Packing Healthy Lunches

August 1, 2017

School is about to start, and that means getting back into your daily routine. When life gets hectic, you may easily forget that both you and your family should continue to live a healthy lifestyle – despite the homework, sports games and other time-consuming activities. Staying healthy means being mindful of both your fitness level and what you eat, and it is important to:

  • Eat five or more fruits and vegetables each day
  • Limit TV and computer screen time to two hours
  • Be active for at least one hour each day
  • Practice portion control

What should you be thinking about when you pack school lunches or raid the refrigerator in search of dinner?

Dietary Guidelines for America encourages all individuals, regardless of age, to adopt a healthy eating pattern. This means that all the foods that you eat and the beverages that you drink should be accounted for within an appropriate calorie level. Calorie levels differ depending on a person’s age and gender.

Consume a variety of vegetables. Color is key! Choose the rainbow. Whole fruits are best, and make sure that you eat grains. About half of your grain intake should be whole grains.

You should also incorporate fat free or low fat dairy products into your diet, and you should eat lean protein foods, such as chicken, turkey or fish. Healthy fats like avocado and nuts are also important, but remember to limit the saturated fats. This means avoiding foods that contain trans fats, added sugars and sodium – foods like ice cream, cakes and cookies.

Don’t ignore the calories, sugar and fat in sugar-sweetened beverages! This can impact your overall health.

To ensure that you are eating properly, plan, says Eileen Rice, a registered dietitian at Middlesex Hospital and coordinator of its Fit for Kids program. Make a grocery list, prep meals ahead of time, freeze soups and casseroles and buy microwaveable veggies, she says. Rice also says to use recipes because many take under 30 minutes, and she says your family members are more likely to be healthy if they eat meals together and if they eat breakfast daily.

The Hospital’s Fit for Kids program is a resource for children and families. It is a weight management program that helps families adopt healthy behaviors. During sessions with a registered dietitian, families will set goals and discuss healthy nutrition and physical activity. A physician must refer a child to the program.

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