Back-to-school grocery shopping tips and school lunch changes

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - You're most likely heading to the grocery store this weekend to stock up on food for your kids' lunches and after school snacks. There are a few things to keep in mind if you're trying to decide whether to pack your kids lunch, or let them buy it at school.

Stricter federal guidelines have schools making changes to what they serve.

Some items that are too high in sodium or fat like pizzas, or some chicken sandwiches, even cookies are gone from the cafeteria. If your kid is buying the featured lunch for the day, they are also required to get a vegetable or fruit.

The director of school food services for Horry County Schools says kids pick it up because they're forced to, but they aren't eating it. Instead, they throw it in the trash.

Parents are even complaining about the changes because, though its healthier, it's not what kids want.

Local dieticians say it makes a difference. Balanced breakfasts and lunches are key to your students' day.

"It's very important to have a balanced meal at lunch," says Kelly Snow, Registered Dietician for Grand Strand Medical Center. "Because that's going to affect their grades. They are more alert, if you eat healthy. If you have too many starches or too much sugar, you're really going to get tired in the afternoon. Your body needs more at that point."

Dieticians admit that healthier food doesn't taste better, but it's what your kids need, and it starts from home and what you buy in the grocery aisles.

What is the biggest mistake parents make?

Grabbing easy convenient food for breakfast or lunch at the grocery store. It makes kids lose energy and focus in class.

Nutrition starts at home
"Sit down with your children," Snow advises. "Look at the school menu. Ask them if they like those things." Schools provide lunch menus to kids. If they don't like the days' meal, pack their lunch that day. Nutrition really starts at home; it's what you're used to at home that you're going to eat wherever you go. So, that's why it's the parents job to provide those healthy foods at home. Because that's what they're going to do at school."

Mom Cheryl Haile agrees with Snow. She says when kids have a healthy meals at home, they're going to continue eating healthy at school. If you are making a change in nutrition, she has some ideas.

Vegetable garden
"Plant some kind of vegetable plant at your house that they can grow themselves. And that way they can see 'this is where our food comes from. I can grow a tomato. I can grow a cucumber. I can grow some peppers or something like that. And that way, they'll buy into it."

Say No to pre-made lunches
Another thing dieticians stress is not buying an easy, pre-made lunch. Kelly Snow says if it's convenient, it's often unhealthy. "These foods that come pre-made – even they have sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches pre-made without the crust, so it's pre-made, ready to go. If it's sitting out on the shelf, pre-made, ready to go, it's not good for you. It's got too much sugar, too much sodium. So take 5 minutes at the most to prepare it yourself."

Lastly, Snow says kids who eat starchy or sugary meals for breakfast or lunch, they're usually the ones who act up, fall asleep in class or get hungry soon after they eat.

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