Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let's Do Lunch

With all of the current focus on childhood obesity, I think (hope) our country is on the brink of redefining our relationship with food. I wonder if in 25 years when my kids are making lunches for my grandchildren they will read this post & cringe! Though, I must say, I feel pretty good about our lunch routine. It helps that our school really discourages pre-packaged convenience meals & junk food at lunch. I am a bargain hunter when it comes to lunch boxes. I bought these on sale & with free shipping from Pottery Barn Kids. I skipped the personalization so that they can be reused by someone else if necessary. The bags have been sturdy enough to go through the washing machine several times & accommodate all of our bottles & containers. The water bottles are BPA free.
My kids eat basically the same thing every day for lunch. A dairy serving comes from yogurt (though sometimes I substitute no sugar added applesauce). I tried buying larger containers of yogurt & using smaller reusable plastic containers in their lunchbox but they always come home uneaten. At least the school recycles.
I try to pick a yogurt with less than 12 grams of sugar per serving. Dora comes in at 13 vs. 4 for Fiber One so we may be transitioning everyone to that brand. I don't mind sugar in their diet - but don't like when you think you are eating healthy but in reality you are consuming copious amounts of sugar. The tubes have 9 - which is high since it is half the size of the tubs. But, the tubes freeze really well. When Charlie got sick this fall, we thought he might be lactose intolerant so we stopped sending the kids to school with cheese. String cheese & babybells (love them from Costco) were favorites.

Next, I pack two servings of fruit & veggies - preferably fresh (in reusable containers). After seeing Food, Inc, I realize tomatoes aren't the best choice this time of year. I'm trying to be better about selecting fruits & veggies that aren't shipped half way around the world (which means they are likely picked early & ripened with chemicals). If the kids don't finish their fruits & veggies, they can eat them for dinner. Though, when we are shopping, I encourage the kids (especially the twins) to tell me what they want to take to school - usually they eat what they select.
My children have not embraced any 'main dish' other than peanut butter & jelly. Last summer, Ella went to camp with a friend who was allergic to peanuts. In order to sit with him at lunch, we had to nix the pb&j. The trend did not continue through the school year. But, it is a good source of protein & it is easy to make. The kids don't like white bread & will eat 100% whole wheat (as long as it is smooth & doesn't have any perceivable nuts, large grainy bits etc.) I love the MaraNatha almond butter, but no one else in the family has embraced the flavor (but we have a huge container of it left). The almond butter consists of almonds. The ingredients list for the popular brands are much longer. But, they are sold in bulk at Costco for a good price & frankly I did not like natural peanut butter as a kid when my mother tried to serve it. I mix the two together & everyone is happy. I love the simply fruit brand of jelly. No high fructose corn syrup & less sugar than most brands.

Last Earth Day, I invested in reuseable sandwich bags. I love them. They wash well & I'm not going through the disposable kind at record speed. You can buy them here and here (our school also sells them as a fundraiser for our green space). They aren't cheap (I bought extra to get through the week with three kids), but I'm glad I made the investment.
Lastly, I pack extra calories. Sometimes it is crackers or pretzels, etc. but the snack of choice these days is a Zbar. They only like one flavor so I buy them through amazon.com's auto-ship program (yes, we go through that many). Lots of granola bars are candy bars in fancy wrappers. I feel good about this choice. The teachers are good at ensuring Charlie & Greta eat this last. Sometimes, the kids don't eat them, but if they are hungry there are extra calories to help them get through the day.
Our school doesn't have a cafeteria so every night, we pack a lunch & refrigerate it overnight. When the fridge is too full for the entire lunchbox, I group the lunch together & pack the bag in the morning. Growing up, our cafeteria had terrible food - though one of my friends said their school buys locally grown organic produce for the school lunch. I'm guessing that's not the norm. But, in my opinion, it should be.

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