It is an established fact that children need a specific amount of nutrients and vitamins to grow up strong and healthy. These nutrients and vitamins normally come from the foods that we eat. However, there is an alarming trend that has plagued the US school system for decades. Children are being served nutrient and vitamin deficient foods. And sadly, it is not only the school systems that are nutritionally failing children. Parents are unwittingly contributing to the nutrition deficit that most children experience at lunchtime.
The No. 1 meal served to children in U.S. schools is chicken fingers and French fries. Both meat and potatoes are processed. Processed food is much cheaper to serve than fresh produce. If you think you are helping to combat your child’s nutrition deficiencies by packing their lunches, think again. Below are some lunchtime staples and alternatives that will make you think twice about what you put into your child’s favorite lunch box.
The traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, salt and hydrogenated oils. A much healthier PB&J should be made on whole wheat bread. Look for peanut butter that does not contain sugar and salt. Look for a jelly without high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors. Your children won’t know the difference.
Bologna and smoked turkey rule the lunchbox. Did you know that most commercially sold luncheon meats also contain nitrates, a preservative used in food processing that increases the risk of heart disease and cancer? Send your child off to school with shredded leftovers from last night’s dinner.
Can you believe it? A food that isn’t really food! American cheese cannot legally be labeled “cheese” because of the high amount of additives, which make up more than 51% of the total product. Instead of a pasteurized processed cheese food product, use real cheddar or Colby jack cheese. Soy, hemp and rice cheeses are vegan alternatives.
Most gummy Fruit snack chews are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors. Replace them with actual fresh fruits. They are just as sweet and way better for growing tummies. Besides, nothing says heaven like fresh peach juice dripping from your chin.
Granola bars have to be healthy right? I mean, granola is in the name! Sorry to tell you, unless you make it yourself, it is probably brimming with chemicals and sugars. Make your own granola with ingredients like almond butter, honey, and dried fruit and nuts. You and your child will have a blast baking up a tasty treat. Just no licking the bowl until everything is done!
Syrup belongs on pancakes, so why would anyone put fruit in it? That’s a question that bears answering. While we wait on an answer, give your child a fruit cup with water as the only liquid. Or again, give your child whole fruits. Which would you rather peel back, an orange rind or plastic film?
Cakes and Cookies are full of high-fructose corn syrup, fillers and artificial ingredients. They are high in calories and low in nutrition. Just forgo them for fresh or dried fruits and nuts. Simple is so much tastier.
Most commercial juices lack fiber and vitamins because they actually do not have any real juice. They are filled with artificial flavors and colors. It’s really easy to make fresh fruit smoothies at home. Just freeze them overnight and pack with your child’s lunch. By lunchtime, your child will have a delicious, nutritious smoothie that is guaranteed not to get traded.
Soda is tasty, and we all indulge every now and then. Having soda on a daily basis means a mouthful of sugar. And even diet soda contains chemical sweeteners that should be served in moderation. Serve milk, all-natural fruit juices or even water instead of soda at meals. Your child’s teeth will thank you.
Processed food is much cheaper to serve than fresh produce. There are plenty of alternatives when it comes to choosing healthy lunchtime items for your child. Like your child, the original fast foods—whole fruits like apples, peaches, pears and mandarin oranges—are sweet enough by themselves. There is no need to add artificial colors or preservatives to them. Be well.