Kimberly Bragg-Armatrout, NDTR, health and nutrition agent of UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, offers tips for healthy back-to-school lunches.

By Kimberly Bragg-Armatrout

With school starting soon, prepare your child—or yourself—with a healthy lunch. Make it easy and nutritious by following guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate program.

Guidelines from MyPlate include vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy. By using the MyPlate program as a guide, you will provide your children with a lot of healthy options, and you’ll teach them about portion control.

Why is lunch so important? Lunch is served during the middle of the day while kids are at school or adults are at work. This meal is going to give your children the nutrition and energy to get them through the day, help them learn and provide them with good habits for a healthy future.

If their lunch is nutritious, they will be able to focus on learning. If their lunch is full of fat and high sugar content, it is going to make them crash during the day and put a negative learning curve on their education. So, making a healthy lunch choice will benefit your child now and in the future.

If you include your kids in the process, they will tend to eat more and healthier. Children who know to eat healthy meals and snacks will do so at school and at home. Such eating habits will help prevent weight issues.

It has been determined that one out of three American children are either overweight or obese. Providing them with healthy lunch options can help prevent this from happening to your child.

If they are getting the nutrition that they need during the day, then they will not be as hungry when they get home and grab the first thing that they see, which is often unhealthy. They will be able to choose a healthy snack and wait for their dinner.

So, mix and match and be creative with school lunches. Here, I’ve presented just a few ideas of a well-balanced lunch that you can pack for your kids or yourself so that you can finish out the day energized.

For more information, contact Kimberly Bragg-Armatrout, NDTR, health and nutrition agent of UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, at or 744-5519.

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