And that means, for those of us with kids, back to school lunches. Is anyone ever really ready for it?
I've seen this same photo circulating on Facebook for years now. It's a great idea, and has generated a lot of excitement on getting your kids ready to accept some empowerment and having them to choose their own lunches.
The biggest issue I have with this particular example is the vast quantity of heavily processed, nearly nutritionally void foods. Many of them are high in sugar, fat, and.or sodium. The only items I see basically unprocessed are the cheese strings and the cucumber.
I totally understand the frustration with building a lunch for your kids. The schools my children attend have so many restrictions on what can be brought in their lunch- and when you add a picky child to the mix, as we have lived through with both, options become extremely limited. Take heart, though. My first defined picky, but he's a great eater now. I have high hopes for the second.
That being said, there are things we can do as parents and caregivers to provide healthy, balanced lunches for our kids. We can give them the choices needed to build their own lunches, still. It just requires a little bit more planning and preparation on our part. I promise, a balanced diet will do wonders for your kids and their health, both now and into the future.
Because my boys are finally going back to school tomorrow, this blog post will be spread out over the week as a school lunch series. Please comment, suggest, and share! I would love to see school lunches transformed into something more than just stuff to fill an empty belly- make them the backbone of healthy bones, growing minds, and active bodies!
Today, we focus on Milk and Alternates.
First, why worry about it?
As a child I used to hate the "because I said so" answers. As an adult, I still do. So I'm not going to throw out a whole bunch of things you should do with no reason behind it.
Calcium is a mineral that is found in your bones and teeth. To simplify, the amount you get into your body as a child will directly impact your health as an adult. If you are deficient in your younger years, there will be bone density problems as adults. Calcium also impacts the health of your teeth and plays a role in disease prevention. We have such a short time, as parents, to make sure we are doing what we can to make our kids as healthy as possible not only now but long after they've grown. I think it's marvelous that we can take the reins and do this for our kids. For further information, check out this article!
The Canada Food Guide determination for servings of Milk and Alternates is age dependent. From 2-8 years old, both boys and girls need 2 servings of milk/dairy/alternates per day. From 9-18, that jumps to 3-4 servings per day for both sexes.
What constitutes a serving?
So what does this look like in a typical school lunch?
At our school, students get about 20 minutes to wash their hands, eat their lunches, use the bathroom if needed, and clean up after themselves. As you can possibly imagine, this is not an easy task for some kids who would prioritize social time and play over eating. I advocate easy-to-open and easy-to-eat lunches, so that we can hopefully get some nutrition into our kids for the afternoon session of classes.
And here's how easy it is...just pick one. This is the dairy I had on hand today, but there are many more options you can use.
If you don't want the added sugar, skip the flavoured yogurt and eat unflavoured. Our school has a milk program you can opt into. Assuming that most kids won't guzzle a whole 1 c. of milk plus eat lunch in their 20 minutes, if you opt into a program like that I wouldn't worry too much about sending additional dairy, unless you want to. They'll probably drink half of their milk in that time.
If it is easier to think about, for the younger kids, 2 servings of dairy a day can be broken up into 4 half-sized servings.
For example, the Activia is not a full serving- just over a half serving. And the cheese string is just under a half serving. So combine those in your day, and that is one serving of dairy. That's a half serving of milk, and just over a half serving of feta cheese (not that my kids will eat it!). If you make sure they are drinking milk or eating yogurt with their breakfast, having some for lunch, some after school, and some at dinner or at bedtime, they're likely going to hit all their nutritional needs for the day.
Bigger kids, well, are bigger- my experience this summer with my first son is that he's always hungry. Getting him to eat an extra serving or 2 of dairy is not a problem.
Hopefully these ideas will help you figure out what's for lunch this week. Over the course of the next week we will be examining all the food groups, and then a series of put-together lunches will follow after that.
Enjoy the rest of your day, friends!