Parents can often feel sandwiched between whether to make their child's lunch or buy it from the school cafeteria -- but registered dietitian Misha Biden says the answer might be both.
"School lunches are really coming around and really trying to focus on the nutrition, so maybe if you're too busy or if the parent works a lot, school lunches are perfectly fine too," Biden said.
Biden says parents can better watch their children eat by packing their meal themselves, but school lunches can also be a good option. The selections are regulated by the USDA and students pay just $1.60 to $2.50 depending on where they go to school and what grade they're in.
"The value for the dollar that they pay is tremendous," said Elizabeth Binninger, director of Food Services in St. Johns County, Fla.
Binninger says she makes sure every meal contains the right amount of calories, protein and other nutrients to fit national standards. She said she also believes parents can make healthy meals themselves, but often calcium is missing because families are afraid to pack dairy products in a lunchbox.
"We do sell milk to students, so if they can't pack to insure that the milk stays cold, they can go through the line and get a carton of milk from us," said Binninger.
Both Binninger and Biden agree parents can feed their children the right foods without spending a lot.
"I think you can eat healthy on a limited budget," said Biden. "You don't always have to do the more convenient option."
Dietitians say if you do pack your child's lunch, you shouldn't use pre-packaged meals because they often contain a lot of added fat, sugar or salt.
Instead, buy each ingredient and put the meal together yourself.
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