To Help Battle Childhood Obesity: Calories Should be Posted on the School Lunch Menus & Menu Boards

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

How Many Calories Do Your Kids Need to Eat Each Day?

Parents and teachers could help students make better food choices at school by calculating how many calories each student needs each day.  Parents could work through the calculations at home and share with their children. Teachers could show the students how to calculate their calorie needs when they are in computer labs.

Here’s a resource to figure out how many calories your kids need per day.

How to Divide Calories into Daily Meal Plans

Children should typically eat three meals and an afternoon snack each day. You can develop a specific amount of calories allowed per meal by using the number of calories the child needs per day with added calories for activity and then divide by 7.  If you want your child to have another snack, then you can decrease the calories from one of the other meals.

For example, if a child needs 2000 calories per day, you can divide the calories by 7 = 286.  (2000/ 7 = 286). You can then allow 571 calories (2 X 286 = 571) at breakfast, lunch and dinner with an afternoon snack that contains no more than 286 calories. This is just a suggestion on how to determine daily meal plans.  If you have a child who doesn’t want to eat a large breakfast, you can add the additional calories elsewhere or even add an evening snack. The point is to make sure the child maintains the recommended caloric allowance.

Calories Should be Posted on the School Lunch Menus & Menu Boards

The Jefferson County Public Schools have all the nutritional information posted online at  Since at risk for obesity  children may eat one or two meals a day 5 days a week at school if they receive FREE or reduced priced meals, all the posted online menus should have the calories put on the menus and also at the point of purchase in school cafeterias. The Affordable Care Law has mandated all restaurants that have 20 or more sites must have the calories posted on the menus or menu boards. This strategy is supposed to help consumers make better food choices at the point of purchase. The same strategy should apply to the taxpayer federally funded school lunch program. Putting the calories on posted menus may help encourage children to make better choices at school and become more aware of what foods are higher in calories.

Because the causes of childhood obesity can vary from individual to individual, this is just one strategy that schools and parents could employ that may help to combat childhood obesity.

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N, is a registered dietitian ( who has been teaching healthy lifestyles strategies to consumers for over 35+ years. Check out Barbara’s new healthy lifestyles website:

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