How School Lunches Affect Childhood ObesityJan 11th, 2011 | By Staff | Category: Education, Health
Many who hear the terms “Mystery Meat” or “Turkey Surprise,” think of one thing, school cafeterias. However, with the stigma being placed on cafeterias, does anyone really know the health benefits of school lunches? Some schools are turning towards ala carte lines and having pizza as a staple option for students. Others are sticking to a daily menu, picked by the school, consisting of vegetables, bread, meat and dairy.
Ala carte for students is a bad idea. While it does give students a choice, it also encourages unhealthy eating habits. Ala carte lines often include pizza, chicken tenders, French fries and, occasionally, a salad. When put in front of a student, most students would avoid the salad, going for the greasier counterpart.
The issue is, students who eat these unhealthy meals are not getting the vitamins and nutrients they need. Fried and greasy foods offer little in the way of health. A slice of pepperoni pizza has, on average, 300 calories. Fried chicken tenders have, on average, 500 or more calories. When you add French fries, you are adding nearly four hundred calories. That doesn’t include a drink or sauces.
An entire school lunch, consisting of vegetables, fruits, meat, a drink and a dessert has about 900 calories. Those 900 calories, however, include a lot less fat and a lot more nutrients that the body needs. Unlike chicken tenders and fries, which have no health benefits, regular lunches contain vitamins and minerals that a growing child needs.
Another benefit of eating a normal school lunch is the price. School lunches cost about $3, give or take, depending on a families income. Compare this to ala carte, which costs $4-$8. School lunches, at $3 a day, five days a week, for 36 weeks, adds up to $540 a school year. 0, at $7 a day, for the same amount of time, is $1260 a school year.
An even cheaper option, still, is to pack your students lunch. A ham sandwich is 230 calories; water is zero calories (you can include a Kool-Aid pouch for only 10 calories), a pack of cheese crackers is 200 calories, 10 baby carrots is 40 calories and an applesauce cup is about fifty calories. That is 530 calories in an entire meal for an annual cost of between $450 and $500.
As a parent, it is your job to decide what is the best method for your family. If your family is not too strapped for cash, then perhaps a school lunch is the best way to go. If your family is tight on cash, but does not qualify for reduced lunch prices, then perhaps packing a lunch is a better idea. Another factor is your child’s health.
If your child is at risk of becoming obese, then perhaps packing their lunch is a better idea. You can pack them salads, healthy sandwiches, carrots and other healthy treats. Then you are aware of exactly what they are eating during the day. If your child is healthy and poses no risks, then school lunches are safe. Ala carte, however, is not the answer, no matter how healthy your child is.