Help Your Kids Make Healthy Choices at the School Cafeteria

back to school, school lunches, cafeteria

school lunch, cafeteria, healthy choices

As we approach Back to School time, it's a good time to consider the healthful eating foundation we've set and to make sure we send our kids off with a basis to make good choices in the school cafeteria.

You know, as much as this is possible with kids... :)


As parents, we're in charge of setting the foundation for the gazillion choices that our kids will make when they're not on our watch.

And then we hope it sticks.

From moms and famous chefs to famous British chefs, lots of key players are up in arms about the poor quality of school lunches. And thank goodness, because clearly something needs to be done.

But in the meantime, your kid's got to eat right? It's up to you to equip them with some specific ideas for healthful choices in the school cafeteria. Odds are, you've already done your part by preaching the importance of a well-balanced diet and pushing fruits and vegetables when you can. It won't hurt to have a tiny little talk about their school cafeteria picks too.

Lucky for everyone, it looks like, when given the choice, kids like healthy food anyway. That's great news, but the draw of unhealthy choices can be pretty strong too. I know I came of age on bean burritos and tubes of powdered donuts.

Here are some school cafeteria basics for your kids to follow. It's nice to have guidelines, and if we're lucky, every seven or so times they go to the cafeteria, they will hear our voices in their heads.

Healthy choices:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Milk (even chocolate milk on occasion)
  • Water
  • Salad bar, if the school has one
  • A multi-colored plate of real foods (food variety is good)

Good bets:

  • Turkey or veggie sandwich
  • Grilled chicken sandwich (not fried)
  • Turkey or vegetarian chili
  • Veggie burger
  • Whole grain bread or bagels
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese sticks
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Pickles
  • Whole wheat crackers

Foods to limit to once or twice a week or avoid:

  • Cheeseburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Pizza
  • French fries
  • Soda
  • Fruit juice
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad dressing
  • Fruit cocktail in syrup
  • Chips (choose baked, if you must)
  • Fruit snacks/roll-ups
  • Cookies
  • Ice cream
  • Candy
  • Packaged cupcakes, donuts, sweets

Does your child eat school lunches? Are you concerned about your kid's choices at the school cafeteria?

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