7 Golden Tips for a Healthy School Meal

Jawaher Al-Neama/ Nutritionist
28 October, 2015

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Children spend about one-third of their day at school, which means the food they eat during this period constitutes a large portion of their nutrition throughout the day.
We all know the importance of good nutrition during the study period to keep the child active and alert, in addition to the provision of nutrients needed for the child's growth and protection from diseases. Though parents and educational institutions are keen to provide healthy meals, a child often avoids eating such meals and substitutes them with unhealthy choices! In fact, healthy and nutritious meals are of no value if not eaten!

1. Be Creative!
This tip comes at the top of the golden tips! Providing children with food in an attractive way considerably encourages them to eat. So, you can use shaped dough to prepare sandwiches; prepare mini pastries using healthy ingredients; choose colored fruits and vegetables with sauce for dipping such as yoghurt, ketchup or peanut butter; or prepare healthy vegetable pizza with small pieces of ground meat or chicken.

2. Diversify Food!
Choose a variety of foodstuffs to include in each meal: use fruits; vegetables; starches; protein; low-fat dairy products for lunch; unsweetened popcorn; dried fruits; rusk; or rice or corn chips as a snack. You may sometimes add chocolate or chips, but not on daily basis!

3. Do not Forget Water!
Teach your child to depend on water as a primary drink with meals instead of juice and sweetened drinks. Try to put frozen water or juice bottle in the lunch box during summer.

4. Share Choice and Preparation of Meal with Your Child
Participation in the choice of meals with children encourages them to eat even if they contain healthy food. So, let your child participate in the choice of healthy foods and provide him with two or more options of healthy meals to facilitate choosing, as well as the choice of his food box or lunch bag. Sometimes, he feels shy to use a lunch bag and thus refuses to eat! Just ask him whether or not he prefers food in a paper bag.

5. Do Not Neglect Teaching and Suspense!
Teach your child the importance of healthy food. Try to teach him the importance of proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy products while you prepare the meal or food with him during the day. For further encouragement and suspense for your child, you can put a new small surprise in the lunch bag every day like candy or chocolate he loves (take care about the choice of small sizes). It is not necessary for incentive surprises to be food; you can put various stickers or short notes including encouraging statements.

6. Good Planning Achieves Goals
If your goal is to provide your child with healthy food, this requires prior planning. We advise you to plan and weekly shop for school meals. Make a list of each type of food groups your child loves and can constitute a good choice for school meal. You can also prepare or arrange meals with your child at the prior night to reduce tension in the morning.

7. Healthy and Safe Choices!
It is very important to keep your child's food in safe temperature and to tightly close the food container. Thus, try to choose foods that remain safe for a long period without cooling; such as cheese and egg sandwiches, fruits, vegetables and biscuits. You can also use flask for hot foods such as soup or cooked foods. Do not forget to wash the lunch bag and dry it well after each use.
Do not get frustrated if you fail to make your child eat home-made food and he preferred to buy fast food from school. Just make sure that he has at least nutritious and healthy breakfast and dinner.



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