NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

ThinkstockPhotos-528974268.jpgIt’s that time of year again…back to school! This means busy evenings or early mornings getting lunches packed for the kids. What’s in a child’s lunch is important because it’s in childhood that eating habits are formed—and heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and other diseases begin to develop. Fatty buildups, the beginnings of clogged arteries, are seen in the arteries of children as young as 10 years old.

So even though that prepackaged meal is the quickest and easiest thing to throw in a lunchbox, consider these 10 ways to help your child eat a more balanced lunch.

  1. Encourage your child to choose 1% or fat-free milk. Milk is the biggest source of saturated fat in children’s diets. Choosing 1% or fat-free milk instead of whole or 2% is an important strategy for keeping children’s hearts healthy and arteries clear.
  2. Switch from bologna, salami, pastrami or corned beef, and other fatty luncheon meats to low-fat alternatives. Supermarkets sell many good-tasting, low-fat or fat-free brands of turkey breast, chicken breast, ham, bologna, and roast beef.
  3. Include at least one serving of fruit in every lunch. Try buying a few new types of fruit each week to let your child discover new favorites and to give him or her more healthy eating choices. In addition to apples, oranges, or bananas, try pears, sliced melon, cups of applesauce, grapes, or pineapple (fresh or canned in its own juice). Try serving fruit in different ways: whole, cut into slices, cubed, or with a yogurt dipping sauce.
  4. Sneak vegetables onto sandwiches. Try lettuce, slices of cucumber, tomato, green pepper, roasted peppers, zucchini, or sugar-snap peas. Eating fruits and vegetables reduces your child’s chances of heart disease, cancer, blindness, and stroke later in life. Putting veggies on a sandwich is one way to get more into your child’s diet.
  5. Use whole-wheat bread instead of white bread for sandwiches. Choose breads that list “whole wheat” as the first ingredient. If the main flour listed on the label is “wheat” or “unbleached wheat flour,” the product is not whole grain. Most multi-grain, rye, oatmeal, and pumpernickel breads in the U.S. are not whole grain.
  6. Limit cookies, snack cakes, doughnuts, brownies, and other sweet baked goods. Sweet baked goods are the second leading source of sugar and the fourth leading source of saturated fat in Americans’ diets. Low-fat baked goods can help cut heart-damaging saturated fat from your child’s diet, but even fat-free sweets can crowd out healthier foods like fruit. This nutrition rule does say LIMIT and not eliminate. The key is moderation when it comes to sweets!
  7. Pack baked chips, pretzels, Cheerios, breadsticks, or low-fat crackers instead of potato, corn, tortilla, or other chips made with oil. Avoid empty calories from artery clogging fried chips. Also, beware of Bugles, which are fried in heavily saturated coconut oil. One ounce has as much artery-clogging fat as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
  8. If you pack juice, make sure it’s 100% juice. All fruit drinks are required to list the “% juice” on the label. Watch out for juice drinks like Sunny Delight, Hi-C, Hawaiian Punch, and Capri Sun. With no more than 10% juice, they are just as sugary as soft drinks.
  9. Don’t send prepackaged lunch trays. Oscar Mayer’s Lunchables that come with a treat and a drink get two-thirds of their calories from fat and sugar. They also contain over 1000mg of sodium, which is half the recommendation for the whole day. Making your own healthy alternative is as easy as packing low-fat crackers, low-fat lunchmeat, a piece of fruit, and a box of 100% juice in your child’s lunchbox.
  10. Let your child help pack their lunch. If your child is excited about the foods they are eating, they will be more likely to finish their energy-packed lunch. Allow them to help pick and choose items to put in their lunchbox each night or morning, teaching them the importance of meal planning and responsibility.

Find out more about nutritional coaching

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. (And to see what she brings for her lunch, click here!)

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories lunch kids sodium

New USDA Guidelines: Making the Nutrition Recommendations Work

ThinkstockPhotos-501294518.jpgEvery five years, the USDA releases new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Typically people get their idea of what healthy eating is and what they should be doing from all kinds of sources. Maybe it’s from a magazine, a TV news report, something a friend or family member suggested, or from reading blogs. Wherever you get your information, know that a team of researchers put together the most recent scientific evidence to come up with their recommendations for Americans. Here’s what they found, with some of the most important takeaway tips.

Strive for a Balance Over Your Lifespan

The new guidelines shift away from recommending foods you should or shouldn’t eat, and instead emphasize the importance of a balanced overall eating pattern. Here are the specific recommendations:

  • Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time.
  • Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount.
  • Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
  • Support healthy eating patterns for all.

Watch Sugar, Fat, and Sodium Intake

The new guidelines also put a cap on sugar, saturated fat, and sodium that can lead to heart disease and obesity, and are easy to overeat. The limits are as follow:

  • Less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars.
  • Less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats.
  • Less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium for those over age 14.

A couple issues that have arisen after the release of the most recent guidelines is the lack of straightforward numbers for sugar and saturated fat. For example, most people are not aware what 10% of their calories would be from sugar and saturated fat (most sources from sugar are in sodas and juice drinks, and saturated fat is from red meat). Instead, an easier recommendation for the public to follow would be to drink more water instead of sugary drinks, and to eat vegetarian meals two to three times per week instead of red meat.

Moderation Is Key

My-Nutrition-Coach-outline-no-back-1.jpgOverall the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a helpful tool in reinforcing what we already know: a balanced diet with all of the food groups in moderation is the best one to follow.

If you need help planning your meals or knowing what to eat, consider a personal nutrition coaching session or using the My Nutrition Coach app daily.

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This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition calories hydration sodium sugar