Teaching children healthy eating is just one more way we teach our children self-control. Self-control helps them practice the virtues and grow in holiness.

Do you pack lunch for your children, or do your kids buy lunch at school? As parents, it is our responsibility to teach respect for the body through good eating habits. Our body is our temple. And we need to teach our children (and ourselves) that gluttony is a sin.

When was the last time you saw a kid in the lunchroom eat their entire standard school lunch without skipping the veggies or adding alternative choices from the a la carte line? Although the basic school lunch does meet some basic nutritional standards, children are allowed to pick and choose from a variety of foods that include high fat and high sugar options. Chocolate milk, for example, is a “sometimes food” as part of a healthy grade-school diet.

Medical research shows that a healthy diet improves school performance and social skills. Although packed lunch can be a healthy and cost-saving option, it all depends on what you pack. The school lunch program can be a healthy option, but allows your child to make unhealthy food choices.

Here are some tips for helping you make the right lunch choice for your child:

1) If your child eats school lunch, talk to them each morning about their food choices. Is today a chocolate milk day? If so, remind them that they will have to choose a healthy after-school snack such as fruit.

2) If you pack lunch, honestly ask yourself, “Am I packing healthy lunches?” Many items marketed for lunch boxes are high in fat, sugar, artificial colors and flavors. Examples include go-gurts, nutrigrain bars, apple sauce with added sugar and color, most brands of fruit snacks, rice crispy treats, cheetos, and most versions of snack chips. If you are filling your child’s lunch box with processed, pre-packaged foods, consider shopping for fun, child-friendly lunch box favorites such as:

  • Baby carrots, celery, and peanut butter
  • Clementine’s
  • Turkey and cheese roll-ups on whole-wheat tortillas
  • Trail mix made with mixed nuts, raisins, and chocolate chips
  • Beef jerky (avoid Slim Jim brand and others with high fat and low protein content)
  • Cheese sticks or Apple sauce (avoid the kind that has added sugar and color)
  • Dried fruit (prunes are especially good for avoiding constipation)
  • Pretzels
  • Granola bars
  • “Sipable” soup in a thermos bottle

Author: Kathleen Berchelmann, Pediatrician and Founder of MyCatholicDoctor

Editor: Samantha Wright, Marketing Director of MyCatholicDoctor

Kathleen Berchelmann, M.D.