March 2012: Grade Your Lunch

Don’t miss this month’s article, which will discuss the revolution underway to get better lunch options to our nation’s children!  I will also follow up on a promise from the December Healthy Kids Newsletter to investigate the effect of sugar (in cola and juice) on teeth.  So stay tuned!

I am amazed and delighted by what has been happening in our in country to overhaul the lunch systems in schools and offer healthy and fresh options to children.  When I wrote my first newsletter/article on school lunches, the February 2009 Lunch Makeover Article, there were movements underway to make change, but today we are blessed with incredible momentum from celebrities, chefs, and even the government (!).  We’ll go through an exercise where we grade examples of lunches (a very simple exercise you can do with your own kids), and we’ll also share many lunch recipe ideas to inspire you!

Grade that Lunch Game

A simple game you can play with your kids is to have them give their lunch a “point” for each food group included.  Lunches ideally contain:

-Whole grains
-Protein
-Dairy (for those that tolerate dairy)
-Fruits
-Vegetables

And not necessarily in that order!  Kids can refer to the MyPlate and/or Harvard Healthy Plate.  Half of the plate should be fruits and veggies!

Here are some lunch examples so we can grade them together:

Lunch Menu Example #1:

-French Fries and Ketchup
-Power Drink or Soda
-Candy Bar
 

Grade: ZERO!  (No, the ketchup does not count as a veggie.  See last month’s Newsletter, Eat A Rainbow.  Ketchup is a wanna-be!).

Intermission:  While we have just brought up the fact that many children might be consuming cola and other sugary drinks for lunch, I would like to share with you my follow up on the experiment on the effect of sugar on teeth.  This was promised in the December 2011  Newsletter, Sugar Sugar!  Here is the link to the update (and disgusting pictures) of the teeth experiment.   Yuck!

Lunch Menu Example #2:

-Hamburger on white bun
-Tater tots and ketchup
-Chocolate Chip Cookie
-Sweetened Iced Tea

Grade:  Well, let’s give this a ONE.  The hamburger can count as protein (let’s hope that is lean, grass-fed sirloin).  Harvard’s Healthy plate mentions that white potatoes don’t count as a veggie (and the fried aspect of the tater tots renders them unhealthy).  Let’s move on to another lunch!

Lunch Menu Example #3:

-Enriched Crackers
-Cheese and Ham
-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
-Sour Candies

Grade:  We are moving up to a TWO.  The meat is not looking especially appetizing, but let’s go ahead and count that as protein.  The cheese gives you a point for dairy.  What about a point for the crackers as whole grains?  No!  Remember from our Newsletter on Whole Grains, the word “enriched” gives away the fact that the grains have been processed.  Let’s move on.

Lunch Menu Example #4:

-Tuna salad on enriched bread
-Cherry Tomatoes and Cucumbers
-Clementine
-Pretzels
-Pickles
-Cake
-100% juice

Grade:  Hmmm.  I think we are moving up to a THREE.  I see a fruit (the orange counts, not the fruit juice!), veggies (the tomatoes, cucumbers and pickles–yes I know these are botanically fruits but most consider them veggies), and protein.  You could exchange the juice with water, exchange the enriched bread with whole grain bread, omit the pretzels, and forgo the cake—improvements to be made, but looking better.

Lunch Menu Example #5:

-Chicken Salad in whole wheat pita
-Red pepper, carrots, hummus
-Yogurt and fresh berries
-Whole grain/veggie pasta salad

Grade:  Yea!  I’m ready to hand out a FIVE.  I see protein (chicken salad, hummus), whole grains (whole grain pita, whole grain pasta), dairy (yogurt) and fruits and veggies (carrots, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, veggies in the pita—looks like more carrots and lettuce).  AND this plate looks about half fruits and veggies, plus it is very colorful.  Way to go!

Want to give your kids a lunch that scores a FIVE every day?  Here is a link with some inspirational lunch menus.

And speaking of inspiration, before I sign off I’d just like to salute some of the latest efforts underway to revolutionize the school lunch scene.  A special thanks to Theo Gund who has sent me several great ideas for this newsletter!

Salute to:  Alice Waters and the Edible Schoolyard Project, which is expanding its work to become an online resource to “map the movement” by identifying like-minded organizations around the world and gathering and distributing best practices.   Check out the Edible Schoolyard Project at http://edibleschoolyard.org

Salute to:  Chef Andrea Martin and “Cook for America.” Her plan is to re-convert school cafeterias to their original cooking purposes (instead of opening huge boxes of dried, dehydrated junk, adding water and feeding it to kids).  Check out Cook for America!http://cookforamerica.com.

