Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Starving our children in the name of "eating right"

I face a similar scene every afternoon when we get home from school.  The teenager comes in and immediately heads for the pantry where she grabs two packages of ramen and goes into the kitchen to make it. 
Me - "Supper will be in an hour."
The Teenager - "I don't care, I'm hungry."
Me - "Didn't you eat lunch?"
The Teenager - "It was disgusting.  It was some kind of wrap and it was whole wheat so I picked the meat out and threw the rest away."
Me - [sigh]

The first time this happened, the Teenager wasn't complaining about the food being disgusting but the portions being incredibly tiny.  After doing a little research, I found out that the USDA had passed standards for this year for the school lunch program, limiting the amount of calories.  For the Teenager, it's 750-850 calories per day.  To meet this calorie limit, school cafeterias are having to serve smaller portions and have switched most bread products to whole wheat (which includes tortillas and pizza crusts, I'm told).  I'm not a wheat fan myself and I know a lot of teenagers aren't either.  You can get decent tasting whole wheat products but they aren't cheap and schools are on a budget so it's not likely to happen.  As for the portions, all you're allowed to go back for seconds but only for extra fruits and vegetables. 

This is going to force all the students to eat healthy, right?  If you said "yes," then you're fooling yourself.  I was a schoolgirl once.  I'm also a picky eater.  One summer my mother put me in KinderCare because she was working and she needed someone to watch me.  We went on all sorts of cool field trips.  But I hated their food.  If I didn't like what was on the plate, I didn't eat.  Period.  I went home hungry several times during my summer stay.  My meal was thrown away.  What a waste.

And wasting is exactly what kids are doing.  A school in Florida was actually considering putting cameras by the trash cans so they could document what the students were throwing away.

My husband noticed that after school, the local Sonic and Jack in the Box and McDonald's and Taco Bell are packed.  Why?  Because our starving students are going out to eat after school for something tasty.  And they're not picking healthy stuff.  NO.  They're going for fast food because it tastes good. 

You would think that packing your lunch would be a great option.  If you don't like what the school is serving, don't eat it.  I did that on days I didn't like what the hot lunch was.  However, I recently read that a four year old girl was forced to eat the school's lunch instead of the nice lunch that her mom packed her because it "wasn't healthy enough."  They sent the uneaten lunch home with a note and a bill for the cost of the school lunch.  The mother was outraged.  I would have been too.  I also read what the mother packed.  It sounded nutritious enough to me. 

What's the solution?  Well, like everything, it has to begin at home.  We feed our 2 and 3 year olds fruits and vegetables.  I don't feed them a lot of processed food.  Most of our food is prepared from scratch.  They are a little picky because they're so young but we try to get them to eat a large variety of foods.  My 3 year old's teacher says she eats her school lunch well on most days.  I notice other mothers are sending their kids to school with happy meals for lunch.  I don't do that.  Happy meals are an occasional treat.  I'm trying to teach them to eat healthier at home.  When they go to school they might eat a bit better than the other kids. 

So in conclusion, the way to get children to eat healthy is not by force.  You have to educate them.  It worked for smoking.  It can work for food.

Florida and trash cans
4 year old's bag lunch not good enough.


  1. Oh I hear you! It's the 'nanny state' as some call it. And, while bringing a lunch is a possible option, some schools don't allow even THAT anymore because kids might trade lunches and introduce each other to allergens. Ugh.

    1. You know what killed me, my dear Parsley (so nice to hear from you, by the way)? The 3 year old needed to bring snack. I can only bring store bought, sealed containers of food. How healthy is that?

      I know I went to a parochial school and all but my friends couldn't wait for my birthday treat because my mom would make homemade, completely from scratch, sugar cookies and they were delicious. Guess those days are over...

  2. I have a teen the same way. Can't stand the school lunch and much prefers whatever crap he can find at home. My solution has been to get rid of as much crap as possible at home and leave the option of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if you are THAT hungry. It is amazing how many times he is not THAT hungry. Many times there may be leftovers from dinner in the fridge, a small portion that he can have, still much better than ramen or a pot pie. My guys (2 teens and hubby) just don't get the idea of portion control. I tried making more portion controlled dinners and they flipped out at the "lack" of meat on their plates. Gah!!

    1. Being on a tight budget, we have eliminated most of the junk food in the house as we don't buy "snackies" anymore. The only thing we keep is ramen and only because The Teenager wants it. Sometimes she will let us make her a grilled cheese sandwich or toast or something. She's pretty skinny at the moment. If she starts gaining weight, we'll point out the ramen.

      Her biological mother ruined her sense of food because she was too lazy to make much so The Teenager got processed unhealthy stuff all the time when she was younger. I've been married to her dad for 4 years now and she likes a lot more food than she did when we first got married. My mother cooked from scratch and I try to as much as possible. It's easier since I'm home.

  3. I could not possibly agree more with you!! I am struggling with this myself with two teen boys. I'm paying for lunch at school that they don't eat then providing a separate lunch and dinner when they come home or they end up filling up on the "junk". I wish the government didn't go overboard in mandating these things.

    1. I think our founding fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they heard about all the regulations we have. It's just as ridiculous as Michelle Obama's war on king sized candy bars or the new 16oz soft drink law in NYC.

  4. Well, I guess I'm old-fashioned, but I don't get it. If the school lunches aren't liked by so many, why have the program? What happened to kids/moms packing lunches for the children to take to school?

    Please, no flames... I just don't see the problem, when, to me, there is a simple solution...

    1. I ask myself the same thing, Wilma. I'm only using it because we qualify for free lunches at the moment but once one of us is gainfully employed again, it's sack lunches all the way.

      We did give The Teenager the choice of taking her own lunches---and she declined.

    2. I didn't realize the lunches were free for you...that does shed a different light on it. Perhaps they need a delegation of teens to sit down and discuss these issues? It is a fine line, nutrition versus what will they eat! Good luck!

      ps...I'm one of the seniors...none of the schools we went to, or our kids went to, ever had lunch programs. Way back in 'the olden days', ya know?

    3. Well, they're free for us because we're on public assistance (lay off). Otherwise, you have to pay which is why when I don't get them for free, we won't be using it. I'm not paying for my teenager to waste food. Her brother gave her some money for the a la carte line which is slightly better but the calzones were whole wheat too.


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