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Children's Hospital Has a Healthy Lesson for Parents — Nutritious Lunches at School Equal a Fit Child and Success in the Classroom

As children head back to school, experts at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh urge parents to help their children make healthy meal choices that will benefit them both mentally and physically.

Eating healthy and nutritious foods helps children stay mentally focused at school and also helps prevent obesity-related and dental problems that can have serious health consequences into adulthood, according to Silva Arslanian, MD, director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children's.

The prevalence of children ages 6- to 19-years-old who are obese has doubled in the past two decades in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children who are overweight and less active are more likely to have higher blood pressure, and insulin and cholesterol concentrations and also be at risk for diabetes and heart disease.

"The first thing we recommend to all parents of school-age children is that the kids eat a healthy breakfast, which is necessary to maintain proper metabolism and give them energy throughout the day," said Dr. Arslanian, an endocrinologist. "At school, kids should either be eating a nutritious packed lunch or something healthy from the cafeteria, not French fries, chicken wings or other fried foods or foods that are high in calories or preservatives."

Dr. Arslanian suggests a healthy breakfast such as fruit, yogurt, cereal, bagels, milk, cheese toast or a peanut butter sandwich.

"Children need to start choosing healthier options at school and they learn that from their parents," Dr. Arslanian said. "Kids need to stay away from vending-machine snacks and sodas. School cafeterias are now offering healthier options, such as chicken salads and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables."

Lunches should include three to four foods from different food groups in order to provide children with the necessary vitamins for proper development. Taking in proper nutrients gives children with enough energy to stay attentive and avoid fatigue throughout the school day.

Because children have a slow but consistent rate of growth and development, Dr. Arslanian said it is normal for children to eat as often as four or five times a day, including snacks. Instead of soda and chips, snacks should be low in fat, such as fruit, vegetables and dip, yogurt, sandwiches on whole wheat bread or cheese and crackers.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 19, 2008
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Last Update
February 19, 2008