Today’s sack lunches frighten me!

23 May

On Friday, I had the pleasure of spending the day with my little guy on his kindergarten field trip to the Imagination Station, located in downtown Toledo. What a cool place to learn "scientific" stuff while having a great time together. I don't think he stopped smiling the whole time. I didn't either, until we sat down for lunch. It's great to learn science and how chemicals work together — but not when we're talking about a child's meal.

Each child was asked to bring a sack lunch with them and we all dined together in the main gathering area for school field trips. I can't remember the last time I saw that much "garbage" in one room. Pudding cups, Jell-o cups, candy, soda, prepackaged "foods," fruit drinks, cookies, fruit roll-ups and Lunchables. 

LUNCHABLES! No offense to any of my friends who may use these out of convenience, but seriously? Do parents really believe these are healthy? Are they fooled by the marketing of the big companies, who use words like "wholesome" to refer to a package full of chemicals? Do they not take the time to read the ingredients of the junk they are putting in their kids' bodies? Or are parents today just too busy to take 10 minutes to pack a nutritious lunch?
The little girl sitting across from me emptied her lunch bag and I almost cried. A chocolate-covered "granola" bar, chocolate pudding cup, orange Jell-o cup, four Saltine crackers and a Capri Sun fruit drink. Every single item in her lunch contained sugar or high fructose corn syrup, even the crackers. She basically ate sugar for lunch.
And people wonder why today's kids can't sit still or concentrate in school.
I don't know a single parent who doesn't want the best for their child. I don't know a single parent who doesn't want their child to be smart, healthy and strong. So I can't understand the reasoning behind feeding a child junk food every single day. 
Let me mention just a few statistics on the health of American kids right now.
~ Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1980. 
~ 30% of kids today eat fast food every single day of their lives.
~ The majority of salt consumed by kids comes in the form of packaged, processed foods and fast foods.
~ Kids who eat a high-sodium diet can end up with childhood hypertension!
~ Hypertension can lead to kidney failure, stroke, heart attack and more.
~ Experts recommend that kids consume no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium a day.
~ The average Lunchables has about 800 mg of sodium, with some well over 1,000 mg!
I understand that parents today lead busy lives. I'm one of them. But I can't imagine not taking a few minutes in the morning to pack a lunch. Honestly, I can pack two kids lunches in less than 10 minutes. Buy the right packaged foods and it's a breeze. Start with a 100% juice box or bottled water. Toss in a Kashi granola bar, a Ziploc bag of Sun Chips or pretzels, a piece of fruit (apple, banana, orange or handful of grapes), and a sandwich. Simply Jif + All Fruit jelly + whole wheat bread = a perfect sandwich full of nutrition. The other thing they like is Hormel Natural Choice lunchmeat + a cheddar cheese slice (NOT the kind individually wrapped in plastic!) + mayo and lettuce on a whole wheat hamburger bun = sub sandwich.
Here are some other smart lunchbox options:
yogurt (not the kind in a crush cup or squeeze tube that's packed with high fructose corn syrup and food dyes)
all-natural applesauce cup
mandarin oranges packed in juice in individual cups
cheese sticks / string cheese
bagel with cream cheese
whole wheat crackers with a little tub of peanut butter
whole wheat crackers with sliced cheese
homemade trail mix – pretzels, dry cereal, raisins, peanuts and chocolate chips in a Ziploc
fruit "roll-ups" made with 100% fruit (in the health food section of your grocery store)
I'll admit I don't pack every single day. Madison and Brady buy the hot school lunch once, sometimes twice, a week. It's usually on tomato soup and grilled cheese day, macaroni and cheese day, or pizza day. These meals are full of sodium and fake cheese, but they always choose fresh fruit if offered, they generally eat the vegetable offered, and they get a container of milk. I'm okay with this because I know that the other 5 or 6 days of the week, they're eating real food that is good for their bodies.
Children don't always know how to eat right so it's up to parents to show them that making smart food choices is important. And it can be fun! If you decide that you absolutely don't have the time to pack for them, take a Sunday afternoon to teach them how to do it themselves. All you have to do is shop smart. By buying healthier versions of the things they like, you're giving them everything they need to pack their own nutritious lunch. And you're giving them the tools to grow into smart, healthy adults.

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2 Responses to “Today’s sack lunches frighten me!”

  1. Archie15 May 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    Of course a 100 % juice box ought to be an option

  2. Tamie Spears May 24, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

    Thanks for the FB comments!

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