Salute to:  Catherine Gund and the team at “What’s on Your Plate”.  Sadie and Safiyah deserve medals of courage for taking on the big questions about where our food comes from (and how it ends up in the school lunch program within the New York City public school system).  Read more about the film and book at: http://www.whatsonyourplateproject.org

Salute to: Greg Christian of The Organic School Program (Chicago, IL).   In Greg’s new blog, he discusses the reality of the foods served in schools, what the people need to do to build a sustainable food system in their schools and communities, and his goals for a healthier school environment.  Follow him at: http://pullthetriggeronschoollunches.com/

Salute to:  Jamie Oliver (you remember my infatuation with him, yes?).

Salute to:  Michelle Obama, who recently said of the new Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act: “This isn’t just about our kids’ health. Studies have shown that our kids’ eating habits can actually affect their academic performance as well. Anyone who works with kids knows that they need something other than chips and soda in their stomachs if they’re going to focus on math and science, right?”  New Nutrition Standards for Public Schools, which have not been updated in 15 years, were announced earlier this year.  These new standards affect 32 million children daily.  Here’s are the new standards (announced January 25, 2012 and scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2012):

  • No more than 1/3 of school lunch (1/4 of school breakfast) calories can come from fat; less than 10% from saturated fat.
  • School meals must meet strict calorie limits.
  • Schools must gradually reduce sodium levels in school meals.
  • Cafeterias must offer larger servings of vegetables and fruit with every school lunch, and children must take at least one serving.
  • Milk must be fat-free or 1% (flavored milk must be fat-free).
  • Schools must offer a wide variety of vegetables, including at least a weekly serving of dark green and red/orange vegetables and legumes.
  • Within two years, all grains offered must be whole-grain rich.

Here is a “before and after” menu, according to the guidelines.

First Lady Michelle Obama is also behind the Chefs Move to Schools (founded in May 2010), an integral part the Let’s Move! Initiative and its goal of solving the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. The program pairs chefs with schools in their communities with the mission of collaboratively educating kids about food and proper nutrition. I’ve linked to the Recipes for Healthy Kids before, but in case you missed it, here it is again.

Have a great March!
Kathryn


Back copies of Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange monthly newsletters are always available online.

Don’t forget to check out the recent posts on the Delicious and Nutritious, Green and Plenty and Wholesome Heart Blogs!

Delicious and Nutritious recipes are kid tested and range from breakfast to snacks.  We occassionally include a dessert as well –which we know is probably more delicous than it is nutrititiuos, but we feel that people need a sweet treat here and there.  We hope you are inspired by our ideas!

Green and Plenty:  presents the latest in nutrition, delicious and seasonal recipes, green design and wellness tips for the reader and her family.

Wholesome Heart:    includes delicious recipes, time-saving tips, and nutrition tidbits.


Disclaimer:

This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.

 
 

Comments

  1. Hey everyone– Juliette (author of the Wholesome Heart blog–click on “Wholesome Heart” on the green bar above) just sent me this great link for “paleo diet inspired” lunch ideas. With the paleo/primal diets gaining more popularity, we’d thought we’d share!
    http://everydaypaleo.com/2012/04/03/school-lunch-ideas/#more-4211

  2. Ray Benton, CCE, AAC says:

    I still believe that breakfast is the most important meal. Most of the children skip this meal because of various reasons, and parents try hard to get something into their kids stomachs but they can’t force the kids to eat. This is why the kids run out of gas around 11 in the morning because their is not enough fuel in the tank to keep the engine running. I have found that most of the children upon waking are thirsty and not hungry, so make them a fruit smoothie, and now you have given them their fruit and their milk in one glass, and, because it is cold and tasty they will probably drink it. Strawberries, bananas, orange juice and a touch of cinnamon make it good. The recipe follows:
    FRUIT SMOOTHIE
    1/2 banana
    3 strawberries
    3 ounces of low-fat milk
    3 ounces of orange juice
    dash of cinnamon
    5 ice cubes
    place the fruit and the liquids in a blender and run until well mixed
    add ice cubes and mix until well blended, just a few seconds

  3. kathryn guylay says:

    Good news for the start of the 2013 School year:
    YouTube: FNS School Meals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TArHCS_GbhE

