I take school lunches pretty seriously. It is my kids’ second biggest meal of the day and they go to school five days in a row. Four years ago my youngest daughter entered Grade 1 and with three kids now in school full time I made a vow that our family would pack healthy school lunches five days a week.
It was also the time the “litterless lunch” movement started taking shape and I immediately stopped buying the packaged granola bars, boxed cookies and grocery store muffins. No juice boxes, no pudding, definitely no pop. No cartoon characters on squishy things apparently ‘made with real fruit’, no tubes of sugary coloured dairy and no convenient all in one boxed ‘meals’.
I started a school morning routine with the youngest child emptying the plastic from the dishwasher and filling all water bottles while the older girls filled yogurt containers, milk containers and packed homemade snacks from the freezer. Last year I retired from making school lunches all together, the girls were in Gr 6, 5 and 3 and my oldest took over cutting fruit and making sandwiches. THEY alone make their three healthy school lunches five mornings a week.
We talk about healthy sandwich options, I buy everyone’s favorite fruits and I make sure the freezer always has at least two different healthy baked snacks for them to choose from. Apple Cheddar Bars, Spinach Brownies, Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins and their favourite Oatmeal Banana Bread are just a few. They are happy as they love the snacks and have learned that healthy food tastes good, and I am happy as they are eating a well balanced lunch every day that includes whole grains, real fruit, calcium and protein.
I talk to my kids about why we pack healthy lunches, what makes up a healthy lunch and how important it is for their bodies, their learning at school and their energy level at after school activities to eat a healthy lunch everyday.
Imagine my surprise when my daughter came home from school last year and told me that the other kids made fun of her for NOT HAVING PACKAGES IN HER LUNCH!
What? No paw shaped muffin cookie thing makes you uncool? No artificially flavoured fruit punch makes you a target for ridicule? No processed boxable lunch makes you the joke of the class? Once I recovered from my disbelief I realized how far we have sunk into this convenient, packaged, processed reality and our kids are growing up in a generation where eating real food is not the norm!
Do Tweens now think real food – food that has no packaging or a year long shelf life – is the ultimate UNCOOL lunch?
Do Tweens think processed, packaged, sugary, artificially flavoured and coloured food is better than real food?
I remember being a tween myself. I remember stopping at the variety store on the way to school and eating a bag of 25 cent candy before the first bell (don’t tell my mom!). I remember my parents not being able to afford the real fruits and vegetables all the time and eating white bread with some white relishy type spread as filling, but I don’t remember thinking a lunch full of packages was better than real food.
I asked my daughter how she responded to her friends making fun of her homemade banana bread and sliced fruit and she told them she likes eating a healthy lunch; it tastes good and it is way better for her than a lunch full of packaged, processed food.
I am hoping some of our conversations have an impact on my daughters and they are proud to eat healthy meals but I know they are normal kids. Who doesn’t love a giant icing covered chocolate donut or filling their face with jelly beans? We definitely indulge in ice cream, chocolate and frozen slushies around here, but my strategy of teaching my girls at a young age how important healthy food is will hopefully set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.
I am hoping they are cool with being the uncool kids at school who bring real fruit they have to peel or cut themselves and muffins from the oven instead of the grocery store.
Anyone want to help us start a new trend at school? School lunches that fill recycle bins and trash bags are failing our kids and its time to make healthy lunch the cool kid at school!
About Deb Lowther
Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 young daughters who, when not running after the kids, is running in the trails. She contributes Family Health articles to many websites and magazines and ensures her own family has fun while eating healthy and staying active. Find more inspiring tips from Deb on IronKidsNutrition.ca and MyBoomerNutrition.com and follow her on both Twitter and Pinterest @Deb_Lowther .