School lunches hold a significant part in student life. Not only do they symbolize status, but they also provide an avenue for camaraderie and typical student drama. It is an all too familiar sight to see friends congregating at cafeteria tables and talk about their lives, the latest trends, and gossip during lunch hour. And it is also there that we see student cliques most clearly. But while students worldwide munch at noon, what they eat hides a lot beyond the surface.
Remembering School Days
The first day in school was never an exciting thing to look forward to for some of us when we were younger. Back then, we would always prefer waking up early to watch our favorite cartoon shows on Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network.
We were giddier to witness how Patrick Starr and Spongebob would annoy Squidward for the next 3 hours. We were more excited to know what adventures could Courage be journeying to again this time or how can Jerry outsmart Tom. I remember looking forward to the next day for Power Puff Girl’s next episode and if it would finally show the face of Sara Bellum. All that and more, it has been the routine for most of us. If you are one of those who look forward to going to school, then I guess you are a terrific kid.
I can imagine how my parents would drag me out of bed – figuratively – just so they could get me ready for school, how they tempt me to buy me my favorite meal from a typical fast-food chain after class or scare me for the next 10 minutes that I will not grow – literally – if I will not learn how to read and write. Alright. Iconic ways to keep me from sleeping all day instead of taking a bath and getting ready for school. With that said, amongst all their efforts to motivate me to go to school, the only that gets me going was my lunchbox, as if it is going to make me pass my kindergarten level.
But, yes! My lunchbox. I saw that cute pink lunchbox in a magazine one day and asked my mother to get it for me because it is pretty and comes with a raincoat and umbrella of the same color and design. It motivated me for the next few days because I was ecstatic about using it for the first time. Food and snacks were not an issue as I was not picky when I was younger.
You know, kids and their junk food. I cared less about the food they prepared for me because I only cared about my lunchbox. And so, when I grew older and cared less about my lunchbox, school lunches were available by the time I reached 1st grade. And boy, a sense of independence dawned on me because it was no longer my parents who would give me options amongst my favorite food for lunch.
Will they serve milk and hot chocolate this day? Or tuna sandwiches, perhaps? Or could something else beat the all-time favorite mac and cheese? I reckon not, but the sense of independence the moment I went to school without the provisions of my parents or any guardians who would look after me started to sink at the moment I got a peek of the cafeteria. It was similar to life choices that I had to make to make my existence worth the while. And while adults are busy scrambling over the pile of paperwork and bills to pay, a kindergarten child would have trouble deciding which meal they should get.
I wager that children with a lack of support and guidance from their parents would be less likely to care about the right food intake from the wrong ones as long as it tastes delicious and engaging in the eyes, viola! Cheetos grabbing and Coke drinking would be the game. Picking out what food to eat first would be the hardest decision your child would ever make—torn between gummies or veggie salad. The worst combination ever!
Why Should School Lunches Be Scrutinized?
So parents have a lifetime commitment to making sure that the wellbeing of our children is well taken care of and, as much as possible, living the best life has to offer. Hence, one major issue that mothers would always find trouble in is ensuring that their children’s food intake will be at its finest and healthiest as malnutrition is a predicament that is yet to be resolved as children worldwide in different countries battle over this.
According to World Health Organization, about 45% of deaths among children under five years old suffer from this problem. As you can see, it is a severe issue like any other global issue that needs dire attention and resolution. With that said, mothers have been meticulous as possible, and I do not blame them for worrying if school lunches or Lunchables are good ideas for their children’s health. Compromising your children’s health would be a massacre for all parents out there as we would always want the best for them.
Hence, Lunchables may be convenient and less hassle to prepare, but it does not mean it does not have to undergo intense scrutiny. Similarly, we need to examine school lunches because ensuring their health is not compromised would be the number one concern. So before you send your kids off to school, here are the things you should know about school lunches.
Dark Truths About School Lunches
School Lunches might be too unhealthy
True enough, without the proper guidance from guardians, children might pick out randomly appetizing in the eyes food without deliberating if it is healthy or not. As we all know, children would always go for the tastier ones rather than, the healthier ones. Hence, school lunches might be unhealthy.
