Back to school lunch basics

By: Tiffany Esshaki, Elizabeth Scussel | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published August 13, 2014

BIRMINGHAM/BLOOMFIELD HILLS — In an era where drive-thru dinners and on-the-go meals have become the norm, experts agree that children knowing how to make healthy food choices is of the utmost importance — especially as children go back to school.

Amy Firek, executive director and owner of Brain Balance in Birmingham, explained that a child’s diet can affect the most important aspect of development — the brain. 

“When you have a healthy body inside, it allows for better development and growth as we work to develop those weaker sides of the brain,” Firek said. “Brain Balance tailors its program to each child and ranges from nutritional choices to anxiety reduction skills, exercises and more. We look at each child’s sensitivities. Removing the sensitivities from the child’s diet helps inflammation in their body go down and can help the brain develop better.”

Firek suggests that when grocery shopping, visit only the perimeter of the store, and avoid processed foods, trans fats and high fructose corn syrups. Also, she said, reading food labels to know what you’re putting in your child’s body is imperative.

Many local schools have implemented healthy lunch programs to make those choices more convenient for kids. The Food Service Department in the Bloomfield Hills School District strives to provide meals that are high-quality, nutritious and appealing to the students and staff, according to district officials.

“Our food program is really one of the most vital portions of our district,” said Shira Good, director of communications for the Bloomfield Hills School District. “When students are hungry, it is difficult for them to become engaged in their learning. Eating a healthy meal is important, and our food services team has worked closely with the school administrators, teachers and parents to create healthy lunch options.”

School meals in BHSD are planned to meet at least one-third of a student’s recommended dietary allowance of nutrients for various age groups. Each student meal includes a minimum of five required food items, including meat or a meat alternate, fruits, vegetables, grains or bread, and milk. A wide variety of foods are offered within each food group so that students can select a well-balanced meal.

To encourage a higher intake of fruits and vegetables, students may select extra servings of those components for lunch. The United States Department of Agriculture requires that students must choose at least three of the five offered food items.

All three food items must be selected from different food groups to assure they meet their recommended nutrient levels.

“Some schools in the district have new fruit and vegetable bars, cooking challenges and school gardens,” Good said. “Students are actively involved in growing, harvesting and cooking some of the food they eat during the school day, and parents have said this has translated into healthier eating habits at home.”

For planning purposes, parents in Birmingham and Bloomfield also have the ability to check out school lunches at