Just a rant, part II

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.

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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.

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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

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7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    sarah said,

    I love your kid food rants. My son told me all his friends think that his lunches I pack for him are gross. I wonder what the heck they eat, my kid has it good!

    My child would beg me for those nitrate saturated, fat laden, preservative heavy Lunchables. Not to mention they look tasteless. He wanted the taco version. So I pack him organic corn chips, shredded cheese, and salsa. Voila, Lunchable! Ok, so he was going for the glamor of the box, but he ate it and liked it.

    When we ate gluten, anything rolled in a flour tortilla was deemed good. Breads like zucchini and banana with some nuts or veggies and cheese.

    Also, if you are interested I tagged you for a meme.

  2. 2

    Wow, you have some lucky daughters! What great lunches! (And are those my carrot muffins? *grinning*)

  3. 3

    Trisha said,

    Sarah: When my oldest was in 1st grade she cried one day because a rude boy made fun of her lunch (I think it was something inoffensive and fairly normal even, like pasta!). Now she doesn’t even care. The glamour of the box is appealing to kids. Arrgghh. I like your “Lunchables” much better, though!

    Camille: They are your muffins! I can’t believe I forgot to give you some link love! I’m on it…. We love that recipe, and I love how portable it is, in addition to the healthfulness & flavor!

  4. 4

    So glad they’re a hit! 🙂

  5. 5

    Melissa said,

    I like how you put that – that making the healthy food is just another task you signed up for as a parent. Yes. And putting together lunches, while sometimes a pain, is not that hard. And you have a lot to feel good about giving your kids what you do.

    I still can’t believe how bad school lunch food is. Way behind the times. Small dents in the system have been made in the last 10 years, but it really needs an overhaul.

  6. 6

    Laurie said,

    Trisha, I so appreciate your comments on children’s lunches. As a teacher I see so many horrible sack lunches and then what our cafeteria serves should be illegal. I can’t tell you how many parents drop off fast food to their children for lunch. I had a parent who wanted to bring lunch in for my whole class from a fast food restaurant and I would not allow it. It is truly frightening what most children are eating today. PLEASE do get on your soap box about packing a lunch. Children need healthly fuel in their bodies when they are in school.

    On a side note, love your blog. I’ve been reading it for about 5 months.
    Thanks,
    Laurie

  7. 7

    Trisha said,

    Melissa: School lunch really does need an overhaul. Great things have happened in a few schools around the country, but the changes need to be sweeping.

    Laurie: Thanks so much for the comment, for sharing your experience as a teacher, and for reading!


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