Makeover – School Lunches

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This is the first post in our “makeover” series, where we’ll take on a meal and re-make it into something healthier. For today, we tackle the school lunch.

Image result for 1950s kids eating lunch
50’s school children sitting around cafeteria tables having lunch.

In some ways, for many children, bagged school lunches haven’t changed that much since the early 1900’s – the standard is still a sandwich, some fruit, and (hopefully) some veggies. (As a fun aside and for a good laugh, check out this video by Bon Appetit, which chronicles kids’ reactions to a century’s worth of bagged lunches.) While we do have Pinterest and Bento boxes to give us a gazillion new ideas for making a better lunch, the reality is that most people need to create uncomplicated, quick lunches. So in many ways, not much has changed about what kids eat for school lunch. Except for one small thing – our food quality. Whether it’s factory farmed animal products (including all meat and dairy) or nutrient-depleted fruits and vegetables, quality has diminished for sure. Which makes it fair to say that even though a typical lunch may look similar, it has less nutritional value. And while I won’t even broach the problems of the American standard lunch, I will say it nearly brought tears to my eyes when I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain in which school-age children ate a from-scratch lunch consisting of butternut squash soup, homemade bread and fresh fruit for lunch. But, I digress.

All of us want to give our kids the best we can, especially when it comes to food. But it can be a real challenge to find lunch food that doesn’t take forever to prepare. Or that they will actually eat. For many of us, myself included, that means an ever-evolving process of finding what works. A process of change.

I know my own vision of food changed shape pretty drastically between first giving birth and when the actual meal preparation for my daughter began. When she was just a baby, I pledged to feed C only organic food, zero sugar or processed foods, primarily from-scratch meals. When the rubber finally met the road, it all looked quite a bit different. I did my best to avoid sweets or processed foods, but she still ate a pretty steady stream of puffs and pouches (no shame in that)! She also loved them, while she wasn’t crazy about most of the veggies I put in front of her.

Although C isn’t in full time school yet, Cris’ daughter K is, and she has had a similar process of give and take in finding what is enjoyable and nutritious. As she explains, “I started out sending her to school with dinner’s leftovers, something like rice, meat, etc. It worked for a while. But then she just stopped eating her lunch, saying no other kids had lunch like that. Eventually I ended up sending her with a lunch meat sandwich. I knew it wasn’t the healthiest but at least she was eating!”

This kind of scenario probably sounds familiar to many of you.

But even though she was eating her lunch, it didn’t sit well that it was a less-than-optimally-nutritious one. So what to do?

Turns out the solution is a simple one. Change, after all, is almost always a slower process. No exception here! Cris made some easy, baby step changes towards a healthier lunch: whole wheat organic bread, nitrate free lunch meat. Paired with fruit and baby carrots and we’re talking improvement, baby! Plus, K was happily willing to eat it up. Win!

What about you? What small but meaningful changes have you made, to your diet or your child’s? Share below!

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