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Chuck, it’s time for my kids to go back to school and confront those lunch lines full of cookies, cakes and all types of fatty foods. Any advice for getting my kids to eat a good lunch? – Allan M., Boston

On Dec. 13, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law. Over the months since then, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has told state agencies and school food authorities how to implement various provisions in it.

Here are a few new federal food guidelines coming to your child’s cafeteria this fall: local school wellness policy implementation, review of local policies on meal charges and provision of alternate meals, procurement and processing of food service products and commodities, professional standards for school food service, etc. Those don’t count the dozens of other provisions being implemented in the 2012-13 school year.

Does anyone find the federal government’s bloating, kids-cuisine-bureaucracy trends disturbing?

Don’t misunderstand me. I am all for helping a child who can’t get a meal. And I think it’s fantastic that schools are increasing food standards, such as opting for 1 percent milk instead of 2 percent, replacing fat- and salt-laden processed chicken nuggets with lean chicken and serving whole-wheat pizza over fatty pepperoni. More fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less fat, sugar and salt is always the way to go.

I just don’t think it should take the federal government’s overreach into our lives and lunches to make that happen. In the end, how complicated is a kid’s healthy lunch anyway? Whatever happened to parents and guardians? Do parents really want the feds “making” their children’s lunches?

At the turn of every year, nearly a third of Americans make resolutions to do better or be healthier. What if we, a third of America, did the same for our children at the beginning of each school year? What if we made back-to-school resolutions? Recommitments to be better parents of our children, be more involved with them in and out of school and encourage great patterns of health and fitness in them?

Here are three steps guaranteed to help you fulfill that last resolution:

1. Model health and fitness for your child. Though not always what we want to hear, it’s the truth: There’s no greater power to change your child than your model. As John Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.” If you’re reading my “C-Force” column weekly and applying its principles, you’re well on your way!

2. Make your kids healthy lunches. If schools don’t offer them, then be their parents and provide them with what they need. Don’t just hand them money; give them manna.

Registered dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot recently wrote in iMag that “the key is to limit saturated fat and sugar. Cookies and French fries are not everyday foods but treats that should be eaten sparingly. Instead, you want to incorporate some protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates in every meal. Adding fiber as well will keep kids feeling full and give them the energy they need to focus throughout the school day.”

Zuckerbrot went on to explain how any parent can make five wholesome and tasty lunches for less than $25. Here is her exact shopping list with costs:

Whole-wheat bread loaf: $3
Whole-wheat tortillas: $1.89
Turkey: $2 for 1/4 pound
Tuna: 99 cents for a can
Low-fat American cheese: $1 for 2 ouncesb
Hummus $2.50 for 8 ounces
Reduced-fat peanut butter: $2.50 for 16 ounces

Salsa: $2.50
Low-fat mayonnaise: 75 cents for 4 ounces
Lettuce: 99 cents for a head
Tomato: $1
Apples: $2.49 for 4 apples
Carrots: 99 cents for 1 pound
Whole-grain Goldfish: $2.39 for an 11-ounce box

From that grocery list, here is Zuckerbrot’s five-day meal plan:

DAY 1: Turkey and cheese sandwich lunch

2 slices whole-wheat bread
2 slices turkey
1 slice cheese
1 slice lettuce
1 slice tomato
1 tablespoon mustard
1 apple
1 serving Goldfish
3 carrots, peeled

DAY 2: Tuna wrap lunch

1 whole-wheat tortilla
1/2 can tuna
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
1 serving Goldfish
1 apple
3 carrots, peeled

DAY 3: Veggie delight lunch

2 slices whole-wheat bread
2 tablespoons hummus
1 slice lettuce
1 slice tomato
1 apple
1 serving Goldfish
3 carrots, peeled

DAY 4: Peanut butter and banana sandwich lunch

2 slices whole-wheat bread
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 banana, sliced
1 apple
1 serving Goldfish
3 carrots, peeled

DAY 5: Mexican turkey rollups lunch

1 whole-wheat tortilla
2 slices turkey
1 slice cheese
2 tablespoons salsa
1 slice lettuce
1 slice tomato
1 apple
1 serving Goldfish
3 carrots, peeled

3. Empower your child to make wise nutritional choices. When children are babies, they are dependent upon us for every food choice. But as they grow, we should teach them to eat right and make wise nutritional decisions. So when they are confronted with neighborhood food temptations or high school lunch lines full of wrong foods, they have been trained for years on the consumption wars and are ready to battle. It shouldn’t take the government to force our kids to make the right decisions, with bureaucrats eliminating all the bad choices. That’s not empowering them. That’s helping them to avoid their responsibility to choose the right thing.

And if your kids whine about what you serve them, don’t be afraid to resort to comedian Buddy Hackett’s family menu philosophy, which was incidentally mine, as well, growing up: “As a child, my family’s menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.”

For more information, check out NutritionForKids.com.

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