Pack an A+ School Lunch

Pack an A+ School LunchChoosing Healthy Foods Early On Helps Kids Make Smart Decisions for Life

By Jennifer Walker-Journey

Preparing a child’s school lunch often can turn into a battle of wills. Parents want to pack their children’s lunchboxes with good, nutritious foods. But they also want their child to eat those healthy items, rather than tossing fruits and vegetables into the cafeteria trash can.

Is it a war that can be won? Jessica Franks thinks so.

Franks is the senior health educator for the Walton County Health Department’s Healthy Communities Healthy People Project, a program that educates the public – adults and children alike – about the importance of good nutrition and physical activity. The program seeks to have a local effect on national trends, which show childhood obesity climbing at an alarming rate. According to the Walton County Health Department, more than 16 percent of Walton County public high school students are at risk of becoming overweight.

Parents can do their part by monitoring what their children eat, both at home and in school, Franks says. When it comes to packing a child’s lunchbox, she suggests that parents find healthier alternatives to lunchtime favorites. For example, look for juices that contain 100 percent juice, especially those fortified with calcium and Vitamin D.

“You’d be surprised,” Franks says. “Many juice boxes are only 10 to 20 percent juice, and full of sugar.”

White bread can be replaced with whole wheat or whole-grain bread, and side items such as potato chips can be substituted with baked chips, pretzels, trail mixes, dried fruits, whole-grain cereals and crackers.

Getting your child involved in the selection and preparation process can improve the chances of him or her actually consuming the healthy lunch, Franks says. She suggests taking your child shopping with you and letting him or her choose healthy snacks.

“And teach them how to read the food labels and what to look for so they will learn at a young age how to make healthy choices,” Franks adds.

And finally, make sure your child’s lunch is user-friendly. Save foods that need peeling, such as oranges and eggs, for older kids. Show younger children how to use a thermos, if packing one. And be mindful when packing lunch for children with braces – choose applesauce over whole apples and crackers over bagels or thick breads.

For more ideas, Franks suggests checking out The U.S. Department of Agriculture site contains menu planners and resources to help make packing healthy and delicious lunches a breeze.



Web Game Helps Fuel Healthier Appetites
Need a fun way to get your child to learn how to make healthier food choices? Check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Web site. The site has a section exclusively for kids ages 6 to 11 with “MyPyramid for Kids” coloring pages, worksheets for keeping track of food choices, and colorful posters with healthy eating and physical activity messages.


But the coolest link on the page may be the MyPyramid Blast Off Game, an interactive computer game that tests kids’ knowledge of healthy food group items. Those choices “fuel” their rockets and, if proper choices are made, allow for blastoff to Planet Power. – Jennifer Walker-Journey



Send Summer Out in Style at Rosemary Beach Block Party
Need to burn out some summertime energy before the school season gets into full gear? Head out to Rosemary Beach’s “Kids Rock the Block!” Party from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30. Kids can enjoy face painting, temporary airbrush tattoos, colored hairspray, moonwalks, bubble machines, fun music and more, giving their parents time to mix and mingle with other adults.


The festivities are held between the Western Green and Gigi’s Fabulous Kids’ Fashions and Toys. The event, sponsored by Gigi’s and the Merchants of Rosemary Beach, is free and open to the public. For more information, call (850) 278-2017. – Jennifer Walker-Journey