If you are what you eat, I am a caramel macchiato. That was my treat this afternoon, and it’s buy one get one free for the next couple days! …(so good!) But, seriously, how bad is that!? I’d feel a little guilty if I did this every day. But, every once in a while, we all need a treat. I’m all about my treats. But, I’m also about balance.
If I eat my fruits and veggies, exercise, and get enough sleep, then I think I deserve a little Starbucks now and then! Today’s thought is what our kids are eating, though.
As a counselor, I spend a lot of time in the lunchroom. I often times take a moment to casually chat, check in on, and scan the kids. This week, I spent time both at breakfast and at lunch with students. And, what I’m seeing the kids eat for school lunch is just lousy. It’s actually more than lousy; it’s harmful. Our pre-packaged cafeteria food options in Knox county are horrible.
I remember being at a low-income school when they introduced free breakfast in classrooms for every student. WOW, I thought. This will be great because now kids will be fed, energized, and ready to learn! When the program was implemented, I was disappointed to see the free food the kids could choose from. Breakfast options might be choosing between a sausage biscuit (the healthier option) vs. Coco puff cereal. Sometimes, there was yogurt as an option but usually Fruit loops with chocolate milk was the breakfast of Champions. Why not have Cheerios and not the sugar-laden cereals? This is an image that came up in Google for American school lunches. Where is this being served? Not here…not even close. It’s colorful, well-balanced, and real food. It looks amazing!
But, most often, kids are eating frozen french toast sticks, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, or waffles. And, don’t forget the chocolate milk or frozen juice from concentrate. Now, that alone wouldn’t be horrible, minus the sugar crash they experience mid-morning, if they weren’t also given horrendous choices at lunch too.
Last week, I watched my girls’ group file in for lunch, half of which bought their school lunch. Many went straight to eating their ice cream and all girls who had school lunches had ice cream. Why? Because they ran out of syrup so instead, they got a free ice cream. So, let me recap. For their lunch, they had waffles, hash browns, and ice cream. Most trays were filled with white or beige foods only. (Chicken and waffles with syrup is a common school lunch).
Then today, I stopped to check in a kindergarten student who struggles to focus and retain information. He was chowing down on his cotton candy ice cream at the lunch table. His prepackaged pb&j Uncrustable was still in it’s plastic wrapper, as were his Cheezit’s and string cheese (also sealed in plastic). He said he was going to eat the cheezits, though. How is this nutritional!?
Many kids won’t have a choice. They are on free or reduced lunch and if given the chance, like most kids, will eat the ice cream. Ice cream is offered every day as a money-maker. Who needs ice cream at lunch every day!? Cookies often come with the meal. And, with strawberry and chocolate milk offered, who would choose white milk!? We are addicted to sugar in this country.
I include myself in this addition but I refuse to fill my children with empty calories and bad habits. This is unacceptable but many parents just don’t know. And, while fresh caesar salads, carrots, and fruit are also often offered, I witness most kids eating their beige, or plastic wrapped foods first. The main entree’s are not healthy with common meats including breaded chicken tenders, hamburgers (or something that’s supposed to be a burger), chick and waffles, chicken patty sandwiches on white buns, and hot dogs. We can’t let this be their choice. With childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, rising incidents of cancer, and attention and hyperactivity issues, we should take a step back and look at the basics.
To often sleep, diet, and exercise are overlooked. We should all advocate for our children. I realize all parents can’t or won’t pack their children’s lunches, controlling some of what they eat, but we can care. We can tell our children what they should be eating. We should teach why good nutrition is important. We should talk to our Board of Education about caring about our children’s health. And, diet is an important part of health and development. In a country that can afford to, we should be doing better America!
p.s. I have had great idea of creating healthy, ready-to-eat meals for kids. I just need an investor! No more Lunchables!!