This Thursday, parents and students alike are invited to join the National PTA and the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project for Virtual Back to School Night.

The event, titled “The School Day Just Got Healthier!” is a free online conversation to learn more about the new and improved school meals.

National PTA President Betsy Landers, White House Chef Sam Kass, The Pew Charitable Trusts and USDA will be discussing the new school meals.

For those looking to take part, the National PTA is taking questions at the question submission page or parents can tweet them live by using the #SchoolFoodsRule.

To view to program or submit questions, visit

For those that can’t tune in, or choose to send their children to school with packed lunches, there are plenty of options to keep kids healthy and fit.

Local nutritionist Cynthia Catts shared some of her tips to healthy lunch options and some simple ways to help kids maintain a healthy weight.

Healthy Lunch Tips

Sandwich on whole grain bread or wrap (3 grams of fiber or more per slice), preferably made of cracked or sprouted grain rather than flour

Fresh deli meat, mustard, chutney, hummus, lettuce, tomato, onion

Tuna, shrimp, crab or egg salad with healthy mayo (ask Catts)

Soy burger with soy cheeseFresh fruit

Raw veggies or salad with healthy dressing (made with healthy oils)

Yogurt (organic, plain, fat-free if possible)

Flourless whole grain crackers with no hydrogenated oils

Leftovers from a healthy supper the night before

Broth-type soup with whole grain flourless crackers

Huge salad with fish or lean meat on top and healthy dressing

Salad with beans, peas, nuts or seeds on top

Hummus, bean dip, tapenade, avocado, tabbouleh

Simple steps to help kids maintain a healthy weight

Be active by playing with your kids.

For a healthy weight, kids and adults need 30 to 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Play with them!

Play inside: Turn off the TV and play Wii Fit. Clear a space for dancing.

Play outside: The options for outdoor play are unlimited – bikes, trikes, scooters, balls, kites, Frisbees, ropes, squirt guns, pools, hula-hoops, hopscotch, tag, etc.

Make family meals a time to eat together.

Eating more meals together can make a big difference in your family’s health, happiness and security. Dinners at home are easier and cheaper than you think.

Plan a weekly menu: Make it simple or make it detailed – the key is to have a plan. Involve the kids and let each person have a night to pick their favorite dishes. Let the kids help with the meal preparation.

Cook once, eat twice: Cut down on prep time. Cook and freeze key ingredients, such as lean ground beef and sauce, or main dishes, such as whole grain lasagna and casseroles.

Enjoy fruit and veggie snacks together.

Serve a rainbow of produce every day – at least five juicy, crunchy, crispy, tasty fruits and veggies. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned and juice.

Enjoy green fruits and veggies: For snacks or dinner, green comes in dozens of delicious flavors.

Enjoy yellow-orange fruits and veggies: For morning, afternoon or evening snacks, choose from fresh pineapple or baby carrots and yellow pepper slices.

Don’t forget the purple fruits and veggies. Studies show that eggplant, berries and purple cabbage contain plant chemicals that offer cancer protection.

Drink milk with meals and drink water with snacks.

Dairy products can help kids and adults maintain a healthy weight, build strong bodies and lower blood pressure. Water is always refreshing – and calorie-free.

Serve skim milk with meals.Offer water at snack time: Everybody needs fluid to stay well hydrated, especially in warm weather. Water quenches your thirst without adding extra calories or sugar.

Take the TV out of the bedroom and read together.

Nutritionists and pediatricians recommend no TV for children under 3, no more than two hours of total screen time for older kids and no TVs in children’s rooms.

Improve your child’s fitness level: Turning off the TV gives kids more time for active play, plus time away from those commercials for candy, chips and sugar cereals.

Improve your child’s school performance: Children who have less time screen time (TV computer, video games) tend to read more and do better in their classes.

For more information about maintaining your child’s weight, preventing disease or to set up an appointment, Catts may be reached at or 803-642-9360