Thursday, August 28, 2014

Party food in lunch boxes?

Okay, so if you shop the back-to-school section of major retailers, in addition to notebook paper, crayons, pencils and binders, you'll see jumbo boxes of small packets of chips, highly-processed fruit snacks, punch boxes/pouches, packages of cookies, and individually wrapped bakery-type stuff, like small cakes and treats.

Since when did a lunch box need to be filled with party food? And what kind of messages are we sending to our kids about what they eat? If a lunch box is packed with items like chips and punch, how do we expect our kids to want to eat healthier foods at home?


I know there are a lot of parents who pack very healthy foods for their kids' lunches. I'm just appalled by the message we get from major retailers and food manufacturers about what we "should" be packing in our children's lunch boxes.

It kind of reminds me of what the front of a box of super sugary breakfast cereal usually says, "part of a nutritious breakfast' -- yeah, if you add some fruit, an egg, a piece of whole grain toast and a glass of milk, any bowl of sugar can be part of a nutritious breakfast.

I just don't think we should allow retailers and food manufacturers tell us what to eat. We have opposing priorities. Their priority is to make a profit. Our priority is superior nutrition for ourselves and our families.

Just an observation and a rant.

20 comments:

  1. Luckily some schools are willing to buck the trend - my nephew's school rule is that their morning snack has to be fruit or vegetables.

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    1. Hi anexacting,
      Did you happen to watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution a few years ago? There was one child who had jelly beans packed for lunch, and that was about it, if I remember correctly.

      I think rules like what your nephew's school has put in place may be helpful in getting all kids to have nutritious foods through the school day. (Some parents just seem to be absent when it comes to the health and nutrition of their kids, and need a little guidance like what's acceptable and not for lunch and snacks.)

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  2. Years ago for the one year son attended a school, I packed his lunches. I always put one treat in it. Sometimes it was a homemade treat and sometimes it was a purchased goodie. Normally he used that goodie to share with another kid and amusingly enough they were usually happiest when I packed home baked goodies. (We used fruits and veggies as part of the actual meal.)

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    1. Just as we did, Shara, when my kids were in high school and attending a regular school. The treat item was usually a cookie or a muffin, sometimes some trail mix. My kids were fortunate, in that most of the kids at the school had a cafeteria lunch, so there was actually little comparison between students, as to what was in their lunches. I think that simplified lunch-making for us, no need to make something super spectacular.

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  3. Replies
    1. Live and learn, I know. I just couldn't believe how our local stores were promoting what to buy for back-to-school. Some treats are fine, but it was looking like the stores thought all parents would/should pack is chips, punch, cookies and fruit snacks.

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  4. Wonderful post! Retailers and food manufacturers also try to tell us what we should feed our kids when they are at home. So many television ads are geared toward quick foods for kids.

    We had a lot of snow and sub-zero temperatures this past winter. This resulted in many snow days for the schools.

    I remember my co-workers complaining that their kids being home from school so much was 'breaking them up'. Apparently, when kids are home from school it is required that we buy them expensive, convenient foods to eat. Any time school was closed for a few days, my co-workers were running to WalMart on their lunch hours to buy frozen waffles, Pop Tarts, frozen pizzas, pizza rolls, Hot Pockets, Easy Mac, chips, cookies, candy, soda, ice cream. My favorite was when one of my co-workers' sons called to declare that they were out of Easy Cheese. It was a crisis.

    I was shocked! My sons, 17 and 12, ate like we normally do when they had snow days. They made themselves oatmeal, toast and jam for breakfast or microwaved some frozen french toast or pancakes from the freezer. They made themselves a pb & j sandwich for lunch or warmed up leftovers from our supper the night before. They snacked on bananas, apples, oranges, popcorn and whatever baked treat I had on hand, usually oatmeal cookies or some type of quick muffins. There was no special shopping to be done.

    There is nothing wrong with treats, even store bought treats when they fit in with the budget and are consumed in moderation. Our family has many traditions of having certain 'junk food' treats, mainly around Holidays. It's so much fun! But it's a treat, and not an every day thing.

