No. 531



Many years ago someone said, "Obesity is the great equalizer. The more body weight carried around the shorter the time left to carry it." If you are a people watcher like I am, you will see more overly obese people walking the streets today than ever before in our nation's history. The sad news is that this condition is killing a vast percentage of them prematurely. While I am not a genius, I do know this condition is brought about because these people are consuming more calories than they are burning. To impart another little gem, which is certainly not original, most of our eating habits were developed when we were young.
This is the main reason a press release I received recently from the Arkansas Children's Hospital caught my eye. The title of the release was "Solving the School Lunch Dilemma: ACH Offers Healthy Selections for Your Child's Lunch." Of course, information like this is readily available on every hand, but still many people, including parents with school-age children, miss it or don't take it seriously. This is my motivation for sharing this information with you, and even if you don't have children or they are already grown you might save it and share it with family or friends who can benefit from reading it.
The article begins, "With the start of school each year, comes time for parents and caregivers to once again pack school lunches. (While many children eat in the school cafeteria, having the following recommendations as a guide could also be very helpful.) Packing a healthy lunch every day can be a chore for parents, especially when children are begging for unhealthy items. But a healthy lunch is an extremely important part of a child's day.
"Children are still growing and they need adequate vitamins, minerals, calories and protein every day. Studies show that eating balanced meals affects school performance. Children can't think on an empty stomach. Also, if children skip lunch or do not get enough food, they are more likely to overeat when they get home," says Lisa Emmert, R.D., CDE, diabetes specialist at Arkansas Children's Hospital. When packing school lunches, Emmert suggests uses of a variety of foods so children do not get bored with the same items.
"I would recommend including some type of lean protein like chicken, turkey, peanut butter, low-fat cheese, yogurt or cottage cheese. Protein helps fill children up so they won't get hungry as quickly. If parents keep an assortment of items on hand, they can offer children different choices each day." Emmert also encourages parents to pack complex carbohydrates. "It is important to give your child fresh fruits and vegetables such as apples, oranges, bananas, grapes or baby carrots with dip." (I solved this problem with a product called Juice+ that contains 17 different fruits, vegetables and grains that provides all of our daily requirements.)
"I always suggest whole wheat over white bread, and I also urge parents to try new items besides the standard sandwich. Pita bread, tortillas, Triscuits, bagels and other whole wheat products can add variety to a child's lunch." When it comes to packing a beverage, Emmert says parents should avoid including soda, sports drinks and other sugar-laden choices. She recommends milk, water or a small amount of 100 percent fruit juice.
For a treat, she suggests parents come up with healthier alternatives to cookies or cake like yogurt, sugar-free pudding and Jell-O or trail mix. "If parents do want to include sweet treats, it's a good idea to cut back on the portion size. For example, include a small cookie or a two-inch by two-inch piece of cake. Also, children do not need dessert every day. This will help to cut back on the amount of sugar they receive."
What I have shared with you may be old hat, but a reminder could teach children about smart food choices and will help them form habits that will carry them into adulthood. This will show your children you care.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)