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COVID 19 has added stress to our lives in a way that just a few month’s ago was unimaginable. Now more than ever, it is important for parents to take care of themselves so they can take care of their children. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We know that when families are experiencing stress, children are more likely to be abused or neglected.

Protective Factors are “conditions or attributes (skills, strengths, resources, supports or coping strategies) in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities”. Strengthening Families identifies 5 Protective Factors to help families build resiliency and support:

  1. Parent Resilience: No one can eliminate stress from parenting, but building parental resilience can affect how a parent deals with stress.
  2. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: Having accurate information about raising young children and appropriate expectations for their behavior help parents better understand and care for children.
  3. Social and Emotional Competence of Children: A child’s ability to interact positively with others, to self-regulate, and to effectively communicate his or her emotions has a great impact on the parent-child relationship.
  4. Social Connections: Friends, family members, neighbors, and other members of a community provide emotional support and concrete assistance to parents. Social connections help parents build networks of support.
  5. Concrete Support in Times of Need: Parents need access to the types of concrete supports and services that can minimize the stress of difficult situations, such as a family crisis, a condition such as substance abuse, or stress associated with lack of resources.

We all face challenging times in our lives, but when we have supports in place, we have the tools we need to accept, adapt or overcome them.  Building your own resilience is one way to support your child because it gives them stability and confidence in knowing that they can rely on you. Creating this type of environment for your child makes them feel safe and builds self-reliance, problem solving and self-regulation which are skills they will use throughout their lives. For more about resilience check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r8hj72bfGo.

For ideas and strategies to maintain your sanity and support your children during the pandemic, check out this Parent’s Guide to Surviving COVID-19 from the Brookings Institute or these resources from our co-workers at Iowa State University Extension https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/disaster-recovery.

Writer: Heather Reister, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County.

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Sources:

Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Strengthening Families (2018). About Strengthening Families and the Protective Factors Framework. https://cssp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/About-Strengthening-Families.pdf

Gail Innis, Protective Factors: What are they and how can they help families? February 17, 2014, Michigan State University Extension, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/protective_factors_what_are_they_and_how_can_they_help_families

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girl with leaf

Is Your Child’s Preschool Program Up to Quality?

SUTQ (Step Up To Quality) is Ohio’s quality rating and improvement system for early care and education.  It was implemented statewide in 2006 by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), the two entities who oversee the program.

SUTQ was designed to increase the number of highly qualified child care programs and help families identify programs that go beyond minimum state standards.

Providers may earn star ratings (up to 5 stars) as they meet criteria in each of the 5 levels.  Providers who achieve a 3-5 star designation are considered “highly rated” meaning they have met additional performance goals such as:

  • lower staff:child ratios
  • higher levels of education and training for staff
  • increased family engagement

As part of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, Ohio must meet the goal of having all licensed childcare providers who receive publicly funded child care subsidies to be star rated by 2020 and highly rated (3-5 stars) by 2025.  Providers who do not receive subsidies are not required to participate in SUTQ.

Current estimates report between 50-70% of all child care programs in Ohio are rated.  Many programs who have earned the “highly rated” status are part of larger school systems who have designated resources out of a district budget to assist with meeting the additional financial costs with earning star ratings.

Some private and home care providers are fearful that if they are financially unable to meet the requirements, they will lose funding and be forced to close their doors.  Unfortunately, private providers are typically the only option for parents who need evening, overnight or weekend care for their children.

Is my provider rated?

Ask your provider if they are star rated.  If they are, ask when they will be applying for their next rating.  If not, ask if they have a plan in place if their funding is not renewed.

Shop around for star rated programs.  Do some online searching and view inspection reports of child care providers through the ODJFS or ODE websites. Schedule visits and meet the staff – not just your child’s teacher! Remember that your child will have contact with other teachers throughout their day or week.

Ask the site about family engagement. Consider what that means to you, and to them. You should be invited to visit your child’s school often and feel welcome anytime.

If applying for a spot in a star-rated program, be prepared and know the deadlines for enrollment. Some sites will have open registrations and some charge fees to apply.  Have a backup plan if your provider closes or if something changes and you have to pay tuition.

