When my family first moved to the USA, I wanted them to have the full American School experience, so I let me kids have cafeteria lunch for their first day of school. They came home begging me to never make them eat cafeteria food again. They described the horror of having to make a choice between limp pizza, plastic looking mac and cheese and some limp, pale colored salad, My daughter Charlize told me that there were signs up telling the kids that the food was healthy were obviously it was not (good going Charlize, I see I have taught you well).
Most common cafeteria foods:
Chicken strips and fries, pizza, hamburgers, sloppy joes, tater tots, cheese enchiladas, corn dog, chicken salad, tacos, chicken patty sandwiches.
Doesn’t sound very fresh, doesn’t sound very healthy, and doesn’t sound like this food would help you concentrate throughout the school day.
So let me enlighten you with some research…
In 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that 94%of school lunches did not meet the U.S Agriculture department’s regulatory standards. Not one of the schools met the sodium benchmark based on the 2005 dietary guidelines, four out of five schools survived lunches that surpassed the total fat standard. It is no surprise then in a 2009 study showed that children are likely to put on weight when they participated in the school lunch program.
According to the USDA a typical school lunch far exceeds the recommended 500 milligrams of sodium; some districts, in fact, serve lunches with more than 1,000 milligrams.
The USDA also reports that less than 1/3 of schools stay below the recommended standard for fat content in their meals.
Last year 21 million students relied on free and reduced lunch as their primary meal of the day. Up to 65 percent of their daily calorie intake comes from school provided meals. Unbalanced nutrition leads to decreased performance in school, obesity, diabetes, and a whole slew of other health problems.
Some school pizzas contain up to 25 ingredients. Does that sound normal to you? Some of the ingredients found in the aforementioned pizza include azodicarbonamide – a food bleach which pulls double duty as a plastic defoaming agent – and the additives sodium stearoyl lactylate and diacetyl tartaric ester of monoglyceride (DATEM).
So what can we do about it?
We can either campaign with the school to get healthier options available (believe me, I tried), or we can pack or kids school lunches with healthy nutritious food that will set them up for a bright future.
Here are some of my favourite lunchbox items:
Cut up veggies with hummus or guacamole
Left overs from Last nights dinner (my personal favourite)
Rice crackers with an array of topping
Frozen smoothies (they keep the rest on the lunchbox cool and are nice and frosty by lunchtime)
Dried fruits (unsweetened) and nuts
Rice paper rolls
Oatmeal cookies (low sugar)
Chickpea cookies (low sugar)
Soups in winter (if you place in a thermos they stay nice and warm for lunch)