Brown bag lunches may need nutrient makeover
School cafeteria food has a come a long way in terms of nutrition, and now it's time for brown bag lunches to catch up. According to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine, lunches packed from home are often lacking in healthy options.
A recent study led by Dr. Craig Johnston, assistant professor at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, compared the foods in lunches brought from home versus those offered in the school cafeteria.
"What is clear through the study is that the majority of kids with packed lunches are not bringing what we would consider a healthy lunch," Johnston said.
Many parents just want to make sure their children eat something during the school day, so they pack items they know their kids like, Johnston said.
"Parents are concerned that if they provide a fruit and vegetable, their kids won't eat it. But they might be surprised, because their kids are probably hungry and are likely to eat what's there," Johnston said.
Options for a healthy lunch packed from home include:
- A vegetable such as cut-up carrots or celery
- A fruit, either fresh or packed in juice or water
- Dairy, such as milk, yogurt or cheese
- A healthy drink, such as 100 percent juice, milk or water
- Whole-grain bread
- Protein from peanut butter, lean lunch meat, beans and nuts
"It's great news that national initiatives have resulted in healthy lunch options provided by the school but parents should ensure their home lunches are packed with the same nutrients," Johnston said.