Programs like SUTQ hold childcare providers accountable by ensuring that they hire well qualified and trained teachers, and that they engage families and build strong foundations for all children.

Look for the best childcare provider for your young learner – it will be worth it!

 

Sources:

Ohio Department of Education (2019). Step Up to Quality (SUTQ). http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Early-Learning/Step-Up-To-Quality-SUTQ

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2017). Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ecd/early-learning/race-to-the-top

 

Written by: Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Butler County, reister.6@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Pickaway County, Treber.1@osu.edu

 

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As the first day of school approaches, parents often start to think about routines for the new school year.  Routines can change or need to be adjusted with a new school and sometimes reestablished after the lazy days of summer.

Rush Boys Outdoor Human Handsome Backpack

Routines are an important part of a child’s development.  Routines do more than just keep us organized, they help our youth learn life skills, build their self-confidence, and teach team work and much more.  According to Healthy Children, children do best when their routines are regular, predictable and consistent.

Here are a few routines to consider as you head back into a new school year:

Morning Routine: having a routine in the morning can help families get to work and school on time, remember homework, lunches and other important items and be ready to face the day.  If your children struggle to get going in the morning allow them enough time to wake up before starting their morning routine. A morning routine should include time for breakfast.

After School: Routines after school can organize extracurricular and evening activities and still work in other necessary activities like homework and chores. Children that old enough to be home alone after school benefit from a routine and knowing what is expected of them.  Posting routines for all to see and follow may be helpful.  This also encourages autonomy as our children and teens start to move through the routines on their own.

Bedtime: An evening routine can help our children get their recommended amount of sleep.  Bedtimes may be different for our children based upon their needs and ages. A routine before bed can help children be ready. Build quiet time in and avoid screen time, close to bed to help your child be ready for restful sleep.   A nighttime routine could include reading time, singing together or just some time with each individual child to talk about their day.

Bed Lamp Bedside Pillows Flower Bedroom Ho

Other routines that are important and beneficial to children include meal, weekend and clean up or chore routines.  Routines look different in every family.  It’s important to be flexible when building a new routine for your family.  It may take time for family members to adjust and the new routine may need a few changes,  be patient and willing to adapt as needed and soon you will be seeing all the benefits of routines in your home.

Written by: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Sources:

https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-babies-and-kids-need

https://www.healthychildren.org/english/family-life/family-dynamics/pages/the-importance-of-family-routines.aspx

https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/enewsletter/screen-time-and-sleep

Peaceful Parenting, OSU Extension

 

 

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I was about 4 weeks from my due date when I stepped out our back door and noticed that the bricks supporting the step were loose. As time was flying by, I knew that in the blink of an eye, our baby would be born and then crawling and mobile before we knew it, and that the step needed to be fixed before that time came.

Safety hazards like these are usually easy to spot. When you have small children, however, there are some less-obvious things to evaluate in the home to ensure a safe environment and minimize the risk of an accident.Young baby on rug

Thankfully, there are handy checklists available from trusted sources like WebMD and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. There are also entire sections on ‘baby proofing’ in baby stores that will equip you with supplies for creating a safer home.

Beyond implementing the standard recommendations, it is important for parents to take a common-sense approach based on what could potentially be hazardous in their home. Do you have a loose step that could cause a fall, or a window with a broken closing device that could slam on a tiny finger? Be sure to fix those sooner than later. Are there small items, trinkets or pet toys that could present a choking or ingestion hazard? Put those away in a secure place that a child cannot access (do this for anything that is small enough to fit in a toilet paper roll). Do your window blinds have long pull ropes that could cause strangulation? Is there a staircase that does not have a door or other barrier?

Use the checklists to begin, but don’t forget to also do a thorough walk around your home and consider the things that may not be listed. Remember to keep an eye out for poisonous substances that a child could access. Finally, get down on the ground level – where your baby will spend lots of time – and see what might need to be picked up, moved, or placed out of reach.

It may seem odd to baby proof before your baby is even mobile, but many babies progress quickly through milestones, and can go from just rolling over to crawling in a short time. Don’t let it become too late to start making a safer home!

