Back to School

As back to school season arrives parents have a lot to juggle and wondering how to make sure your child has a nutritious lunch shouldn't add to the stress. Food-trade-offs are a necessary part of a balanced diet, and following the five quick tips below, it's easier than you think:Nutritional School Lunches

  • Nutritional Food-trade-off #1: Leading health and nutrition organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association and American Heart Association support the sentiment that flavored milk is better than no milk at all. So whether the milk is sweetened with table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, experts say don't worry. They're nutritionally the same. Sugar is sugar.
  • Nutritional Food-trade-off #2: If your child, like many only eats snacks like potato chips or cheese doodles, swap them with an occasional new alternative, such as crunchy snap peas, whole grain crackers, or dried fruits.
  • Nutritional Food-trade-off #3: If your child isn’t a vegetable eater, try making it more tasty by serving carrots or celery with a dip, such as ranch dressing or hummus
  • Nutritional Food-trade-off #4: PB & J sandwich or cream cheese and strawberries on whole wheat make great substitutes for that child with a sweet tooth.
  • Nutritional Food-trade-off #5: Worried about salt? The majority of the salt we consume daily is from prepared foods - such as frozen dinners and salty snacks. Reduce the amount of high-sodium prepared foods your kids eat and increase their consumption of fresh vegetables with a dash of table salt and a little bit of butter for flavor.
  • Most importantly: Don’t be afraid to find the middle ground. It’s ok to allow a sweet treat every now and then as long as it’s in moderation.

Instead of focusing on a specific ingredient in school nutrition, it is more important to look at overall calories children consume and plan healthy meal choices based on that aspect.

“Banishing high-fructose corn syrup is ‘a waste of time and money’ – better to limit children’s total sugar intake.”
Margo Wootan, Nutrition Policy Director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest

Offering balanced choices at every meal provides necessary nutrients for proper growth and health. You can reference the USDA's Choose My Plate to personalize your families eating plans; everyone's needs are different and the information at Choose my Plate can help. Looking for additional “Smart Substitutions” beyond the ones we listed here, take a look at some of the suggestions from the American Heart Association.

Additional Resources:

Overwhelmed with getting the kids set for back to school? See these helpful tips by Accidental Housewife Julie Edelman to help relieve the stress at

Raising Healthy Children – See 6 parenting tips to encourage healthy eating choices from Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN.

Did you know that on January 26, 2012 the revised nutrition standards and new meal patterns were released? Read more to find out how these changes affect your kids lunch.

We struggle with moderation and balance not just in preparing foods for our kids, but also for ourselves, download a Dietary Guide with sample meal plans, written by the experts.