Do not be fooled with fruit refreshments because we cannot deny that these are processed products only added to the flavor it tries to imitate. Such as fruit juices that are not made out of fresh fruits but instead of ingredients full of sugar, saturated fats, and calories. Imagine having your kids eat and drink sugar every day! That would be horrifying.
It discourages children to eat healthy food
Because of the delighting packaging and promotional use of cartoon characters labeled on canned drinks or chips, children are more excited to purchase one than eat a vegetable dish. Unfortunately, the more they see it being sold in the cafeteria, the more they ignore healthy foods and even throw tantrums for not being able to eat their favorite Reese’s chocolates.
Prepared to look convenient but not healthy
Who does not enjoy convenience? School lunches and Lunchables provide convenience at their finest. It lessens a mother’s hassle of preparing school lunches for the children as supposedly Lunchables are available and contain the ‘nutrients’ a child needs to keep him motivated in school. Anyway, as much as it looks convenient, it does not suffice the nutritional needs. Instead, they contribute significantly to the obesity crisis.
School lunches are different all over the world
For those of you who think that school lunches worldwide are the same, well, you are incorrect. As much as I want a taste of Japanese bento boxes available in their cafeterias, they are not. Students are lucky when they have those school cafeterias that offer good stuff such as rice meals with healthy dishes on the side instead of chicken nuggets and pizzas. If I were to choose? French school lunch would be my first option.
According to AMI Education, “France offers its pupils slightly more decadent options, including brie, steak, and apple tart, to name a few, while adhering to strict nutritional regulations concerning portion sizes, nutritional composition, and cooking methods.” Moreover, they strictly enforce a policy wherein food of 15% fats would only be served for less than four days out of the 20 days. Hence, veggies and other healthy snacks likely dominate the whole section in the cafeteria.
Moreover, I admire Italy’s law regarding unhealthy food on school menus as they forbid the cafeteria from serving deep-fry chips and chicken. Thus, they focus more on serving rice, seafood, meat, and vegetable dishes with fruits.
Not nutritionally regulated
Hunger and malnutrition were severe and growing problems, so some state and local governments had begun using state and local tax dollars to provide in-school lunches for students. Despite the efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture in administering school programs that aim to maintain nutrition regulations, most schools still do not provide them. However, most school lunches ignore the idea and impose still of selling school lunches with fewer nutrients. Despite the labels of veggies and fruits, know that these are not fresh and just processed.
How to prepare better school lunches
Unhealthy foods are inevitable as it has been sold in the market constantly despite agencies’ efforts to produce healthy snacks. However, as parents, we can prevent our children from getting addicted to junk foods and resort to nutritious snacks. Here are some habits you can start practicing to help every student eat a healthy diet.
Tips on preparing better food for students
- Be a model. You can never impart something you do not practice. Hence, encourage your children by practicing it yourself.
- Teach them the importance of healthy foods and what it does to our body. Make them understand its significance.
- Ask your children what food they would like to have for lunch. Through this, you can monitor their wants.
- Provide an alternative healthy food. For instance, if they like chicken nuggets, create an alternative, ‘healthy chicken nuggets. Anything is available online.
- Always include fresh fruits and milk or yogurt in their meal.
- Make it a routine to put necessary healthy foods as young as they are. Through this, eventually, they will adapt and learn to love healthy foods at a young age.
- Including sodas or anything processed sweets in their school lunch.
- Fatty and salty processed food.
- Flavored minerals
- Dried fruit bars.
- Savoury biscuits
Lastly, make sure that your children’s lunchboxes are clean and can store food without spoilage within an hour, as this will help keep the food still fresh despite an hour of not putting it out. But, again, let us not compromise our children’s health.
As long as we can, provide the right amount of guidance that they need. Make them understand what is dangerous and what is not. Set an example as children at a very young age like to imitate their parents. Hence, take this opportunity to encourage them to eat healthy meals as much as possible.
We need to take care of our bodies and nature. Healthy living is essential, especially to go back to wholesome foods. Go switch to a plant-based diet. Or, if not, eat less meat and get them from local sources where you can verify the production cycle. Grass-fed is the best sustainable meat so far.
Most of what we see in supermarkets and other mainstream stores is processed. They are worse than ever because they are not nutritious and can even contribute to health issues in the long term, and they also come packaged in plastics. So start with changing school lunches – and slowly live more in tune with nature.