Just as your family is settling into summer mode, for many, August also marks back-to-school time. That means back to packing school lunches. Between teacher "meet and greets," school supply shopping, and getting back on a routine sleep schedule, lunchbox packing tends to be last on the list. But, what your child eats for lunch matters more than you might realize.
Don't Pack the Salt
A recent CDC Vital Signs report found that about 90 percent of U.S. school-aged children consume too much sodium each day. To put that into perspective, if there are 20 kids in your child's class, 18 of them will be eating too much sodium each day. Which group does your child fall into?
The report also found that one in nine children ages 8-17 has a blood pressure that measures too high, putting them at risk for heart disease. A healthy, low sodium diet can have an important effect on a child's blood pressure and heart health now and later in life.
One way to reduce the amount of sodium in your child's lunchbox is to stick to lower-sodium options, such as cold cuts (marked low sodium), dinner leftovers such as grilled chicken or lean meat, and fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks.
Identify the top sources of sodium in your child's lunchbox.
How to Beat the Surprising Sodium Sources
You may be surprised to find out what the top sources of sodium are in children's diets (see sidebar). If you can't eliminate these items from your child's school lunches, at least try to choose lower sodium options. Here are some tips to help tackle high sodium in your child's lunchbox:
Take these tips beyond your child's school lunchboxes and apply to planning and preparing food for other school activities, such as parties, sporting events, and extracurricular activities.
Pack-and-Go Snack and Lunch Recipes
Need inspiration for easy pack-and-go snack and lunch recipes that are lower in sodium? Check out these recipes and more in the Million Hearts® Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Resource Center:
By packing a lower sodium school lunch for your children and creating an environment with lower sodium food options at home, your children can develop healthy, low sodium eating habits that will last throughout their lives and help improve their heart health. For additional information about children and sodium and more tips for parents to help lower their family's sodium intake, visit the CDC Salt website.
Get involved in these "extracurricular activities" for your family to have a healthy school year.