A good lunch benefits a student by giving him the energy to remain alert during class time. This is true whether the student is in elementary school, high school or college. As long as the student avoids a heavy midday meal, which can cause lethargy and sleepiness, a healthy lunch helps maintain peak academic performance. Make lunch even more beneficial by choosing foods based on their nutritional benefits.
Negative Effects of Skipping Lunch
Many studies, such as one conducted by Tufts University School of Nutrition, have confirmed that students who are hungry because they have skipped lunch are distracted in the classroom. In addition, studies have shown that malnutrition from habitual undereating can interfere with normal physical and mental development. A proper lunch is considered so important that the USDA conducts the National School Lunch Program to ensure that each student from kindergarten through grade 12 has the opportunity to eat a nourishing lunch.
Benefits of Eating Lunch
In addition to the immediate relief of a growling stomach, lunch contributes to a solid foundation of good nutrition on a continuing basis. A healthy lunch should provide a student with enough calories to keep her going throughout the day no matter what her activity level. The calories should come from nutritious foods that are low-calorie and low-fat.
Good Lunch Choices
Good choices for a student's lunch include raw vegetables, whole grains and lean meat or other protein sources. Include a light ranch dressing for vegetable dipping, and fill whole grain breads with protein-packed peanut butter. Students should avoid empty calories found in junk foods and snacks with high sugar or fat content. Also, stay away from fat- and sodium-laden fast foods, and drink plenty of water with lunch. The National School Lunch Program bases its prescribed meals for schools on the USDA Food Plate guide. Consulting the Food Plate guide helps inform students about the best diet, including lunches.
With the importance of lunch for a student in mind, parents can help their children make healthy choices about the foods they eat. Stress the importance of a healthy overall diet, going over the school lunch menu for the week and pointing out which selections would be healthiest. Educate your children about good general nutrition habits. Parents who pack or supervise the packing of a child's lunch have even greater control over what their child is eating.