Speaking of baby safety, be sure to read our blog post about safe sleep for infants. Safe sleep environments are critical for a baby-safe home.

Writer: Joanna Fifner Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Medina County.
Reviewer: Amanda Bohlen, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County.
Sources
American Association of Poison Control Centers (2018) Emergency. Information.Prevention. http://www.aapcc.org/
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (2013) Poison Control Home Safety Checklist http://www.chop.edu/health-resources/poison-control-home-safety-checklist
WebMD (2016) Slideshow:Baby Proofing Essentials https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/ss/slideshow-baby-proofing-essentials

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This is a perfect time of year to teach our children aboutHappy Thanksgiving word cloud being thankful.  The Thanksgiving holiday has many opportunities to create new family traditions that will bring the real meaning of thankfulness and gratitude to a personal level for our children.  Even is the mist of extremely challenging circumstances, we can find something to be thankful for.  In addition to helping us cope with challenges, this kind of grateful attitude can be contagious and is a wonderful life lesson to share with our children.  Learning to be truly grateful can change your life. The Greater Good Science Center at University of California-Berkeley notes three key reasons to teach children to be grateful.

  • Grateful kids are more kind
  • Grateful teens are happier and get better grades
  • Grateful kids become stewards of the environment

Teaching children to be thankful helps them resist their natural urge to be self-centered and self-absorbed.  Thankfulness is an important character trait that allows young people to develop meaningful relationships with others, and is directly related to happiness.  Understanding the good things in our lives will go a long way during adversity.

Kids are never too young to start learning how to show thanks for the good things in their lives.  Although Thanksgiving, by its name alone, makes us think about giving thanks, we should teach our children by example, that being thankful and telling others how much they are appreciated should happen every day. Parents and caregivers are the main ingredient in teaching young children no matter how young or old about being grateful.  We teach with our actions more than words.  So, it will take some thoughtful planning to find time around our busy work schedules but many things can be incorporated in our day-to-day lives with very little effort.

Here are some ideas to try with your family:

A Thanksgiving Tree:  Get each child to trace their hand on a piece of paper.  Have each child write various things they are thankful for on the fingers.

The Thankful Paper Chain:  Cut strips of paper.  On each strip have the child write about something they are thankful for, such as “Grandma plays games with me” or “I have a nice teacher.”  Connect them into loops.  It would be fun to add to the chain as other holidays approach.

Giving Thanks Placemats:  The goal of this craft is to create a collage filled with pictures of all the things your children are grateful for.  Using magazine pictures or pictures from the computer, glue them on a placemat size piece of paper.  Older children could write captions.  You can even laminate it to use again and again.

A Thank You Note Project:  Teach your children to write thank you notes for presents they receive or kindnesses that are shown to them.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Resource:

Rothenberg, W. A., Hussong, A. M., Langley, H. A., Egerton, G. A., Halberstadt, A. G., Coffman, J. L., Mokrova, I., & Costanzo, P. R., Grateful parents raising grateful children: Niche selection and the socialization of child gratitude, Applied Developmental Science Vol. 21, Iss. 2, 2017

Written by: Kathy Green, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, green.1405@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Janet Wasko Myers, Program Assistant, Horticulture, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, myers.31@osu.edu

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The Home Baking Association pronounced February as ‘Bake for Family Fun Month.’ That sounds like a good way to observe the month because when I am snowed in with my family, my children love to bake something yummy. Baking together offers an opportunity to (1) spend quality time together, (2) teach children baking skills, and (3) pass along a favorite family recipe. So how can we enjoy that time with our kids and bake something that is good for us? There are changes you can make to traditional recipes to make them healthier. One of my favorite family recipes, bran muffins, calls for all-purpose flour, but I substitute whole wheat flour for half of the flour requirement to “up” the nutritional value and fiber content.

mother and daughter cooking

The American Heart Association recommends these substitutions to reduce fat and cholesterol content in recipes:

