How to Eat Healthy at School
Lunch is a fun time during the school day when you get a break from class and get to talk to your friends. Lunch at school may be the meal in which you have the most choices of what to eat.
You may not be able to choose whether you buy your lunch or bring it from home, but you can choose what you eat and do not eat.
Deciding what to eat and what not to eat is an important part of growing up. Food choices at lunch play an important role in your ability to exercise, play, and focus at school.
What are the benefits of eating healthy?
Eating healthy helps you feel your best. When you eat healthy, you may:
- Get injured less often.
- Get sick less often.
- Learn new things more quickly.
- Get better grades.
- Have more energy to play sports and exercise.
- Have a better chance of being healthy as an adult, compared with people who do not eat healthy.
What steps can I take to eat healthy at school?
It can be hard to decide what is a good food to eat and what is not, and there are many foods available at school to choose from. There are some general tips for choosing foods that will give your body energy and help you feel your best.
Read food labels
You can find out how healthy a packaged food is by looking at the nutrition label on the package or wrapper. First, look for the serving size and how many servings are in one package. All of the nutrition information on the label is based on one serving size, but many snack foods contain more than one serving per bag.
Try to avoid foods that have:
- 3 grams of fat or more per serving.
- 400 mg of sodium or more per serving.
- Added sugars.
Create a balanced meal
A balanced lunch includes vegetables, fruits, protein, grains, and dairy. To create a balanced meal, think of your lunch tray as a plate, and divide it evenly into 4 sections. Make sure that:
- 2 sections (half of the tray) are filled with fruits and vegetables.
- 1 section is filled with grains, such as bread, pasta, or rice.
- 1 section is filled with foods that contain protein, such as meat, eggs, or beans.
- You have 1 cup of dairy, such as milk or yogurt.
To get the most variety and nutrition from your meal, try to create a colorful plate. This might include red, purple, or green vegetables, orange or yellow fruits, and dark brown grains in bread or brown rice.
Choose healthy snacks
Snacks and soft drinks may be available at your school in a vending machine. Most of these are not very healthy. Remember to look at nutrition labels and avoid snacks and drinks that have added sugar. To avoid using the vending machine:
- Eat a filling lunch. This includes:
- Foods that have a lot of protein, like meat and eggs.
- Foods that have a lot of fiber, like fruits, vegetables, and beans.
- Plan ahead and bring a healthy snack from home, such as a piece of fruit, carrot sticks, or whole-grain crackers.
- Keep some healthy snacks in your locker that will not go bad (are non-perishable), such as trail mix or rice cakes.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sometimes you may think you are hungry when you are actually thirsty.
- Choose healthier options like bottled water or unflavored milks instead of sugary soft drinks, juice, or sports drinks.
Be an advocate
- Talk to your parents about healthy eating. It can be easier to eat healthy at school when your family makes changes at home, too.
- Eat lunch with friends who make healthy choices. It can be hard to resist sugary foods and drinks when your friends are eating these things.
- Talk to your school counselor about getting more healthy food options at your school. If your school does not have healthy options, you can work with your school and other organizations to bring in more options.
Where can I get more information?
- Find out exactly how much of each food group your body needs by going to: http://www.choosemyplate.gov and putting in your age, height, and weight.
- If your school does not have healthy options, like a salad bar, find out how you can help get healthy options at your school by going to: http://www.saladbars2schools.org
- Learn more about reading food labels at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm281746.htm#kids
- Exercise is just as important as healthy eating for your growing body. Find fun ways to get your 60 minutes of exercise every day at http://www.letsmove.gov