As a part of back to school week, I am raising the issue of school lunches. The issue of healthy school lunches for kids bears an uncanny resemblance to the issue of healthy lunches for homemakers or working moms. Coincidence ? I think not.
Yes, parents, you have the power. Yes, you must lead by example. Yes, accomplishing your health goals for yourself and the family hinges on how you shop for food, how you prepare it, and how you manage to eat in a regular civilized fashion, bum on chair, at the table. It also depends on your foresight to cook and prepare extra for lunches the next day. Granted, it depends on many other things, but none of them are difficult or expensive. For example, you must have proper lunch boxes, probably bigger than you think. Because if you and your kids are eating properly, your lunchbox is not going to contain a compact little lunch-able in plastic. It instead will contain fresh perishable food like salad which takes up space and fresh whole fruit which can get bruised.
In short, producing proper school lunches is a marker for proper parenting and a competent lifestyle. Here are the rules : study up on your subject, in this case, nutrition. ( see HERE) Be reasonable and get interested stake holders involved ( the kids, and your partner). Prepare in advance, and keep to a schedule. This is how you do health. You do one healthy thing, over and over and over until it is an automatic regular routine.
If you live this way, your kids will grow up comfortable with a calm organized lifestyle. If you are constantly a hot mess, late, disorganized and throw Smuckers Jam and Jiffy peanut butter at them every morning, they may struggle will obesity, and worse, they may struggle with respect for you when they are older. They will love you, but children see all. If your kids live in a calm well run home, they will grow up to prefer that. They will adopt the same lifestyle themselves.
So yes, you will need to think about protein, fruits, veggies, food safety, taste, appearance, and packaging. You will need to worry about lunch table bullies and the trading of your good food for someone else Twinkies. And it doesn’t stop after grade school. Nor does it stop after high school. Kids in college may have the advantage of healthy dorm food. But oftentimes they do not, and between that and their newfound freedom, the freshman 30 becomes all too real.
Young gentlemen living off campus pose a particular challenge since they are not commonly taught the domestic arts, i.e., they can scarcely boil water. And as I have seen one son through graduate school, and another partway through undergrad, I am determined to make a guide called College Cuisine. You will be the first to hear of it. Meanwhile, I have to be content to pass on some value from others. Here are some awesome resources to help you with the challenge of school lunches:
My Post: the Joy Lunch Club
My Post: Healthy School Lunches
New York Times: Why Kids Hate School Lunches
Washington Post On Japan’s School Lunch Menu
Huffington Post: Photos from School Lunches From Around the World Will Make American Kids Want to Study Abroad
Blog of Stanford visiting scholar Karen LeBillion, author of "French Kids Eat Everything", and "Getting to Yum"
Finally, one of my favorites, NomNomPaleo.com Lunch Box Menus
Enjoy lunch and enjoy the school year !