School Lunches and Middle SchoolTweens often worry about middle school, and what it will be like. The lunch period can be a source of anxiety: Where will I sit? Will I have any friends in my lunch period or will I have to sit alone? Will I get picked on?
Of course, those are serious issues, to be sure, but for parents, there's also the issue of making sure your child gets a nutritious lunch. If your child likes to buy lunch he or she needs to know a bit about what the school cafeteria will offer, in order to make the best choice. Many middle school cafeterias will offer one or two choices for an entree, as well as a salad bar, pizza bar or nacho bar. In addition, public schools will also offer a choice of milk or juice.
While middle schools may offer a few more selections than elementary school, that doesn't necessarily mean the food is any healthier or tastier. In an effort to make school lunches more appealing, public schools have been encouraged by the USDA to make lunches healthier and to offer healthier choices to students. Recent recommendations from the USDA include:
While many schools incorporated these recommendations into their lunch programs, anyone whose visited a middle school cafeteria lately knows that there is a lot of room for improvement regrading school lunches.
If your child is a picky eater, or if you want her to eat a healthy lunch, you'd probably be better off packing a lunch at home to bring to school. But keep in mind that your child is older now, so he or she may not want their lunch packed in a brightly colored or theme-related lunchbox. If not, try to find a lunch tote your child will not be embarrassed to carry, or let him bring his lunch in a plastic bag. Just be sure to have plenty of ice packs on hand so that he can keep his lunch at the ideal temperature -- minimizing the risk of food poisoning.
Older children may also be fussier about what they eat. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches may not cut it anymore. Instead, think of lunch ideas that would be cool with older kids. Consider: