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Make Healthy Choices at Lunch

It can be hard to make healthy eating choices when you are at your most hungry. Like studying for a test, let’s review a few notes for choosing healthier foods to keep you focused and active throughout your school day.

Nashville, Ark. – School is in full swing. You are sitting in class and your stomach is starting to rumble. Finally, the bell rings and it’s time for lunch! But wait a minute – what exactly are you eating? Whether you are a nervous seventh grader or a confident senior, without a well-fed mind and body you aren’t going to be at your best. All kids need to eat a variety of healthy foods to have the energy to do the stuff you like to do; grow the way you should; and even keep from getting sick. Making healthy food choices will help you concentrate and absorb all that new knowledge.

            It can be hard, though, to make healthy eating choices when you are at your most hungry. Like studying for a test, let’s review a few notes for choosing healthier foods to keep you focused and active throughout your school day.

  • Get a copy of the menu. Knowing what’s on the menu puts you in control. You can pick and choose which days you want to buy lunch and when you want to bring your own.
  • Head for the salad bar. Fruits and vegetables are like hitting the jackpot when it comes to nutrition. They make your plate more colorful and they are packed with vitamins and fiber. It’s a good idea to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, so try to fit in one or two at lunch. A serving isn’t a lot. A serving of carrots is ½ cup or about 6 baby carrots. A fruit serving could be one medium orange.

            •    Drinks count too!  Milk, which has been a favorite school lunchtime drink, is always a great choice because of the calcium it has for building strong bones and teeth. On the other hand, if you don’t like milk choose water and limit the sodas.

            •  Think energy. Some foods are better choices than others for maintaining energy during the day. Choose low-fat proteins, like chicken, beans, or low-fat yogurt and add lots of fruits and veggies to your meal. They’ll provide the vitamins and minerals you need and the energy to get through the day. Foods that have a lot of simple carbohydrates, like candy bars, donuts, and French fries may give you a quick energy boost, but it will fade fast – which means that halfway through your next class period you’ll be hungry again. The same is true of drinks filled with caffeine or sugar. You don’t have to cut these kinds of foods out entirely – just enjoy them in moderation.

            • Snacks are good. To keep hunger at bay, take along a healthy snack, like carrot sticks or trail mix, to munch between classes. Not only will this keep you going, it will also help you avoid overeating when it’s finally mealtime.

            Follow these notes and you will ace the lunchroom test! For more information on healthy food options, contact the Howard County Cooperative Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

Recipe of the Week

            Here is a great snack option. Make it in the microwave and divide into snack bags to take with you to class.

Cinnamon Raisin Breakfast Mix

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup margarine, tub-style

1 1/2 cups square, whole-grain corn cereal

1 1/2 cups square, whole-grain rice cereal

1 1/2 cups square, whole-grain wheat cereal

1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

            In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon; set aside. In a large microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds, or until melted.

            Stir in cereals until evenly coated. Microwave uncovered 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Sprinkle half of the sugar mixture evenly over cereals; stir. Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture; stir. Microwave uncovered 1 minute. Stir in raisins or dried cranberries. Spread on paper towels to cool.

            Yield: 10 servings

Nutrition information per ½ cup serving: 165 calories, 4 g fat, 210 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

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