Encouraging Fruits and Vegetables – Balanced Lunches

By Bernard Duke and Nancy Duke

When you send your kids off to school every day, you probably are aware, at least in general terms, of the curriculum used and the strengths of their individual teachers. You might even spend time discussing with your children the dynamics that are created with their friends in a group setting. Surely, they comment on trends and fads. However, one of the most important things that school offers for their learning environment and physical development may be completely out of your realm of thought: school lunches. While you try to keep a balanced menu at home, as much as a third of your child’s nutritional needs may be met in the school environment, so knowing what they are eating and working to ensure that it is healthy is extremely important for parents.

Know What is Offered

As a parent, the first step in making a difference when it comes to healthy lunch programs is knowing what you are working with in the first place. Luckily, many schools send home lunch menus so that concerned parents can remain informed and be aware of what is being served each day. When assessing this menu, be aware of what fruits and vegetables are incorporated into the lunch menu. This will give you a good starting place.

Talk to the Decision Makers

While you can spend all day encouraging fruits and vegetables at home, your children will be more apt to accept new choices at school if their peers are excited about them as well. In order to make sure that balanced lunches are being offered, you need to gain parental support and talk to the decision makers in your child’s school. This may include the school board, as well as the nutritional team that helps to plan menus. Keep in mind that federal regulations suggest eating many more servings a day of fruits and vegetables than most people actually consume. Including side dishes, main meals and salad bars, all in one lunch, isn’t too much. This will make sure that even picky kids have a choice that will appeal to them.

Different Can be Good

One of the biggest reasons that kids don’t take to fruits and vegetables is that parents aren’t actively working to introduce a variety of food into their palettes. Kids are also at a time in their life when they like things to be consistent and this can create food issues. Schools tend to stick to what they know works, as they don’t want to offer a lunch that isn’t well received; that costs money and leads to hungry kids that don’t function as well. However, having a school that is willing to give room on the menu for different items can really increase interest in the fruits and vegetables that are served. Almost every school child will be bored with bananas after too many, but rarely will a mango beg the same reaction. In addition, managing the menu so that there are options is important. Those that prefer the tried-and-true can maintain that comfort zone, while variety can still be given to more adventurous children.

Like most things, parents have a lot more influence than they think about their children’s attitudes towards healthy eating. Even if you actively lobby, encouraging fruits and vegetables in your child’s school, having a poor attitude about healthy choices yourself can shoot down those efforts faster than anything. Let your kids know that healthy eating isn’t a chore, rather it can be a fun culinary adventure that leads to a healthier life.

Duke Catering was started in 2000, by Nancy and Bernard Duke, both of whom are very experienced and well educated food service and catering professionals. They have quickly become one of the largest and fastest growing diversified caterers in the Southern New Jersey area. Duke Catering provides school food service to over 1800 school children per day in South Jersey and also provides event catering for businesses and individuals.

Bernard and Nancy Duke are proud members of the School Nutrition Program and attend seminars regularly. They are focused on promoting “wellness” among the many children who enjoy their lunches daily. They plan their menus carefully focusing on adding tastier, lighter, and more nutritious meals to their healthy lunch offerings. For more information on the services offered by Duke Catering visit

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