Although many public schools don't have their school lunch menu pinned down just yet, it's not too early to anticipate what the cafeteria has in store this year.
Boston Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services is using a national web service called SchoolMenu.com to let parents and caregivers know what's on the menu at their child's school. The site allows parents to choose a school and click on a date to see the offerings for breakfasts and lunches. It also includes some nutritional information about the meals, according to the Boston Public Schools website. Click here to register on the School Menu site.
Boston Public Schools write on their School Menu sites that they are planning to include more fruits and vegetables in their menu this year, and to feature a "fruit and vegetable of the month."
School Meal Prices
Most Boston Public Schools offer a free breakfast, and many have free lunch for all students. To find out if your child's school has this program, contact it directly. Other Boston Public Schools students may be eligible for free or reduced price meals based on their family's household income.
All parents are asked to fill out an application for free or reduced-price meals at the beginning of each school year, even if they do not think they will qualify for them. Completed forms can be given to the cafeteria manager or attendant at your child’s school. Even if you filled out a form last year, you should still fill another one out this year, according to the website.
The normal pricing for school meals last year is as follows. The rates for 2012-2013 have not yet been updated.MealPayingReducedFree Breakfast $1.50 $0.30 free Lunch: Elementary $2.25 $0.40 free Lunch: Middle / High School $2.50 $0.40 free
Other Options for Lunch
For those opting out of getting a lunch at school, the American Heart Association offers these tips for packing your child's lunch. adding that a packed lunch often spares kids the "fat, calories and salt found in convenience foods and many school lunch meals":
- Pack healthy drinks such as water, low-fat milk or 100 percent juice with no added sugar. Beverages boxes frozen the night before can keep a lunchbox cool until lunchtime. Cut out the soda and energy drinks. These are filled with sugar, empty calories and provide little or no nutrition.
- Sandwiches can be made on whole wheat bread, pita, wraps or flatbreads. Traditional luncheon meats are high in fat and sodium. When choosing luncheon meats; pick lean meats like turkey, ham or leftover chicken breast. Use reduced fat mayo or salad dressing or mustard to dress a sandwich and top with mixed greens or spinach for extra nutrients.
- Try baked potato or corn chips instead of fried.
- Not all granola bars are created equal. Choose whole grain granola bars that are low in fat and sugar – take a look at the food label and choose the ones that contain less than 1g of saturated fat per serving and are no more than 35 percent sugar by weight. Make sure there’s at least 5 grams of protein.
- Pack hummus with fresh veggies and whole wheat pita triangles or flatbreads for dipping. Hummus is a good low-fat protein source and is high in iron and vitamin C. Or try low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese with carrots, cherry tomatoes, fresh berries, or melon for a calcium-rich, high-protein lunch.
- Salads topped with lean protein like hard-boiled eggs, beans or chicken are a great alternative to sandwiches and they help get kids on track with their daily vegetable servings. In a hurry? Buy bags of lettuce or precut carrots or make extra salad for dinner then pack the leftovers for lunch the next day.
- Get lunch ready right after dinner when you’re in the kitchen or the night before.
- Pack leftover dinners in lunch-size containers.
- Keep dressings on the side to prevent soggy lunches.
- Freeze healthy drinks to keep your lunch cool.
- Rinse and pack fruit and veggies in snack bags on Sunday night, so they’re ready to go all week long.
- If you’re buying convenience lunches or snacks, look for those with fewer than 100 calories and the least amount of sugar, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.
- Kids eat more fruit when it’s already cut up. Try oranges and Ginger Gold or Cortland apples since they’re slow to brown.
- For more information and recipes, visit the American Heart Association at www.heart.org/healthierkids.