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School Lunch Nutrition Traps

School Lunch Nutrition Traps

Sizing up cafeteria food
Is it OK to eat fast food?
How can I make brown bagging it cool?
Which vending machine snacks are healthy?

Most girls face some not-so-healthy lunch and snack choices at school. Maybe you're tempted by fast food, vending machines, student-run snack bars, or nearby convenience stores. If you pack your own lunch, you may ignore the baby carrots in the fridge and drop peanut butter and cheese crackers in your lunch bag instead. But, savvy girls avoid school lunch nutrition traps and make healthy food choices. back to top

Sizing up cafeteria food
As you move through the cafeteria line, think about MyPyramid. Try to eat some complex carbohydrates like rice or a whole-wheat English muffin. Then add fruit, vegetables, and a source of protein like kidney beans or tuna. If you have a choice between mystery meat and spinach lasagna, here's your chance to discover spinach.

Here are some healthy cafeteria food choices to consider:
  • If fried chicken is the only appealing option, go for it. But remove most, if not all, of the skin to avoid eating more fat than you'd planned to.
  • Try the minestrone soup and a salad with a slice of whole-grain bread instead of pizza from time to time.
  • Choose low-fat yogurt and fruit for a healthy and sweet lunch.
  • Top your baked potato with low-fat yogurt, not sour cream.
  • Choose skim or low-fat milk instead of whole milk.
  • Chill out with a frozen fruit pop instead of that ice cream sandwich. back to top
Is it OK to eat fast food?
If your school offers fast food from places like McDonald's, Burger King, or Taco Bell, think of these foods as an occasional treat, not as an everyday option. When you've got to have fast food, keep the three S's in mind:
  • Sauces: Avoid sandwiches with "special sauces." Those sauces add a lot of not-so-special fat and calories.
  • Size: Don't super-size or king-size your meal. Those big meals may look like bargains, but eating more calories than your body burns makes you gain weight.
  • Sides: Pass on the fries and onion rings. They are chock-full of fat. back to top
How can I make brown bagging it cool?
The only sure way to know you're getting a nutritious lunch is to pack it yourself. Choose a veggie pocket or a turkey and cranberry chutney wrap, instead of settling for soggy macaroni. If you're bored with apples and oranges, try mangos, kiwifruit, or papayas for variety. And bringing along canned pineapple or fruit salad snacks makes getting your fruit servings easy. Sick of baby carrots? Bring a veggie drink that's packed with nutrients. And water and flavored seltzer are healthy alternatives to soda. To keep cheese from getting limp or your hot lunch from getting cold, pack your lunch in a colorful thermal bag. back to top

Which vending machine snacks are healthy?
Sixth period math's about to begin and you're starving, so you head for the vending machines for a quick fix. You're about to press the button for a gooey candy bar or a bag of chips. STOP! Take a look at the other choices. Some of them may be just as satisfying and have less fat, sugar, and sodium (salt). Here are some healthy vending machine options:
  • Try granola bars, fruit-filled cereal bars, or fig bars.
  • Instead of corn chips, give pretzels a try.
  • Choose air-popped popcorn instead of potato chips.
  • Skip the soda and go for a can of cranberry-apple juice or raspberry-lime seltzer.
Or why not save yourself some money and bring snacks you can keep in your locker or your backpack? Try baby carrots, baked tortilla chips, dry roasted peanuts or almonds, and mini rice cakes in a variety of flavors. Many girls get as much as one-third of their nutrients for the day from snacks, so choose healthy ones. back to top

Last Modified Date: 3/28/2001
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