    Has the world gone crazy?

    Angie

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    1. Hi Angie,
      In reading your comment, I actually felt badly for your co-workers, who felt so much stress over what was available for their kids to fix at home! I mean, to stress out over whether or not the kids had Easy Mac or not just seemed like a totally unnecessary amount of added burden. But I think the best we can do, when others drop their complaints like that at our feet, is to simply tell them how we handle things, and maybe they'll make changes or ask more questions. At least the kids didn't insist on phoning out for pizza delivery!

      My kids would have eaten exactly as yours did, on regular homemade foods from our kitchen. I may have added an extra treat, like some cocoa, just to celebrate the snowy weather. Personally, I think it's been much better this way, for my kids. When I haven't been available to prepare food for them, they've learned how to cook for themselves, and this will go far when they're living on their own.

      It does seem like we're ( society in general) not teaching kids how to do some very basic things, like cleaning and cooking. Not every child will grow up to be able to afford to only eat convenience foods or hire out the cleaning.

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    2. That is so true about a lot of kids not knowing how to do basic things. Having boys, I'm trying really hard to teach them the basics.

      This Summer, I've been taking my 12 year old on my weekly grocery shopping trips and teaching him about a grocery budget, meal plans, sales, etc. One day he told me that he hated grocery shopping and he was sure his wife would handle it anyway. I laughed and told him perhaps he should learn anyway...just in case he doesn't get married right away and lives alone for awhile. He looked shocked at the idea.

      My comment really had him thinking and he started taking the weekly budgeting/meal planning/shopping sessions more seriously. By the time he went back to school last week, he was really understanding the concepts.

      One day we were at Kroger and they had a large package of bath tissue on sale for $4.99 and the regular price was $7.97. We had checked out and I was on my way to the car when I noticed the error. We went back to the service desk and they gave me the difference, plus tax back. On the way to the car, my son said "Mom, you got more than $3 dollars back...that's like another gallon of milk!" I'm glad all of my 'lessons' are starting to sink in a little. :)

      Angie

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    3. Good job with your son, Angie! He'll be well-prepared!

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  5. As you know, I fully agree with you and the above commenters. On the other side of things--I have seen numerous news articles with advice on how to pack a nutritious lunch, and from my perspective (which is admittedly skewed), they go overboard on the "nutritious lunch" aspect. Never a "treat" of any kind, and the lunches themselves would be more time-consuming and costly than I am willing to do. I wonder if it just seems hopeless to parents who are trying to get their kids out the door with a minimum of battles and so they succumb to the Doritos/Little Debbie/Lunchables lunch. If those people who offer "professional guidance" on lunch-making would encourage lean lunchmeat/cheese or PB&J on white whole wheat (for those kids unaccustomed to whole grains), fruit/veggie with dip, and a small treat, it might be an easier "sell". Truthfully, though, if kids don't see adults eating healthfully at home, how can we expect them to want to make healthful choices for their school lunches? The other thing is ... there is a LOT of misinformation out there about what constitutes healthy eating. I know parents who truly believe that juice pouches, juice snacks, store-bought granola bars, etc., fall into the "healthy" food category instead of the "treat" category. It's an overwhelming problem to think about, really. Where do you start to address this?

    In regards to back-to-school sales, the other thing I notice, as well as the junk food offerings, is that so many gadget-ey items clog the aisles. Cutesy coloring materials for younger kids, "must-have" locker items to make your locker seem like a home-away-from-home for older ones ... obviously intended to make you part with your money ...

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    1. Hi Kris,
      I do think that there is "pressure" on parents to match the highly-colored packaging of manufactured treat-foods in lunches, with huge efforts for homemade stuff. We want our kids to feel like they fit in, and their stuff is just as appealing, visually and by taste.

      I occasionally would make something with incredible wow-factor (by my standards), for a lunch, like using a flower cookie cutter for sandwiches, and brightly colored jello blox (knox blox), with sprinkles. But these were for special occasions, like a birthday or Valentine's Day. I could not have managed to do those things every day. And besides, by only doing "special" lunches on actual special occasions, it made my efforts stand out.

