Childhood is a key time for developing good habits or potentially nasty habits that could last a lifetime. Michelle Obama alongside the US education system wanted to teach children how to grow into healthy adults. One way of doing this was by encouraging children to appreciate good food through healthy school lunch programs. Now, the new administration is pulling back on their healthy lunch program, leading to more sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats in American children’s diets.
Reasoning For Cutting Down on Regulations
Why relax the rules for healthy school lunches? Perdue, a former Georgian governor, explains that “if kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition – thus undermining the intent of the program.”[i] Other officials also argued that programs like those Michelle Obama designed, seem to waste tax payers money as they subsidize healthier foods that children simply weren’t eating.
However, the Trump administration plans to leave certain rules in place, such as mandating that students take fruits and vegetables in the lunch line.
The Regulations Haven’t Been That Bad
But, the last 5 years have seen that these healthy lunch regulations haven’t been a complete waste.
There is a huge argument that the healthy lunch lines became a metaphorical classroom; they got children thinking about eating healthier even if they weren’t always doing it. Having fruits and vegetables during every meal is vital and forcing it onto kid’s plates lets them see what a real meal looks like, that ultimately, a well-balanced meal should be the norm.
Schools have also seen students growing a preference for some of this food as it becomes part of their lives over the last 5 years while showing kids some healthy alternatives to white pasta and tortillas. This gives them the foundation to make their own decisions about food based not only on taste, but on nutritional content when those factors become important to them.
Lastly, the Obama regulations had salt limited from 1,230mg to 935mg. This sodium freeze is important, as more salt consumption may lead to higher blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, setting the foundation for unhealthy habits and dangerous health conditions in our children.[ii]
The removal of this lunch program is going to have parents who are concerned about their kid’s health scrambling for easy and healthy alternatives, making life difficult for those parents that don’t have the time or the resources to provide good lunches as many of the schools involved in these programs were from low-income neighborhoods.
How to Pack a Healthy Lunch Children Will Eat
With regulations potentially being scrapped in your child’s school, getting them the right food could be a bit of a challenge. So, here are 3 foods that taste good, are healthy to eat and can be prepped the night before in large quantities to save you some time.
This is a fun way to eat what would normally be in a sandwich. You can skewer anything you are comfortable serving them.
You can put rye or gluten-free bread at the ends with:
Salmon, Turkey or Ham (the real stuff, not processed)
Feta Cheese or Ghee
Any other fruits or vegetables your child likes
Greek Pasta Salad [iv]
A good way to hide the taste of whole wheat or veggie-based pasta is to cover it in flavourful herbs and vegetables.
This dish makes about two adult servings but won’t spoil for a couple days if you want to use it for more than one lunch to help you during your busy mornings.
Into a bowl, add:
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
with 2 small garlic cloves
Let these ingredients stand while you boil 8 ounces of whole wheat pasta (you can easily sub for zucchini noodles for a healthy, gluten-free option).
Toss the pasta in the olive oil and tomato combination. Then add:
½ cup of Feta (optional)
15 ounces of Chickpeas
1 medium cucumber chopped into ½ inch pieces
1/3 cup of Kalamata olives
2 tables spoons of fresh or dried oregano
This pasta is a good way to get a few different vegetables, good carbohydrates, and a lot of flavor.
Healthy Chicken Nuggets [v]
Most kids love chicken nuggets. They’re bite-sized and can easily be packed. Usually, they are breaded in white flour and covered in unhealthy oils and eggs but we’ve found a way around that for a healthy lunch.
1lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
¼ cup almond flour
¾ tsp salt (if desired)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper(optional)
⅛ tsp black pepper
Cut chicken into small chunks
Mix Almond flour with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.
Sprinkle flour and seasoning mixture over chicken
Drizzle avocado oil over chicken and add more mix to coat lightly.
Bake in preheated oven at 450 degrees for about 14 minutes for a conventional oven.
This recipe will make a delicious, practical meal.
Here are a few more ideas:
Packing your child’s lunch is a good way to know that they are getting good food. As a parent, start a dialogue about healthy foods and get to know which ones your child enjoys. The government lunch programs don’t have this luxury as they are trying to mass produce healthy foods for a general population. You are just making meals for your child, so tailor them to your ideals, and their desires.
[i] Mary Clare Jalonick A. Government relaxes nutrition standards for school lunches. PBS NewsHour. 2017. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/government-relaxes-nutrition-standards-school-lunches/. Accessed May 10, 2017.
[ii] Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium. The Nutrition Source. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/salt-and-sodium/sodium-health-risks-and-disease/. Accessed May 10, 2017.
[iii] Simple and Healthy School Lunch Ideas. Simple as That. 2013. Available at: http://simpleasthatblog.com/2013/08/simple-and-healthy-school-lunch-ideas.html. Accessed May 10, 2017.
[iv] Greek Pasta Salad Recipe. EatingWell. Available at: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/250517/greek-pasta-salad/. Accessed May 10, 2017.
[v] Easy Baked Chicken Nuggets – Allergy-Friendly!. Whole New Mom. Available at: https://wholenewmom.com/recipes/recipe-for-chicken-nuggets-easy-chicken-recipe/. Accessed May 10, 2017.