When my daughter started full-day kindergarten last year, my husband and I decided we’d pack her school lunch everyday.
I knew that no matter how healthy the school lunch menu claimed to be, there’s no way she’d eat lentils and salad like she did at home. I also knew it wasn’t likely the lunches were made from scratch but instead came out of some sort of a package.
With the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, many schools have overhauled their menus to include more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy so I was surprised to hear from other moms that the school lunch wasn’t much better than it had been years ago.
And when I read the school menu, I was shocked.
The choices included things like:
- Chicken fingers
- Deli meats
- Tater tots
- Cheese-filled breadsticks
- Hot dogs
- Crispy chicken patties
- Meatball parmesan subs
- Macaroni and cheese with a dinner roll.
Sure, they offer vegetables and fruit but the main meal options they offered are not something I wanted her to eat.
Now that President Trump has loosened up the school lunch rules former first lady Michelle Obama spearheaded, school lunches may get even worse.
Not to mention that studies show kids who regularly eat school lunch are 29 percent more likely to be obese than kids who bring lunch from home.
4 Reasons Why School Lunch Isn’t Healthy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of kids consume too much sodium and 1 in 6 kids has high blood pressure.
Deli meats, chicken fingers, hot dogs and French fries are all loaded with sodium and shouldn’t be a school lunch staple.
2. Refined carbohydrates
White bread, pasta, rice and processed foods are made with refined carbohydrates that are low in fiber or missing it altogether, lack nutrients and spike your kids’ blood sugar. Eating refines carbs is also linked to an increased risk for obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
3. Unhealthy fats
Despite what experts have preached for years about the dangers of eating fat, research shows kids actually need fat, but they need “good” fats, not saturated fats that raise cholesterol and are found in many school lunches. If your kid continues to eat saturated fats at school and at home, over time he’ll have a higher risk for obesity, heart disease and stroke.
Kids need healthy fats like those found in salmon, avocado, and nuts. The likelihood you’ll find these on the menu? Fat chance.
4. Sneaky sugar
Schools might not be serving up cookies and cake, but sugar is sneaky. For example, one choice on my daughter’s school lunch menu is “whole grain blueberry glazed pancakes.”
One can assume the word glazed means the blueberries aren’t fresh but in some sort of sugary syrup. Other sneaky sources of sugar include yogurt, juice and baked beans.
I won’t lie: last year my daughter was allowed to order pizza a handful of times whether it was because I needed to go grocery shopping or we wanted her to experience getting school lunch. The reason she had pizza was because I was concerned about her food allergies. My hope was that she would come home and say she hated it but that wasn’t the case.
This year, we’ll continue to pack lunch from home and she’ll be allowed to buy lunch—but only occasionally.