COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - With school about to close and summer camps about to start up, planning your kid’s lunches is more important than ever says integrative pediatrician Dr. Ana-Maria Temple.
“It is atrocious,” Dr. Temple said, “What’s happening is that 40% of their daily calories are coming from food groups that are generally seen in their lunchboxes.” Those unhealthy food groups include products like juice boxes (even the organic ones), sports drinks, dairy-heavy desserts, and fatty main courses like pizza.
“The body can only process 6 packets of sugar a day and just with fruit drinks we’re already overloading the body.” Dr. Temple suggests that the first swap to make is with fruity infused waters. “Why don’t we give the kids a bottle with an infuser so they have the option of putting oranges, lemons, blood oranges, cucumbers, or mint in it...you add water at night, put whatever choice they make into the bottle and then in the morning, viola, easy and delicious water."
Another easy swap is to take out those fast but unhealthy “lunchable-type" foods that are filled with preservatives. “Cafeteria pizza is laden with preservatives, food coloring, trans fats, and sugar" Dr. Temple asserted.
“So instead why don’t we send the kids with a delicious option like an English muffin, some tomato sauce with no sugar in it, some nice cheese on it, and then add nitrate free turkey pepperoni on top...or if they want to do a “lunchable-type," give them some crackers with good ingredients, turkey pepperoni, a little cheese, and a side of tomato sauce so now they can make their own little pizzas.”
The other major area that needs work in lunchboxes are dairy-heavy desserts. Dr. Temple says she sees an alarming trend with parents who pack lunches. “Parents think the kids need to have a treat every day, but if you have a treat every day, it’s actually your diet. So now the kids want something sweet every day.”
This kind of habitual behavior can be damaging, Dr. Temple said, but an easy swap is including fruits when kids need a sugary, but natural, boost. “Your kids can choose with you - make it interactive. You can do strawberries, grapes, apples...it’s actually one of the cheaper options too when certain fruits are in season.”
Dr. Temple says having the conversation with your kids can be hard, but empowering them and motivating them can make all the difference.
“With a lot of kids I talk to them and I say - do you want to be faster on the sports field? These athletes, and now you can google all of these athletes diets, none of them are eating ice cream...they are all eating fruits, veggies and high protein foods.”