Parenting Blog

Raising Healthy Kids Starts With School Lunches

I’m overweight.

According to the Wii Fit, I’m obese actually, and although I’ve spent the better part of 2010 trying to reverse it, I’ve been this way much of my life. Why? A general lack of exercise, donuts, bad eating habits, fast food (up until 2003), soda (up until the end of 2009), donuts, the inability to leave food on the plate, the lack of vegetables and fruit in my diet, and donuts.

A lot changed when I became a father.  Fast food was gone.  I haven’t touched the shit since before the Bear was born in early-2004, and I began to eat veggies and some fruit when the Bear was old enough to start sharing in homemade meals at the table with the Mrs. and I.

This is step 1:  feed your young eaters all the best stuff on earth – the green stuff, the healthy stuff, the stuff without additives, preservatives, without sugar-added; I’m talking broccoli, zucchini, spinach, red beets, plums, apricots, and so on.  They haven’t tasted chocolate frosted donuts yet (hopefully), so they’ll likely like all the good-for-you stuff.  And, here’s the kicker, you start to eat it with ’em.  You have to, it’s only fair.  I did.  Save for corn, I would never touch a veggie.  Asparagus? Hah, forget it.  Summer squash?  Nope.  Now, I love both and a whole lot more, and the Bear and Mouse still love it all as well.  Yeah, they both enjoy M&M’s too, and ice cream, and french pastries, and are allowed to have that sweet stuff too, because depriving your kids of the sweetest stuff on Earth will only backfire in time.  If their sweet tooth is offset by a genuine love of veggies and fruit – they’re set.

Step 2: When your kids start going to daycare and then to school, pack their lunches.  Don’t be a lazy-ass.  Turn off the freakin’ TV and make your kids lunch before going to bed (make your own too).  Roll up a turkey and cheese wrap, give them roasted red pepper hummus with triangles of soft pita, slap a PB&J together (not the frozen ones, that’s despicable and quite possibly the #1 sign that you’re the laziest person on earth.  I mean c’mon! that particular sandwich is the easiest to make in the world – it takes longer to thaw a frozen one than it does to make a fresh one).  And don’t even think about Lunchables or anything else loaded with sodium and reeking of indolence.

Seriously, buy a block of cheese, a sleeve of crackers (I recommend Breton Minis, my gang LOVES those) and put it together yourself.  Buy a Thermos and give them warm leftovers from the dinner you made the night before (yeah, you should be doing some cooking at home too and letting your kids participate in the process of food preparation, or at least watch you, so they grow up understanding that food doesn’t originate in a box or a bag; but that’s a topic for another day).

Packing a tasty & healthy lunch for school is easy and will end up being cheaper (and creating less waste) than single serving packages of processed food which do your kid, your wallet and the Earth absolutely no favors.

Skip Starbucks for a day or two and spend a few bucks on a reusable sandwich container that comes with a flat freezer pack.  With one of those and a Thermos, you have virtually no restrictions on the food you provide your child for lunch at school.

Oh, and I don’t want to hear that you’re too busy.  25 million people spend an hour every week watching a televised karaoke contest, and millions more sit on their fannies during programs like Big Brother and Wipeout.  I’m fairly certain then that no one is too busy to spend 5-10 minutes putting lunches together for your kids.  No one.  I used to have people come to my cubicle when I worked in an office complaining about how busy they were.  My response, time and time again, was this: “you can’t be that busy if you have the time to stand here and tell me how busy you are”.  Stop making excuses and get to work.

Really, what it all comes down to is caring.  If you care about what your child consumes, and set your priorities accordingly, they will be healthier or at least have the chance to be healthier and that’s all we can really give our children – better odds to be healthy, interesting, kind and happy people.

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