In many cultures, lunch is the main meal of the day, enjoyed over an hour or so in the company of family or friends. In America, the importance of lunch is often not recognized. Adults may skip lunch on busy days or choke down a meal at their desk as they try to check off one more item on the “to do” list. Lunch in the car is unheard of in many countries but is commonplace here. This behavior may not seem like a big deal but it can leave you depleted both mentally and physically.
Lunch is even more important for kids. School starts early and there is rarely time for a big breakfast. Even children that eat well at breakfast will have a four to five hour gap before lunchtime. By this time, blood sugar levels have dropped and they are starting to feel sluggish. Lunch re-energizes children and gives them the boost they need to concentrate on the afternoon’s activities. Skipping lunch means they may not eat again for eight or more hours. This is not good for anyone, especially children who have after school activities or sports.
A good lunch also curbs cravings for junk food and sweets. Research shows that skipping breakfast or lunch often leads to overeating and poor choices in the evening. People rarely make good choices when they are extremely hungry—they grab the first thing they can find. Over time, chronic lunch skipping will have a negative affect the overall nutritional quality of the diet.
School children have time allotted for lunch but this does not mean that they eat it. Lots of lunches end up in the trash can. For this reason I always tell my clients to make sure that their child is getting a balanced and filling lunch that they will actually eat. Lunchtime should be a positive experience--a break from the rigors of schoolwork, time to chat with friends and an opportunity to eat a meal that they actually like. A lunch isn’t worth much if it ends up in the garbage.
Here are some tips for ensuring that your child benefits from the midday meal:
· Do not try out new foods or meals that your child doesn’t like. Save that for a meal when you are together.
· Be sure to discuss the importance of eating lunch.
· Set a good example by taking time to eat a healthy lunch each day.
· Most importantly, involve your child in the process by allowing them to have a say in what they are eating! Let them select their lunch with your guidance.
Follow these tips to raise a happy, healthy well-nourished child!