  • In place of whole milk, use fat-free or low-fat milk, plush 1 T. of liquid vegetable oil per cup of milk.
  • In place of heavy cream, use evaporated skim milk or ½ low-fat yogurt and ½ plain low-fat unsalted cottage cheese.
  • Instead of sour cream, try low-fat unsalted cottage cheese and low-fat or fat-free yogurt; or use fat-free sour cream.
  • In place of cream cheese, use 4 T. soft margarine blended with 1 cup dry, unsalted low-fat cottage cheese (add small amount of fat-free milk if needed).
  • Instead of butter, try soft margarine or liquid vegetable oil.
  • In place of 1 egg, substitute 2 egg whites or ¼ cup commercially prepared cholesterol-free egg substitute.
  • Instead of unsweetened baking chocolate, use unsweetened cocoa powder with vegetable oil or soft margarine.

For a list of other ideas for recipe substitutions, see OSU Extension’s fact sheet, “How to Modify a Recipe to Be Healthier.”

Maybe instead of modifying an old recipe, you’d like to try something new. The following websites have healthy recipes available:

American Heart Association

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Iowa State University Extension

If you would like to know more about baking with children, the Home Baking Association offers these tips for success:

  • Allow time.
  • Always wash hands and countertops before starting and clean up “as you go.”
  • Stay safe! Have an adult show how to do age-appropriate baking/cooking tasks.
  • Before you start: All bakers read the recipe top to bottom.
  • Gather all the ingredients and equipment.
  • Use the right tools.

Whatever you decide to bake in your kitchen as a family, you can have some fun and be healthy at the same time.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County

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Schools in your area may be assessing students’ health, collecting BMIs, or providing nutrition and physical activity education. What does all this mean and why is this becoming more common?

So what exactly is a BMI?

BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a method to measure body mass based on a person’s weight and height. Weight and height are plugged into a standard formula which can then be compared to a range or norm. The Center for Disease Control states that a BMI calculated result is a reliable body fatness indicator for most teens and children. Although BMI does not measure body fat directly, it can be used as an indirect measure. An example of a direct measure of body fat would be underwater weighing or the Bod Pod (air displacement plethysmography). BMI is useful as a screening tool to help identify weight concerns and implement prevention education.

After the BMI number is obtained, the number is plotted on the boy’s or girl’s BMI-for-age growth chart. A percentile ranking is determined and this percentile is used to assess growth patterns of the individual child. Comparison is done with children of the same sex and age. Four different categories of weight status are used to categorize the child or teen. These include underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control recommend the use of BMI to screen children beginning at the age of 2.

Why BMI in Schools?

BMIs in schools vary per state and district. According to a comprehensive study in Preventing Chronic Disease, 20 states were requiring BMI or body composition screening with 9 additional states recommending the screening as of 2010. BMIs are designed to provide information and initiate conversations regarding ways to make healthy nutrition and physical activity choices.

Many factors must be taken into consideration with BMI and it is crucial to remember that BMI calculations are not perfect. Age and gender are important to consider in this assessment. The healthy level of the child or teen varies for age month by month and as his or her height increases.

Expert organizations still recommend using BMI surveillance as an effective screening tool. Although there needs to be more studies evaluating the effectiveness of these programs, with the proper use of guidelines and resources, BMI screening could become a more common, accepted, and useful tool in assessing and triggering interventions for obesity among children.

The BMI can be most useful when it is considered one additional tool in the toolbox. It is not the only tool, but one that can be a starting point for healthy conversations. BMI’s may be effective in evaluating the effectiveness of health programs.

Knowledge is power toward healthy behaviors.

girl on scale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens_bmi/about_childrens_bmi.html

Nihiser AJ, Lee SM, Wechsler H, McKenna M, Odom E, Reinold C, Thompson D, Grummer-Strawn L. BMI Measurement in Schools. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 2009. 124;589:597.

http://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/diet-weight-loss/should-body-mass-index-be-measured-in-schools-115934 (photo)

Written by: Shannon Erskine, Dietetic Intern/ Liz Smith, MS, RD, LDN, Ohio State University Extension, NE Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, smith.3993@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Beth Stefura M Ed, RD, LD, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Mahoning County, Stefura.2@osu.edu.

