Many school children not given time to eat their lunches, says dietitian

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One reason so many school lunches return home uneaten is the lack of supervision in many classrooms, says a Regina dietitian.
"When kids don't eat their lunch often it's because of what is going on around them," says Joanne Atkins, who is a private consultant for individuals and businesses in the Saskatchewan city.
Occasionally she has volunteered to help in her 12-year-old twin sons' school at lunch time, and she has noticed that the children rarely get enough time to finish their lunch before they head to the playground.
"Typically they keep the children inside for half an hour under minimal supervision," Atkins says, "but from what I have seen, there are kids running around throwing stuff, and when they are younger, it's worse."
Some schools have a lunchroom which is usually supervised so there is more control, but at many other schools children eat at their desks.
"But that's their workspace. We try to ask adults not to eat at their desks, so why should children have to do so?"
Atkins says by providing a convivial environment it stimulates appetites and makes children mindful of what they are eating.
"For most people I counsel with obesity problems it comes down to mindless eating. They eat in front of the computer or the TV and they don't even know what they are eating," she says.
"It's hard to develop an appreciation of food when you are distracted and not really focused on what you are doing, and it's part of this multi-tasking thing that everyone is guilty of."
Other reasons for uneaten lunches is the portion sizes, Atkins says.
"Looking at portion sizes is so important. I suggest not giving children too many choices in their lunch boxes. Keep it simple. It doesn't have to be elaborate, just a sandwich or bagel, glass of milk and a piece of fruit to snack on at recess."
For parents who want to send a nutritious lunch with their children, Atkins suggests that they need carbohydrates from grains, starches, vegetables and fruits.
"If they look up the Canada Food Guide online they will learn the importance of having three of the four food groups in their lunch kits. These are grains, starches, vegetables, fruits and a source of protein."
Here are a few of Atkins' personal choices for school lunches.
"As we have Thermos containers, I send the boys to school with leftover pasta and sauce from dinner the night before because you don't always have to pack a sandwich," she says. "Then there is chili, homemade macaroni and cheese and cold pasta salad as well as wraps stuffed with cheese or meat and vegetables."
To view the Canada Food Guide go to www.dietitians.ca or www.healthcanada.gc.ca/foodguide

Organizations: Canada Food Guide

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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