Do you recall the horrible cafeteria food growing up? I can remember struggling with the choice every day, “Should I get Fritos Pie or Pizza?” Of course I always had a sugar-loaded Lemonade or Coke-a-Cola with my choice…and if I can be completely honest, I would top it off with a brownie! It's one thing to not have any healthy choices available, but it's another thing to not have much time to get it down. I must to agree with Mark Smith, a former Farm Aid staff member and co-founder of Brookwood Community Farm in Massachusetts. After hearing his children complain about only having 20min to eat lunch he says, “it’s just not a way that kids can learn good eating habits”. It is unfortunate that our children don't have much time for lunch, but we can be grateful that there are pro-active parents like Smith out there that put forth effort for change. Smith had heard that the National School Lunch Program was going to begin buying irradiated beef and serving it in public schools. Knowing the possible risks of cancer from consuming such meat caused Smith to immediately get 120 signatures and a following to back him up at the next school committee meeting. Not only did the committee decide not to go through with the irradiated beef purchase, but they also teamed up with local farmers in order to get more food options from Farm-to-School.
It seems as though there is a growing trend for this sort of change in most public schools. All around the United States, I am starting to see healthier alternatives being provided for our hungry students. This obviously makes me very happy because my youngest (seven years old) refuses to eat the lunch I pack for him a couple times out of the week. I have tried letting him pack his own lunch so he has the goodies he enjoys, but no, it still ends up coming home with him at the end of the day. However, my oldest son loves for me to pack him lunch which is helpful because he has a number of food allergies. No matter how your children get their lunch, the best thing we can do as parents is educate them on good choices. I have taught my kids what proteins are and why they are good for them. They help build super-hero muscle of course! Dairy is good for building indestructible bones. Grains (Breads and Crackers) give us super speed. Vegetables and Fruits give us x-ray vision. These concepts cause your children to look for ways to eat healthy foods rather than the proceeded foods.
Last year, I asked my Facebook friends what they packed for their children’s lunch and here are their amazingly mama-fide responses:
“My kids love when I cut up apples, put them in a Baggie and sprinkle cinnamon (no sugar) on them. Close the bag and shake! They get a treat and it covers the spots that turn a little brown from the air hitting them. Win! Win!” –R.W.
“Yes, no plastic containers, low-carb fillers like cucumbers, celery, and jicama. The less processed food the best, more raw, which of course would include veggies and some fruits(not much due to high carbs) but you know this better than I do! Ha! I was just going more for the BPA issues...even those "BPA containers" are iffy!” –M.V.
“Well, right now with that bug going around on veggies and fruits I would stay away from that or make sure you stress washing it extremely well!!! I personally think the "back in the day", "easy" lunches are something people forget about and try to be too fancy! There is nothing wrong with a good ‘ol ham sandwich. Just make changes to wheat bread and maybe Greek Yogurt for mayo. Just a thought!” –M.J
“My daughter always liked humus and bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, fruit, rolled up lunch meat with a toothpick.” –L.T.
“Peanut butter and jelly sushi!! You flatten one slice of bread then spread the jelly and peanut butter on it. Then, roll it up and slice it up!!” –L.M.
“My daughter likes Oatmeal Patty's: Made up of Egg Whites, 1 yolk & Oats & a dash of cinnamon. Topped with sugar-free syrup. I'm also teaching her how to read labels along with serving sizes.” –J.S.
“Fruit dip made with a low sugar vanilla greek yogurt with cinnamon and unsweetened coconut flakes. Or I sweeten plain greek yogurt with 2 drops of liquid stevia.” –C.C.
“Apple slices with peanut butter.” –A.D.
No matter what you choose to pack for your children, be sure to follow these WebMD rules for safe and enjoyable brown bag lunch:
Include more whole foods and less processed foods. Choose lunch items with higher amounts of fiber and nutrients children need (like calcium, protein, and vitamin C).
Be creative. Think outside the lunchbox. Does your child enjoy spanakopita triangles, Chinese chicken salad, or veggie/soy corn dogs at home?
Keep it cold. For safety's sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack. Better yet, freeze a small water bottle or box of 100% juice. Your child will have a slushy drink to enjoy at lunch and won't have to worry about bringing an ice pack home.
Keep it fun. Include items that kids can stack or mix up to their taste when they eat. Remember that kids like to dunk, and include healthy dips with vegetables or other items. Cut foods into fun shapes with cookie cutters.
I would love to hear from you as well! Always listening…
Photo Credits: Wix Stock Photos and Keridon's Camera ;)