School Lunches: The Good, the Bad and the Lunch Lady!

Picture this… you have school-age kids, you work a lot, then there are ALL the social activities and events you must attend, and you hear “Mom/Dad, I am hungry. What is for lunch?” >>INSERT the feeling of Dread here!<<

Packing lunches every night, shopping for food they may or may not eat this week, and making sure it is a balanced meal is overwhelming just to read about!!

That being said, you’re not sure if the lunches they get a school are healthy and chances are you’ve seen a movie or two where the lunch lady looks like she’s not the most pleasant person in the room! I’d first like to dispel the myth that all lunch ladies are angry. Your child will not be served a slop of “oatmeal” on a tray and told it is chicken from someone that looks mad at the world and shouldn’t be working with kids!

Those serving our children lunches are there to help, but only have what they have. It’s best for you to be informed of the good and bad regarding school lunches.

If you purchase lunches from the school, whether for cost, time, convenience, or for any reason, here are some things you should know about what your child is putting in their mouth.

  1. Junk is junk!  It doesn’t matter if they are getting pizza, cookies and chocolate milk made at the school, brought in from some place or you’re packing it for them.  This is not a very healthy lunch! All processed foods are high in sugar and high in refined carbs, while low in veggies, fruit and quality protein and fats. Your child’s (just like us adults!) insulin will spike after foods high in sugar. Our body stores the fat as it goes on a sugar rush…followed by a sugar crash. This rush and crash negatively impacts your child, as they are unable to sit in class and be attentive.
  2. Not eating is not good!  (And should never be an option!) If your child is getting a school lunch, but does not like what is being served, they will most likely not eat.  Not eating leads to many issues such as a drop in blood sugar, being hungry and overeating foods that are not as well balanced, and them being unable to focus because they are hungry. It is important to review the menu ahead of time and pack a lunch for days they are less likely to eat what is provided t school.
  3. Serving Sizes are the same for everyone! Unfortunately, what may be enough food for one child, may be too much for another or not enough for even another.  Make sure you discuss what a portion is with your child and make sure he/she is consuming an adequate amount without overdoing it.  A good rule of thumb would be for them to have a serving of protein (size of their palm) examples: chicken, fish, turkey, cottage cheese, lean red meat, a serving of complex carbs (size of their fist) examples:  rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, at least 1-2 servings of veggies (size of your fist), fats 1-2 (size of the top of their thumb).

I know lunches and getting children to eat and eat right is stressful. I hope this helps you be mindful of what you’re children are eating at lunch. Also, it is a great idea to have a conversation and help educate them on healthy food habits at home and at school. Again, school lunches and lunch ladies are not all bad! If you decide to pack a lunch (which is what we as a family do), I suggest you allow your child to help pack his/her lunch and decide what should go in it.  This is a great way to teach them portion control, healthy choices and you don’t have to do it all yourself.

About the Author

Scott Keppel is the owner of Scott’s Training Systems, a world-class coaching facility in Chandler, Arizona. He is a nationally certified trainer through NASM and ISSA. His mission is to empower women of all ages and fitness levels. For more information head to scottstrainingsystems.com or check him out on Instagram at @stsnation.

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