I hate to go off again about feeding our kids, but I have something to say. And, well, as this is my forum, I might as well say it. Take it for what it’s worth, or leave it here if you don’t want to hear it. Maybe it won’t bother you quite as much, but it’s making me crazy.
That so-called food in the foil wrapper (squish of bun and pile of protein and ooze of processed-cheese product on the kindergarten table): it’s not lunch. The nutrients in that thing are negligible, handily outweighed by fat and sodium content, not exactly conducive to optimum brain function. Surely you know that much. The question is whether or not you care.
I was just finishing up cutting out bubble letters in Quinn’s classroom today (during one of my relatively rare and random appearances), and one of her little friend’s moms came in to deliver the hot lunches, which come from various fast food joints in the area. (Today’s menu item: Roast beef and cheese sandwich.)
The lunch delivery mom (Mom #1) and another mom (Mom #2) began talking. Mom #2 mentioned that she’d just paid hundreds of dollars for her three kids to get hot lunch a few days a week in the coming quarter because she “just can’t handle packing all those lunches anymore.” Mom #1 gave her the happy news: On the days you volunteer to hand out lunches, your kid gets a free hot lunch. A free white bread sandwich! A free melted mozzarella prospective heart attack, I mean, pizza! A free bag of chips! Freedom from any threat of fruits or vegetables!
What a screamin’ deal.
Surely you know where I’m going with this. I could leave off here and you’d pick it up, sans problème.
But here it is, anyway, the thing that I don’t get. If one has time to volunteer at school to distribute hot lunches, doesn’t one have time to make one’s child a lunch using better (and no doubt less expensive) food choices?
I know it can be rough, getting the lunches together every single night, making sure the pantry and fridge are stocked with the right stuff, the stuff the kids will actually consume (I’ve been known to throw a slice of leftover [ahem, not homemade] pizza in my kids’ lunches — but I decide the portion size, and I include fruit and a vegetable.).
Making lunches is just another thing on the list, the list of tasks that have got to be done, the list that never, no matter how many things we check off, goes away. But you know what? When you sign up for parenting, you sign up for that list. You sign up to provide the foods that will offer optimum health and nutrition to your kids. And that’s hardly convenient. But it’s right, all the same.
And lest you think I’m an utterly hopeless food Nazi, we eat our fair share of treats around here. I happen to prefer M&Ms (those dark chocolate ones), and after making all those lunches, I deserve a few now and again.
In the spirit of encouraging lunches from home, here are a few of my girls’ favorites main dishes, with fruit on the side. Leave a comment with your lunch ideas, too.
- Any small pasta, cooked and coated with a tiny drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper. Add peas, tuna and feta crumbles (or cooked, diced carrots, shredded chicken and grated Parmesan; or lentils, cooked broccoli and shredded asiago…).
- Bean & cheese burrito (any bean & cheese combo will do: garbanzo and mozzarella, black and monterey jack, etc.)
- Homemade pizza, using a quick homemade crust (Linda Collister’s Cooking with Kids has a good recipe) or store-bought crust
- Pita wedges and hummus, with baby carrots, grape tomatoes and cucumber slices
- Healthy muffins (carrot oat, for example), a Babybel cheese and slices of nitrate-free turkey or ham
- Finely julienned carrots tossed in a light vinaigrette with a mini bagel or pita sandwich
- Hard-boiled eggs, crunchy romaine and a hunk of baguette or mini bagel
- Couscous or quinoa with olives, tomatoes, pan-fried tofu crumbles and shredded cheese