School lunch: Brown bag vs. cafeteria

Kids can eat healthy with either option

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The key to a healthy school lunch is to keep it simple and use whole foods.  

You want a vegetable, a fruit, a protein and carbohydrate you can pack it or sometimes the school lunch is a great option too. 

Tabetha Foose, a registered dietician at St. Vincent's HealthCare said parents have to think in terms of food groups.

"If they do like raw veggies, home dips can really change it up and get a lot of variety," Foose said. "You know patience really is the key with your children in many aspects and also with food. You know a lot of the times, you know children, their taste palettes aren't used to a new food. So they may think that they don't like it but they're just not used to it."

Add some seasonal fruit. The school cafeteria is always going to offer your kids a fruit and vegetable so if you're not - they have you beat.  

Now when it comes to the carbohydrate and protein, if you're doing a sandwich Foose said always use whole grain bread.

"When you're looking at whole grain, you want it to say 100 percent whole wheat that will let you know that the grains are fully intact and it hasn't been overly processed," Foose said.

Consider meats without nitrates. No antibiotics and fewer preservatives.

Foose wants parents to stay away from the sweets aisle in the grocery store.

"I might do some almonds with a little bit of dark chocolate chips. A little goes a long way. There aren't that many but technically, it's a treat," she said.

Foose points out the cafeteria lunch offers lots of healthy options but there are days when your kid can still pick options high in carbohydrates and not the healthiest proteins. She suggests taking a look at the menu and then make a plan.

Foose said it requires thought and planning to strike the right balance that's healthiest for your kids.

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