Return to School Lunches

So, I’m doing the NaBloPoMo for September, and the theme for the month is “Return”. I probably won’t stick to the theme every day, but in case you were wondering at all about my uptick in posting, or why I am writing about certain things, I thought I would point this out.

I read a blog article on Slate the other day about school lunches. This mother of four outlined her school’s “rules” on lunches, and added some of her own concerns regarding what other people would think of HER because of what is (or is not) in her kids’ lunches.

I was a little taken aback.

I send Flora and Kate with lunches every day (or almost every day). If school or daycare offer cheese pizza (or, in Flora’s case, grilled cheese or mac and cheese), I will ask if the girls want to buy their lunch. They usually also get a fruit and/or vegetable and a dessert with bought lunches.

(Yeah, so much for that “one choice” thing. It’s too ingrained a habit! Curses.)

As far as what I pack, I have not ever received a list of acceptable food stuffs, and I have never worried about what others think of me or my daughters because of the contents of their lunches bags.

Am I just lucky? I know that food allergies are on the rise, but we’ve never received a notice from any classroom regarding nuts or peanuts. A peanut butter sandwich is a regular staple in Flora’s lunch. If it became verboten, I think we could deal, but I have to admit I’m grateful I don’t have to think too hard about it. (Knock wood.)

As far as healthy lunches go — or food in general, really — I don’t think hard about that either. Neither of my girls are extremely picky eaters (knock on wood, again! I’m hoping Michael will be the same). They have their preferences: Kate loves hummus, Flora does not; Flora likes peanut butter, but not PB & J, and so on. Sandwiches are on whole wheat bread or multigrain tortillas. I do buy pre-packaged snack foods, including chips, dried fruit, string cheese, and tubes of yogurt. I seldom pack candy or cookies — sometimes a week or so after Halloween or Easter, they get candy treats. I never pack pop (or soda, depending on where you live). The girls get chocolate milk, water, or 100% juice — usually milk.

Do your schools concern themselves with what your children are eating at lunch? Is this becoming more normal? Should it? I know childhood obesity is on the rise, but I would resent a lot of rules concerning my kids’ lunches. (Yeah, I *still* have problems with authority. What of it?)

I don’t pack healthfully to impress anyone, or to “be better” than anyone. I grew up eating a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and cheese (and Oreos, potato chips, and candy), and I just want my kids to have a normal relationship with food. Nothing is forbidden, although personally I don’t buy foods with high fructose corn syrup in them. I’m sure they get food with HFCS — I don’t control all of their eating 100% of the time, let’s face it — just not from me.

Oh, also, my favorite new development in this area: Flora packs her own lunch. She puts dried mangos in a baggie; she chooses her chips and remembers her chocolate milk. Kate wants to pack her own lunch, too, and I will let her — when she starts preschool on Wednesday. I don’t know if the novelty of packing lunch every night will wear off, but for now I’m going with it. I will try to make it part of their pre-bedtime routine, because, let’s face it, it’s one less thing I have to do! I supervise, make suggestions, and help with sandwiches when needed.

How do you pick your kids’ foods? Do you worry a lot about it? Are you trying to make healthy eating second nature to your family? How’s it going?

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6 thoughts on “Return to School Lunches

  1. Ok, I don’t want to be a jerk here and your girls eat so healthfully anyway I’m not sure it matters but did you know that most chocolate milk has more sugar than pop?

    As for us, I pack every day (so far) because Liam is the pickiest eater known to God and Man. He gets peanut butter pretty much every day and if they banned it, I would probably have a kid who refused to eat lunch at all at school. I’m trying to get him to eat stuff from a thermos but so far he’s unimpressed. He usually gets a yogurt with that (drinkable or tube) and a bottle of water because he doesn’t like juice (!!) and he prefers the water over milk. They’ve also asked us to pack a snack for the first graders so he usually gets some kind of snack crackers for that.

    Jamie is a much better eater than his brother and I actually got compliments from his daycare teachers because I pack healthy lunches for him. There’s something hot in a thermos (rice and beans, pasta with marinara, or mac and cheese) and a fruit to go with. He gets milk and water there plus I pack a Z Bar for breakfast (since he usually has already had one breakfast here at home already) and usually some kind of crackers for snack.

    • Re: Chocolate milk: I know. ;( I definitely made a mistake with the girls about milk, but I can’t stand conventionally produced milk. It’s too full of who-knows-what. I won’t make the same mistake with Michael. If he can tolerate cow’s milk, I’ll just put him on regular white (whole) milk from a local dairy. And I’m going to try to switch the girls over. If he can’t tolerate cow’s milk, I’ll have to think of a plan B. Fortunately, the girls like yogurt and cheese (boy, do they like cheese) and I buy organic yogurt and farm-produced cheese, and they also like greens and broccoli. I worry about calcium intake with them.

      • Well, like I said, they eat so healthily anyway, I’m not sure it’s that big a deal. All things in moderation. 🙂

    • Also: Kate’s first choice of drink is usually water. Not juice, not chocolate milk, not pop (yeah, sometimes I give them pop at home, the stuff with sugar not HFCS). Flora, OTOH, would drink pop all the time if I let her. Gotta watch that one. 🙂

  2. Last year, I did a lot of pre-packaged stuff…not crap, I read ingredients, etc. They always have a fruit and/or vegetable, a sandwich, something dairy. I got some more pre-packaged things this year, but usually tend toward whole fruits, blah blah blah. As for drinks, it’s juice or milk, sometimes with chocolate added, usually without. I have a rule about water only between meals, but they’re allowed other drinks after they’ve eaten.

    At the kids’ school, the lunches are horrible. It’s interesting for how much they push health. I do let them buy on Fridays, mainly because I’m exhausted by then and partially because one bad meal a week isn’t going to kill them. We eat pretty darn healthfully here all of the time; hardly and sweets or candy, mostly fruits and veggies. I dunno, I shoot for balanced. We have no allergies here, either, which I’m thankful for.

    • I don’t know how bad the school lunches are per se, but as they usually incorporate meat, I just don’t avail myself of them. Last year, Flora had the choice of salad (which she loves) or PB&J if she didn’t want the main dish, but it doesn’t look like that’s an option at her new school. I’ll have to see how things progress. And figure out how to pack Michael finger foods for when we switch daycares for him!

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