Sep 30, 2011

School lunch

A lot of resources on the web talk about healthy school lunches. And it is always presented as a huge problem. How to make one's child eat healthy? How to "trick" them into healthy food? For example, this post about healthy lunches at Fooducate shows a picture with banana bread, crackers, broccoli, and blueberries and asks "Would your child eat it?". Why not? But the author suggests that the child would barely touch broccoli and blueberries. What's wrong with fresh broccoli and blueberries? They are crunchy and sweet. In other words, when fresh, they are delicious. But this post along with many others assumes that veggies and fruits are healthy, but they are not tasty. That's why we need to trick our children and force them to eat these foods.

Some tips from the Fooducate post made sense. Such as skip the chips and limit lunch to 3-4 items. Perhaps, some people need reminders that chips are not food, therefore it's not a good lunch option. But other tips are more problematic. For example, offer very small servings of fruit and veggies. Supposedly, it'll expose the child to them. Well, if your child wasn't exposed to fruits and vegetables by the time he/she goes to school, it's probably too late. You should think about more serious strategies at home, rather than working through lunch. Another trick is to never pack the same lunch two days in a row. Again, to increase exposure and get them used to trying new food. Sounds good, but shouldn't trying new food be part of the family lifestyle rather than a source of possible frustration at school? Having surprises at school, when you have only 20-30 min to finish your lunch and go back to classes, may only increase resistance to new food. Besides, a variety every day may be beyond most people's budget and time resources.

A couple of general guidelines could make one's lunch-packing and food concerns easier:

  • Don't think about vegetables and fruits as evil tasteless-but-healthy-so-what-are-you-gonna-do necessities. Try them fresh and ripe, rather than boiled and green - you'll like them. And your child will like them as well.
  • Think about what you as a family eat rather than about what your child eats. If you don't eat healthy food at home, it won't matter what you put into your child's lunch box. They'll figure you're trying to trick them. They probably already figured it, that's why they barely touch blueberries.
  • Don't worry about food too much. Following simple rules (more home cooking and simple ingredients and less highly processed food that doesn't look like food) should be enough. And it'll give you time to do something meaningful, important and creative.

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