TYLER (KYTX) - If you've been packing your children potato chips and pre-packaged sweets in their lunch-boxes this week, listen up... Doctors say an unhealthy lunch can affect children's ability to learn at school.
Making healthy changes is easier than it sounds. The good news is most kids seem to enjoy fruit, but there are ways to fit in vegetables. The third component that should be in your child's lunch is a protein. Doctors say those three food groups will keep your child stay alert and focused the rest of the school day.
"Kids who eat a healthy lunch really do learn better in the afternoon. We know that for sure." says Dr. Valerie Smith with St. Paul Children's Clinic in Tyler.
She says it's time to stop filling children's lunches with high fat, high sugar, prepackaged foods.
"That's because your blood sugars really do drop. And, that's not what you want at 1:30 to 2 o'clock in the afternoon when it's time to take math."
But, she says a healthy homemade lunch doesn't always have to be a sandwich.
"Sometimes kids are looking for a little bit of variety. One thing that one of my children is trying this year is she's been taking apple sandwiches. So, instead of using bread, she uses a slice of apple and we put peanut butter in between."
Mother Kiaira Miles says it's fun to experiment with kid's lunches.
"We have to get creative because you want to make sure he's healthy."
Hot meals are still an option. Dr. Smith recommends investing in a thermos to keep food warm through lunchtime.
This is just our whole wheat pasta and vegetables that's our dinner last night, but I have a child who frequently takes hers."
Leftovers allow you to stretch your dollar and not waste food. Dr. Smith says you can also save money buying produce that's in season.
And, don't forget those special touches.
"When you make your own kid's school lunch, one of the things you can put into it that no one else can is love. So, you know, you can stick little notes in there and things to encourage your kids."
Giving them that extra boost to power through the rest of the day.
And, don't forget snacks. Dr. Smith says those should be healthy too. Her children like popcorn and homemade fruit popsicles for an after-school snack.
As for drinks, juices don't have the fiber in them that real fruit does and they're often loaded with sugar. Dr. Smith says water and lowfat milk are much better options.
Dr. Smith says kids also like to build their own lunches too. For a healthy spin on pizza, she recommends packing whole wheat bagel thins, tomato sauce and low fat cheese in their lunchbox.