Although we still have a ways to go, I am 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 Michelle Obama’s Healthy Kids Lunchtime Challenge. I have also been teaching a fun game first used by Nurture, made popular by my inclusion of a story about the “Grade that Lunch” game in my 2015 book, Mountain Mantras: Wellness and Life Lessons from the Slopes. 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 a previous newsletter, Eat A Rainbow. Ketchup is a wanna-be!).
-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: Yay! 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 are some ideas from an interview I did on CBS WBBM-TV.
Thanks for reading!
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.