Nutritionists split on value
Childhood obesity remains a top concern as kids head back to school. So which is better -- a school lunch or packing your own?
According to dietician Debbie Woehler at the Oliver Foundation, that all depends on what you pack into your kid's lunch. She says recent studies have shown the government actually knows best when it comes to feeding our children.
"A significant amount of home lunches were high in sugary drinks and cookies, they also had a high amount of chips, crackers, pudding, pre-packaged cheeses and meats," says Woehler.
But Susan Levin with the Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine says you can't depend solely on school lunches either.
"The schools get very cheap, subsidized food products from the USDA, but unfortunately the quality of those products is not terribly great," says Levin.
She says that's because the formula used to determine nutrition is outdated.
"We're talking about foods that have a lot of calories, but not a lot of nutrients," says Levin. "So that's where the school lunch program could improve, and parents need to step in and either put the time in for making a lunch for their child or arguing to get school lunches to step it up."
Experts insist First Lady Michelle Obama's new healthy standards for school lunches is helping, but schools still have a long way to go in providing the best nutrients for students.
"All of the grains, half of them have to be whole grain," says Kristi King with the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor School of Medicine. "Schools are required now to increase their fruit and vegetable servings as to how many green, red and orange vegetables they serve on a weekly basis."