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What Are Your Kids Having for Lunch?

How to help your children eat healthy at school


Reality Check

Even if you pack the most delicious lunch imaginable, it's not likely you'll be able to keep your children away from the vending machines 100% of the time.

Not to worry, says McAllister -- as long as your children don't eat the snacks instead of a healthy lunch, and as long as they don't overdo it.

"As long as most of your child's lunches are healthy, an occasional soda, bag of chips, or candy bar is not a problem," she says.

Not all vending-machine choices are bad, either. The Center for Science in the Public Interest notes that some of the best ones include unsweetened applesauce cups and fruit cups, cereal mix, low-fat milk, granola bars, dried fruit, bottled water, and 100% juice

So just how do you get your kids to make these kinds of choices? That's where educating them about good nutrition at home -- and, especially, modeling healthy eating behaviors -- comes in. "Parents should eat healthy meals themselves," says Charles Shubin, MD, director of pediatrics at Mercy FamilyCare in Baltimore and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland. "They have to set the example."

Christine Gerbstadt, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, couldn't agree more.

"Kids need the support of both their family and their school to make sound nutritional choices," she says.

Reviewed on August 18, 2006

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