it.
  • Ask your kids if they tried any new foods in class?
  • Which ones did they like?
  • Any they want to have at home?

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

Photo source:  School Nutrition Association