A Parent's Guide to Brownbaggin'
Parent’s Guide to Brownbaggin’
By: Alyssa Kuecker, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center
As a your child climbs onto a yellow bus or hurries toward a school door, is the brownbag lunch clutched in his or her hands energy for busy minds and bodies or a risk for an early slump? Kara Bruning, MD, Pediatrician at Avera Medical Group McGreevy Pediatrics South, and Kristen Sousek, RD, LN, Dietitian at the South Minnesota Avenue Hy-Vee, offer advice on how to properly brownbag to school and start the year on the right tracks.
Make a Grade-A Brownbag
Benefits: “The biggest benefit is control,” said Sousek. By packing your child’s lunch, you ensure he or she is eating favorite foods from each food group in the proper portions.
Focus: “You know your child better than anyone.” Sousek says it’s important to know what your child likes, and make healthy choices thereon. Include a variety of food groups, making the choices as richly colorful as possible. Take your child grocery shopping to encourage exposure, fun and interest.
Avoid: “Avoid is a pretty strong word; all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle.” Instead of stamping a label of “good” or “bad” on a food, include a treat once a week in your child’s lunch. Do not throw a 400-calories cupcake into your child’s lunch each day.
With obesity’s prevalence, parents must monitor the amount of treats children are eating. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reports about 32 percent of children and adolescents are overweight, a BMI at or above the 85th percentile. Sixteen percent are obese, a BMI at or above 95th percentile.
Dr. Bruning discourages parents who are worried about their child’s weight from putting their child on a temporary diet. Rather, focus on altering lifestyle patterns in both food and activity. However, morbidly obese cases may require special professional attention.
Cafeteria nosh: Before sending a child to school, you can teach healthy choices merely with practice at everyday meals and snacks. If you are concerned your child is overeating or undereating, ask lunchroom monitors about what they’re noticing. You may also learn important information regarding the menu.
Packing hot/cold lunches: If packing a heat-sensitive lunch, invest in a vacuum thermos for hot foods and an ice pack or well-insulated lunchbox to prevent the growth of bacteria and illness, especially when dealing with meat, egg or other animal products. Bacteria can grow between 40 and 140 degrees. Ideally, cold foods should be kept at 32 degrees while hot foods should be kept at 165 degrees.
Early habits: Sousek strongly reminds parents to never combine food and emotion, for example, based upon whether a child performs well or not. “That’s when unhealthy habits begin, pushing it toward disordered eating. Express and discuss emotions verbally.”
Dr. Bruning agrees good behaviors start in the beginning. “It’s easier to learn healthy habits early than to unlearn bad habits later.” The whole family must be involved in creating desirable patterns – one member shouldn’t eat pizza for supper while another attempts brussels sprouts.
“Kids and parents alike are busy with activities and jobs, but we have to be willing to work toward the positive to encourage a healthy life,” said Sousek.