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To some it may seem old fashioned, or a thing of the past, but family meals are a proven way to help strengthen families. Years of research has found that the more children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they were to smoke, drink or use drugs. Why? Eating dinner together has a positive effect on social development, family communication, nutritional intake and the development of the family structure.  The conversations that go hand-in-hand with dinner help parents learn more about their children’s lives and help them better understand the challenges their kids face each day.

The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in a research survey of teens and parents found that,  compared to teens who have five to seven family dinners a week, those who dine with their families fewer than three nights are:

  1. Three and a half times likelier to have abused prescriptions drugs
  2. Three times likelier to have tried marijuana
  3. More than two and a half times likelier to have tried cigarettes
  4. One and a half times likelier to have tried alcohol

CASA research shows teens are at a greater risk of substance abuse as they move from middle school to high school. It is especially important for parents to stay involved during this time.  Dinner is one way to make this happen.  It is never too early or too late to start the tradition of regular family dinners with your children.

Besides getting to know your children/teens better, there are other advantages to having frequent family dinners. When children and teens eat at a family table they:

  • Have healthier eating habits
  • Have lower levels of tension and stress at homefamily meal
  • Are more likely to say their parents are proud of them
  • Are likelier to say they confide in their parents
  • Are likelier to make better grades in school
  • Are more emotionally content and have positive relationships
  • Are at lower risk for thought of suicide

As a parent of five children, I know all too well, the battles of balancing work and family to get the meal on the table with the majority of the children each night, but with some planning, you can outwit common family mealtime obstacles and use dinner as a forum to strengthen family ties.   Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Set the mood.  Try eating at a clutter-free table without the television in the background, and no handheld devices.
  • Divide and conquer.  Let everyone help.  Many busy hands make the job easier.
  • Plan ahead.  Be sure all family members know what you expect, when to have their hands washed and their appetites ready.  Dinner does not have to be at the same time every night but let family know in advance.  Posting the menu on the refrigerator is a good idea.  Let the children choose what foods they would like to eat.
  • Cook up the conversation.  Save unpleasant topics for another time.  Be a good listener.  Practice reflective listening and use “I” messages.
  • “May I be excused?”  Clearly define the end of the meal.  Relax, and enjoy the meal together.

Remember that families do not change overnight.  Make small changes each day or week.  Time flies by so quickly in this fast-moving world, but remember that what your kids really want at the dinner table is YOU!

Sources:

Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (2001), May 9, 2001. http://www.casacolumbia.org/index/htm.

Compan, E., Moreno, J., Ruiz, M.T., & Pascual, E. (2002). Doing things together: Adolescent health and family rituals. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health,  56: 89-94.

Ohio State University Extension, Ohioline, Factsheet FLM-FS-4-03. http:/ohioline.osu.edu.

Written by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County

Reviewed by: Kristen Corry, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Noble & Monroe Counties

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Candy Counts Add Up Quickly!

Many families as part of their Easter celebration, give a child a basket filled with toys and sweet treats. These treats can really add up the calories and fat… a medium size chocolate bunny (4 ounces) can have 880 calories and 48 grams of fat!

Walk it Off!
Use this calorie counter to determine how far you’d need to walk to burn the calories from the candy in your Easter basket. For example, to walk off the calories consumed from eating 1¾ ounce hollow chocolate bunny (260 calories), you would need to walk 2.6 miles! You may think twice about the treats you put in your child’s basket, and also the ones you might sneak a taste of while you’re filling the eggs!

easter

Fun Alternatives to Candy
There are many ways you can give a child a treat to enjoy without all the calories and fat:
• Fill the basket with favorite fruits. Clementines are a nice colorful fruit that are easy to peel. Dried fruit is a good alternative too… it’s still sweet and filled with nutrients.
• Small toys or activity books. Here are some ideas to get you started:
o Bubbles
o Kites
o Seeds & gardening gloves
o Sidewalk chalk
o Bug catchers
o Art supplies
o Travel games
o Kids’ cookbooks & baking utensils
• Include family fitness toys like a soccer ball or jump rope.
• If you want to include some candy, use small packages to limit consumption.
• Make it a game to find the basket… kids love scavenger hunts. You can even attach a string to the basket that the child must wind up to find the treasure at the other end.
• Themed baskets are great fun for kids too… if they are in to a certain toy, you can add to their collection.

