Tips to make school lunches healthier

There's a new kind of food fight erupting in schools, districts and state legislatures as alarm over childhood obesity spreads. What's a parent to do?

By GreatSchools Staff

From the school board to the statehouse, the food served at school is the focus of debate.

The statistics that started the food fights are familiar: One in five U.S. children is overweight, and increasing numbers of them are developing type 2 diabetes, an illness that used to be limited to adults.

Efforts to give kids healthier meal options have seen success: Soft drink makers have agreed to stop selling soda in elementary and middle schools, vending machines are being locked during school hours and salad bars are springing up in lunchrooms.

But they've also prompted a backlash from parents angry that "the food police" are taking the fun out of school celebrations by banning cupcakes. Other parents found out just how tough it can be to make changes when cash-strapped schools rely on the proceeds from vending machines, students balk at less fat-laden fare and lunchrooms are set up to reheat not cook from scratch.

But plenty of parents have made a difference in shaping children's food choices and in advocating for healthier menus in school.

What can parents do?

Here are some tips, based in part on recommendations from the American Dietetic Association and the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, on how you can improve your child's nutrition at school and at home: