Sack lunch not necessarily healthier than cafeteria fare

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on May 3, 2010 at 10:34 PM

Updated Monday, May 3 at 11:06 PM

GRAPEVINE — According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years.

Along with it has come more heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol in kids.

Experts say packing school lunches is supposed to be a chance for parents to not only be in control of what children eat, but an opportunity to steer kids toward healthy food choices.

Here's a sampling of what the second-graders at Dove Elementary in Grapevine took out of their lunch boxes recently: Cheetos, Lunchables and M&Ms.

Maximillian Moyer was the only second-grader we saw with both a fresh fruit and vegetable. "I usually always have bell peppers and apples, and I like it," he said.

Many parents refuse to let their children buy cafeteria lunches because of the processed, high calorie foods. But what's in the brown bags can also be less than wholesome.

"We see some students who never have vegetables, never have fruit," said Dove principal Becky Lamb. She said the midday diet is a problem with impact beyond the lunch hour.

"We also talk with parents a lot when we're also experiencing behavioral problems," Lamb said. "I'll have a teacher who will say 'He had M&Ms. He had a big bag of M&Ms in his lunch,' or something like that. And we see a correlation with how they're doing and behaving in their afternoon."

But Lamb acknowledges that schools can't make parents pack wholesome foods, any more than parents can change what's on the cafeteria menu.

Mixed messages about the importance of healthy food follows these kids beyond the cafeteria.

On the marquee outside Dove Elementary, a message about a "diabetes walk" is just below "pizza night."

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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