Have a Happy, Healthy Easter!

Sources:
Calorie Counter: http://walking.about.com/library/cal/bleastercalories.htm
Steeves, Ann. “Nutritious and Delicious—Alternatives to Easter Candy.” (2013). The University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824 – http://www.unh.edu/healthyunh/blogs/2013/03/alternatives-easter-candy
Image: http://www.gnclivewell.com.au/files/editor_upload/Image/healthy-easter.jpg

Writer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu.
Reviewers: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu.

Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

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4802625827_63cd6f152e_sChildren will soon be returning to school and to the routines that the school year brings. For many families, this means back to the routine of packing a lunch each day.  We want to make sure that the lunches we pack are healthy, safe and delicious!

For a healthy lunch, keep in mind the MyPlate guidance. Check out Choosemyplate.gov . One of the main messages of MyPlate is to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. This is something relatively easy to accomplish in a lunch you pack yourself. For example, pack a whole fruit like an apple, banana, or a bunch of grapes. You can also add an individual container of applesauce or a variety of different fruits that are packed in natural juice. For vegetables, most children like baby carrots especially if you include a small container of low-fat dip! Other veggie favorites are cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers or even a small salad.

Another message from MyPlate is to make at least half of the grains you eat during the day whole grains. Use whole grain bread for the sandwich you pack, try pretzels for a snack instead of potato chips. Whole grain crackers spread with peanut butter or eaten with slices of cheese are a great addition to a healthy lunch.

MyPlate recommends that we consume low fat or fat free dairy products. Most schools make fresh, low fat milk available for children in the lunchroom. The calcium provided by milk is very important to children’s developing bones. If your child is not a milk drinker, you can pack yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese or sliced cheese to help them get the calcium they need each day.

You don’t want to forget the protein group. There are a variety of foods that we can choose from to meet the need for protein in our lunch. If you choose meat, make sure that it is lean. Turkey or lean beef are good choices. Other non-meat sources include eggs, peanut butter, beans, nuts, seeds and soy products.

To pack a safe lunch, remember that any perishable food you pack needs to be kept below 40° to stay safe. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways.

  • Use an insulated lunch bag with a frozen ice pack.
  • Freeze the sandwich, a juice box or yogurt container and pack it in the lunch bag to keep everything safe. By the time lunch rolls around, the sandwich, juice or yogurt should be thawed!

You also want to be careful about cross-contamination. This can happen if you are reusing paper or plastic bags or if you don’t remember to wash out the reusable bag each day. Remind your child to discard wrappers and leftover food as soon as they finish their lunch. Don’t forget the importance of hand washing to prevent the spread of bacteria. If your child won’t have access to warm water and soap before eating, it wouldn’t hurt to put a disposable hand wipe at the top of the lunch bag!

A delicious lunch may not be something that you and your child will necessarily agree on. Be sure and ask them for ideas for a healthy, safe lunch that they would like to eat.  Don’t fall into the peanut butter and jelly every day trap! You might ask your child to help make a list of healthy foods from each section of MyPlate and use that list to vary what is packed each day.

By allowing your child to help plan and pack their own lunch, you are providing an opportunity to talk about making healthy food choices. Encouraging them to make a choice from each of the food groups every day may increase the odds that they will actually eat the lunch that is packed and help them develop good eating habits for life.

Author: Marilyn Rabe, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, Heart of Ohio EERA, rabe.9@osu.edu

Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith, R.D., L.D. Northeast Region Program Specialist, SNAP-Ed, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

Source:  MyPlate    http://choosemyplate.gov

School Lunches: Add Variety by soliciting the help of your children http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/school_lunches_add_variety_by_soliciting_the_help_of_your_children

What Can I Pack my Kids for Lunch   http://www.ext.colostate.edu/

Healthy Packed Lunches for Back to School http://byf.unl.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=d17c90e6-539d-4ab8-92e7-cbfe2e482647&groupId=4089458&.pdf

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