Children and School Lunches

30 Mar

I remember a time when I was a kid going to school and my mom was still packing my school lunches.  A time when cold-cut panini sandwiches were a delicacy and snacks included your choice of Joe Louis, Flakeys or Half-Moons.  You were allowed to bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or if you were Italian, like me, then you swapped the jelly for nutella and combined peanut butter with nutella to have Reese-like sandwiches on white bread!

Fast forward to 2012.  All schools are (or at least should be) nut-free zones.  Teachers send home notices claiming that certain other foods cannot be brought in to the class room because of other food allergies such as dairy, eggs, soy, etc. (or in the case of my daughter’s classroom those allergies extend to sesame seeds, peas, and a whole bunch of other foods)!  Parents are warned that cold-cuts (deli meats) contain nitrates and should be avoided.  Snacks should consist of sugar-free products or, more specifically, contain a variety of fruits and vegetables.    “Healthy” hot lunches are also an option for parents to purchase if they are either too busy or, let’s face it, just too tired to make lunches for their kids.

As a nutritionist, I am very conscious of what I pack in my children’s lunches.  My kids are probably those kids we made fun of back when I was in elementary school.  You know the ones who brought smelly tuna to class and had an apple as their snack and water to drink.  But you know what, I want my kids to be healthy and be proud of it.  I want them to be able to function all day in class without having sugar highs and crashes which cause them to lose focus, become distracted or worse yet, get labeled as having ADD or ADHD because they can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong.  I allow treats but there is a time and place for them.  School lunches isn’t one of them.  It’s the only time that I can put in whatever I want and, for the most part, the kids will eat it out of pure hunger and the fact that they don’t have any other options!! (same can’t be said for breakfast and dinner).  Their lunches usually consist of leftover dinner from the night before which ranges from chicken or fish and vegetables to spelt pasta or tuna sandwiches on whole wheat (or in Isabella’s case, Ezekiel or spelt bread).  Their snacks always include a fruit, or maybe two, and on days when they are having pasta or a sandwich, I include cut up cucumbers as their vegetables since they both LOVE cucumbers!!  It’s a green vegetable, so why not?  As for the processed snacks, I will usually pack those  Florida’s Natural organic fruit sticks for my son or sometimes he gets a gluten-free treat that I tend to buy for my daughter.  There are many gluten-free snacks that she can eat and many grocery stores carry them now, even WalMart!

If your parents are anything like mine, they will tell you that we are too careful nowadays and they didn’t have to worry about all these things about health and allergies when we were going to school.  But things have truly changed.  In a world of parents who are always on the go with kids in every possible sport and recreational activity imagineable, quick and easy has become the norm when it comes to nutrition.  Corporations are aware of this and have continued to create over processed foods which are quick and easy to cook, or better yet, they come already cooked and you just have to heat them up.  Unfortunately, quick and easy does not usually equate to healthy.  We have more child obesity and diabetes today than we did 20-30 years ago, not to mention a whole slew of other diseases and sickness related to the crap that we keep feeding ourselves.

I think it is important to teach our children healthy eating habits.  I think it is even more important that we are good role models for our children and practice healthy eating so they can learn from our good examples.  We are responsible for their future.  Why not take the time to ensure they are getting the proper fuel in their little bodies so that they can turn into young healthy adults who will, hopefully, in turn, make proper food choices as they become more independent?  Don’t kid yourself…what your child puts in their body at breakfast and lunch time has a DIRECT effect on how they can or cannot function in school.  Sure there are other factors out of our control that also affect these behaviours so why not take charge of the one we can control and make better food choices for our future generation?  Their lives depend on it.

Until next time,

Have a fit and fabulous day!



One Response to “Children and School Lunches”

  1. Marian March 30, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Well said!

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