In 2012, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service updated the guidelines for National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to make lunches served at schools healthier by increasing the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat milk, while reducing levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat. According to the CDC, the implementation of these guidelines is indeed making school lunches healthier, although there is still room for improvement. The factors contributing to making healthy school lunches are many and complex, ranging from ensuring school cafeterias have the correct equipment to serving foods simultaneously nutritious and appealing to children.

These strides are a big deal, but many parents are still packing their children’s lunches. Reasons for this are varied, like not qualifying for free or low-cost school meals, a child’s severe allergies or food intolerances, or wanting to send a more nutritious lunch than what the school provides, despite the USDA’s improvements. Whether it’s the parent or the school responsible for providing lunch, the challenges of feeding children wholesome, energizing food are real and sometimes overwhelming.

As a mom of two, I’m no stranger to the struggle. The time and planning that goes into creating healthful lunches week after week can feel overwhelming for a modern parent, all while we’re questioning if we’re doing well enough. Are they eating the right amount of vegetables? Are they getting enough variety? Not to mention many of us can’t even fall back on a good old PB&J, in the case of a nut-free school or classroom. Continue reading

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