      Most of the time, it was pbj sandwiches, a piece of fruit or fruit sauce or carrot sticks, a cookie or a muffin and water/milk.

      I've been seeing ads on TV for all the locker adornments. So, if my kids had wanted a mini chandelier, carpeting, and wall-paper for their lockers at school, they would have had to spend their own money on those items.

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  6. Good points from the other posters. (and I have a DH who wants chips and treats in his work lunches ... fortunately, he eats veggies and home-prepared food, too.) I think parents are so time-pressed that they just take the path of least resistance for lunch and dinner these days.

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    1. DW, I think you're right on the time-constraint issues parents and families face. It's something that's out of balance with our culture in general. For myself, I like chips and other treats, but I still prefer to have them just once in a while. My body just feels better that way.

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  7. Our schools are offering free breakfast and free lunch to all students this year, which is something I am glad to see. My daughter, whether she brought her lunch from home or had a cafeteria lunch, had friend who didn't eat lunch because they had run out of credit and therefore were not allowed to eat. And they were hungry. It used to make me mad, so I am glad to see the changes this year.

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    1. Oh wow, Belinda. That's amazing! And I think times are such that it's necessary. There are kids that wouldn't eat breakfast or lunch, if it weren't for school programs like what your district is offering. And truly, it's in society's best interest that this is done. Kids who eat balanced meals every day do better in school, make better choices for their lives and wind up becoming productive citizens as adults.

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    2. Exactly, Lili! They do so much better when they are not hungry. It's been proven time and time again. :) Hope you all have a great Labor day weekend. :)

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  8. I was thinking about my above comment last night and it bothered me because I sounded judgemental. I wanted to apologize to everyone for that.

    It's funny, I remember reading Lili's 'Different Strokes' post the other day and being in 100% agreement with what she wrote. Maybe I should go read it again.

    Being very frugal minded and health conscious, it's hard for me to understand what I wrote about in my comment above. Still, I should not judge the decisions of my co-workers.

    I hope everyone has a blessed day!
    Angie

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    1. I didn't take it as judgmental. I think we all have felt frustrated at times by the choices of others, and I have been alarmed by foods I have observed being offered to children--I fully believe that treats have their place, but constant junk is a setup for health problems. As someone who has struggled to maintain a healthy weight, I believe strongly that the habits we establish for our children will make them more likely to choose a healthy lifestyle as adults. While I know that I won't have control over my children's adult choices, I can try to influence them now. I had a mom complain to me a few years ago that her 2 daughters (the youngest was in kindergarten at the time) didn't like any fruits or vegetables except for oranges. The food that they had free access to included chips and soda pop. She didn't know how to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables. I had a few judgmental thoughts of my own! Mostly, though, I am sad for these girls, who I suspect will always struggle with their weight and the health problems that come up with an unhealthy diet.

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    2. Kris,

      I'm glad my comment didn't come across that way. I was thinking in the case of my co-workers, that available time probably plays some part in the diets they feed their children. We know how hard it is to work and keep up with cooking and housework. I've just always felt that I should do my best to make our meals frugal, and for the most part healthy.

      I agree with your comment above. I have read a lot of online information about how to pack a nutritious lunch and most of the guidelines do seem to be more time consuming and costly for me. I guess my kids have been raised on mostly simple meals and snacks and are used to it, so we are all happy.

      Sometimes the constant stream of information about nutrition is exhausting. It seems like new studies are always being done, opinions are always changing about what is healthy and what isn't and it does get overwhelming. I can see why one would just feel like giving up.

      My Dad always told us 'everything in moderation' and I guess it stuck with me. Our meals are pretty healthy and we like little treats here and there.

      I know what you are saying about the weight issues too. Obesity in children is really on the rise. I have a 12 year old son who is 5'8" and weighs 140 pounds. He plays sports and at his physical this summer his doctor told him he was proud of him for staying fit, that he is seeing less and less of it these days. One of my cousin's has an 8 year old daughter who weighs 170 pounds. She has unlimited access to soda pop and snacks. I agree, it's sad.

      Angie

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