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:
-Dairy (for those that tolerate dairy)
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
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!
-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!
-Cheese and Ham
-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
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.
-Tuna salad on enriched bread
-Cherry Tomatoes and Cucumbers
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.
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!
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.
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.