Childhood nutrition is a really big deal. Study after study demonstrates that kids who eat well are healthier, do better in school and grow up to lead happier, more productive lives.
Despite this commonly-accepted wisdom and old-fashioned common sense, childhood obesity is rampant, our kids are eating garbage and the problem just keeps getting worse. It's not that we don't know better; we do. Parents, educators, pediatricians all tout the benefits of a nutritious diet. But finding healthy options that our kids will enjoy is still a challenge. Let's face it, the current choices for school lunch all stink:
Sure, they're getting better. Concerned parents, school officials, state legislatures and healthcare professionals have pressured many districts to ban sodas and candy vending machines. We applaud these efforts, but who are we kidding? These people think ketchup is a vegetable! A typical elementary school cafeteria meal features irradiated meat, pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables, artificial coloring and more preservatives than King Tut.
Oscar Mayer Lunchables. Armour Lunchmakers. Funny Bagels. They're easy. They come in cool packages. They have movie and cartoon character tie-ins. But have you looked at the ingredients in these things? We've got five words for you: Mechanically Separated Pork and Turkey. Unfortunately, it means exactly what you think it does. Whole pigs and turkeys are dumped into a big machine that attempts to separate edible meat from bones, cartilage and assorted body parts you don't want to know about, let alone feed to your kids. "Parts" are okay, you say? What about excessive fat, calories, and sodium with a side of hydrogenated fats, potassium sorbate, and high fructose corn syrup?
We know you can make great lunches. In a June Cleaver / Martha Stewart world your children would go to school every day with a nutritious meal packed with all their favorites, prepared fresh that morning using ingredients hand-selected from the local farmers market and your backyard garden. Yeah, right. Like you've got the time. But don't feel guilty or believe that you're the only parent looking for shortcuts - studies show that most lunches sent from school end up in the trash.