We have about 12 more days until school starts back up. In many parts of the country, kids have already started skipping back to school, bright shiny new back packs slung over their shoulders, Moms and Dads
doing the happy dance brushing away tears of sadness as their children wave goodbye and become SOMEBODY ELSE’S PROBLEM for the next 6 hours. No, no…of COURSE, I am just kidding…I have cherished every moment…all summer…EVERY moment, I tell ya! But, all good things must come to an end. As you start up the new school year, there is something I want to tell you about the products we are buying for our lunch packing endeavors. I’m about to lecture here, but it is important…so bear with me while I rant for a few paragraphs.
When you see something in the grocery store that says “Look, Mom! Look how easy we’re making this whole lunch packing thing for you! Make a PB&J sandwich? Noooo…you don’t have to do all that work…we’ve done it for you! Why, you don’t even have to actually pack the lunch if that’s too much…here, look…we’ve put together a wonderful, kid approved combination of sugar, salt and artificial flavors and colors…all you have to do is throw it in the bag…done!” When you see these items in your store, run…I repeat, run…very fast…away from these things. Because you know they have you right where they want you. You are probably sleep deprived. Maybe you have a baby on your hip or a toddler running away from you in the store. You might be a stay at home mom (or dad) who has to prepare and clean up about 21 different meals and snacks every day and THIS…this cute little premade sandwich in a package…with the crusts even removed for cryin’ out loud…this is what will save your sanity. Or, you are a parent who has to leave the house every morning to go to work and you have about 14 seconds to get those lunches packed. You’re thinking about how in the morning, maybe you could actually have time to drink that cup of coffee instead of spilling it all over your work clothes as you are running out the door because it took so long to scrounge around your pantry trying to find those stupid “real food” items these crazy blogs keep telling you to pack. But I am convinced that the more desperate we feel about packing our kids lunches, the more those packaged food companies have us wrapped around their little fruit roll ups. We have to take a step back and stop being overwhelmed by lunch. We have to plan ahead. We have to ask our kids, “Which two or three vegetables and fruits will you eat in your lunches this week?” And then buy those items, cut them up so they are ready to throw into the lunch containers. We need to stop putting juice boxes and sports drinks and vanilla flavored milks into the bag. Water is simple and cheap and exactly what they need. If you are grabbing those convenience lunch items off the shelves, before you throw them into your cart, I ask that you just look at that ingredient list. If the first few items on the list are not actually food (and sugar, my friend, does not count as an “actual food” when it is your kid’s lunch) then there is a problem.
So now that I have tried to make you feel like a horrible parent if you happen to have Lunchables in your fridge, it is important for you to know, that lots of us struggle with this. One morning, during a momentary lapse of judgement, I actually put THESE…
into my children’s lunch bags. We’re not horrible parents. Most of us are just doing the best we can. But I think many of us, myself included, can do a little better. Many of us have enough time to keep up with all of our Facebook friends and most of us have the financial resources to purchase the things that are important to us. Let’s make our children’s lunch important this year. As you start up the new school year, try making 3 simple changes to help your kids eat better while they are at school. Okay…maybe these are not actually simple to implement…your kids are mad enough that they have to get up at 6:30 AM and now you’re going to take away their chocolate milk and their Go-Gurt…sigh.
Three Changes to Make When Packing Lunch
1. Ditch the juice boxes, sports drinks, and flavored milks. These options usually have as much added sugar as soda. Send water in a stainless steel thermos. They will complain…ignore. Or maybe let them have a sweetened beverage once a week.
2. Make fiber a priority as you figure out what to pack. Google foods high in fiber, make a list, and sit down with your kids and ask them…what foods on this list would you like in your lunch? Fiber helps our bodies to use the natural sugars in foods for energy, thus avoiding the sugar high and inevitable crash as they sit down to learn about fractions after lunch. Fiber also helps us to feel full longer. Note that it is important to drink plenty of water when you are increasing the fiber in your diet.
3. Switch your bread from white to 100% whole wheat. Find a brand of bread that does not have high fructose corn syrup in it. If your child will only eat white bread, just skip the traditional sandwich. There are so many other options. Your best friend Google will help you find lots of ideas! I will try to post pictures of some of my kids lunches once we get into the school year, but there are lots of sites out there that do this much better than I ever could.
And lastly, if you are reading this and saying to yourself, “Pack lunch? That’s crazy talk! My kid buys lunch every day!” Investigate what kind of lunches your school serves. There are more and more schools out there that are trying to improve, but there are still a lot of scary school lunch programs around. If you are not happy with what your school has to offer, but you just can’t even begin to think about trying to pack lunch, start small. Commit to making lunch once a week, on Sunday night for the Monday lunch.
If your kids have already started school, I hope they are having a great year so far! And for the rest of us…it’s off to the pool for one more week!