    Video Podcast: FNS School Meals iTunes
    Excerpt:
    FEATURE – USDA Healthy School Meals Standards Are Proving Popular
    INTRO: In this, the second year of the U-S Department of Agriculture’s healthier school meal standards, most U-S schools are adopting the changes. U-S-D-A’s Patrick O’Leary has more from Bondurant, Iowa. (1:54)
    THE U-S DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE IS CELEBRATING GOOD NEWS FOR AMERICA’S SCHOOLS: NEW GUIDELINES FOR HEALTHIER SCHOOL MEALS INTRODUCED LAST YEAR ARE PROVING TO BE POPULAR, AS NEARLY EIGHTY PERCENT OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS HAVE ADOPTED THE CHANGES. IN CENTRAL IOWA’S BONDURANT-FARRAR SCHOOL DISTRICT, THAT MEANS MORE FRUITS, VEGETABLES AND WHOLE GRAINS, LOW FAT DAIRY AND OTHER CHANGES ARE MAKING SCHOOL MEALS HEALTHIER FOR STUDENTS.
    Lexi Atzen, Iowa High School Senior: It makes you feel better. When you eat good foods you feel a lot better about yourself, you feel a lot better just in general – you have more energy. And then that leads into the classroom as well.
    Clayton Beck, Iowa High School Senior: There are some of my friends that say, like, oh they don’t feed us enough, we don’t get enough to eat. Well, those people that are complaining, they’ll only take a burrito and an apple. But if you take the burrito and then the beans and then the salad and then the fruit, you get full.
    FOR SOME SCHOOLS, THE NEW GUIDELINES HAVE REPRESENTED CHANGES – AND CHALLENGES.
    Mike Kramer, Principal, Bondurant-Farrar High School, Iowa: With all the different changes, it seemed like we would be worried about the number of calories, especially our high school students would be eating. But with the variety of options, there is really something for about every student.
    FOR SCHOOL FOOD SERVICE DIRECTORS, THE NEW SCHOOL MEALS PATTERNS ARE A CHANCE TO BE CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE.
    Dee Dee Olson: You know it’s just a challenge teaching the food service staff that I have, getting them to buy into it, getting them to know that this is do-able, this doesn’t take that long, we can do this.
    THE VAST MAJORITY OF SCHOOLS ACROSS THE COUNTRY REPORT HAVING SUCCESSFULLY IMPLEMENTED THE NEW MEAL STANDARDS, AND U-S-D-A EXPECTS TO HEAR FROM MORE STATES SOON
    Janey Thornton, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services: So foods that children are purchasing at school will be foods that will add to their overall good nutritional health. So we’re very, very excited about that.

  4. kathryn guylay says:

    And more good news:
    Posted by Alyn Kiel, Office of the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, on September 13, 2013 at 10:30 AM
    Schools across the country are telling us that they are successfully serving healthy, delicious breakfasts and lunches to students. But how do the students and staff feel about the changes? We interviewed students and staff at Bondurant-Farrar School District outside of Des Moines, Iowa to get their take on the new meals.
    Lexi Atzen, a senior at Bondurant-Farrar High School says that school meals make her feel better. “When you eat good foods, you feel a lot better about yourself,” says Atzen. “You feel a lot better just in general, you have more energy. And then that leads into the classroom as well.”
    And Clayton Beck, also a senior, says that complaints about the amount of food don’t tell the full story. “Well, those people that are complaining, they’ll only take a burrito and an apple,” says Beck. “But if you take the burrito and then the beans and then the salad and then the fruit, you get full.”

    http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/08/16/back-to-healthy-school-meals-usda-congratulates-six-states-for-nearly-100-of-schools-meeting-new-meal-standards/

    VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGmFcPu3Vuw

  5. kathryn guylay says:

    Here is a GREAT inspirational story:

    http://youngvoicesonclimatechange.com/movie_local-lunch.php

    What I loved about this video is that it shows a community that starts with a situation of having lunches brought in on a commercial scale; it then shows how they—the students– follow a step-by step process to turn lunches into a local affair. They started with a “local lunch pilot day” one time per month and then moved to a program of having local lunches several times a week. They integrate local chefs into the process, and learn so much along the way. Kudos!

    At CS we have a fresh, clean slate with no ties to the big corporations (like the public schools –our local district 61 uses Chartwells). Scott, I think you will love this story because the kids here are older (HS) and they have that hands-on, “let’s solve this issue” mentality that I think is completely in line with our CS kids. The movie shows the process of the kids making change and how they overcame obstacles like needing to be food-safe certified, for example. This video might be something that fits with the 8th grade food unit.

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