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news News Thursday, December 28, 2017 Thursday, December 28, 2017 11:04 AM - Thursday, December 28, 2017 11:04 AM

Packing nutrition into school lunches

At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville, experts are encouraging healthy meals that will aid in children’s overall orthopaedic health.

About one in eight preschoolers in the United States are obese, but what may not be apparent is the effect of excess weight on a child’s bones and joints. Chief of Staff J. Michael Wattenbarger, M.D., sees the results of obesity on children’s bone health every day. “Obese children who are growing will see increased stress and strain, which affects bone growth and could cause deformity and pain,” said Dr. Wattenbarger. “This could lead to limited mobility as an adult.”

To help children reach their full potential in the future, Dr. Wattenbarger underscores the importance of developing positive eating habits early on. “A crucial part in maintaining a healthy weight is for children to eat nutritional foods in moderate amounts,” said Jalak Patel, clinical nutritionist at Greenville Shriners Hospital. “Whether children eat lunch at home, enjoy a school-provided lunch or pack a lunch box, the goal is a nutrient-rich meal to fuel their brains and bodies for the afternoon. Involve your child in the meal panning – when kids help plan their lunches, they are more likely to eat them.”

Patel recommends these ideas to create lunches your child will eat rather than trade or throw away:

  • Tip 1: If your child’s school has a lunch program, review the menus together and choose the foods he or she agrees to. To create a balanced meal, include a protein, grain, fruit, vegetable, dairy and water. Remind them of the importance of eating a balanced meal.
  • Tip 2: For lunches prepared at home, make a spreadsheet of what your child likes in each category. For example: "Vegetables I will eat are: baby carrots, cucumber slices with a little ranch dip, or cherry tomatoes." Stick to foods that are agreed upon.
  • Tip 3: Be a role model. Children establish their eating habits by mirroring their parent’s habits, which is why it is important for parents to practice healthy eating and meal planning techniques at home.
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