Let me start off by saying this post is not inspired by a trip to the grocery store. I wish it was for two reasons: I need groceries and the inspiration is actually children’s lunch boxes at school (NOT mine!). It is AMAZING the CRAP people put in their grocery cart to feed their children.
I am not, by any means, a health food nut or any of that stuff. I don’t follow fads, I do not buy certain things because they have an “organic” sticker slapped on them, I don’t feed my kids strictly foods made from whole, etc. L and T eat Kraft Dinner occasionally for lunch, a bowl of cold cereal for breakfast, pizza for dinner, or hamburgers as a meal on the go/at a barbeque. They’ve drank Kool Aid (they don’t like it much), have candy for treats, or potato chips for a quick snack.
What gets to me is when the junk that I give my kids as a treat shows up EVERY DAY in the lunch boxes of kids. Little Anne eats what her mom packs her, that’s what we have to tell the kids to do. It doesn’t matter if I want to send her down to the office to get an apple or hand her something out of my own pack of snacks (I don’t usually get a chance to sit down for a “real” lunch), she still has to eat what has been packed for her. Plus, sharing is a big no-no.
Maybe I’m sensitive to what kids eat because mine have such specific (and odd) needs. My kids have to eat something with some substance at regular, frequent intervals. Though not diabetic, the insulin levels of the members of my family are unusual. We actually produce too much insulin, making dietary control important. I like to think that I would feed my kids the way I do even if this wasn’t the case.
I know how important it is to watch the dollar signs at the grocery store, but if food has no nutritional value, that dollar saved makes the five spent worthless. I know that, unfortunately, not everyone realizes that they are buying crap but I can’t figure out WHY they don’t know. Every year without fail, in September, a copy of Canada’s Food Guide comes home with the kids. Included in the booklet is instructions on how to read nutritional information on labels and even general ideas as to what can be sent in for healthy lunches and snacks. Without fail there are the kids that show up with pure junk though, like little Anne.
I honestly don’t put any extra time or effort into what goes into L and T’s lunchboxes. They usually just take leftovers from the night before. Snacks that are kept in the cupboard are separated into school and not school snacks, the only difference between the two being whether or not they contain nuts. The boys have their pick of what they would like to take. Like I said, junk is for treats or occasional consumption, they are bought on rare occasions. If any junk is kept in the house, they either don’t have access or forget it’s there.
Top 5 things I hate to see every day in a lunch box:
Kool Aid or fruit drink:
Sure, one of the suggested things on that list we get in September is a fruit juice, but by that they meant JUICE. Kool Aid is sugar, food coloring and artificial flavour in water. Fruit drink is pretty much the same thing. If you can’t tell the difference, look for “juice” printed right on the label. Failing that, stick with water. The kids are better off with water than sugar water.
Fruit (Flavored) Snacks:
When fruit is suggested, this is not what was meant. I don’t expect everyone to run out and stock their refrigerator with fresh apples, pears, oranges, pineapple, etc, but fruit snacks are NOT the same thing. They cannot substitute for fruit on a regular basis. Some alternatives to fresh fruit are applesauce, fruit cups (packed in water, not syrup…even “light” syrup), dried fruit, fruit filled cereal bars, granola bars with fruit, or parfaits. Fruit snacks that are actually dried fruit are out there, but ones that kids eat can be hard to find (kids don’t usually like those Fruit to Go bars). I have found them in the (oddly enough) organics aisle though.
Calorie Wise snacks:
Just because they are 100 calories per pack, it does not mean they are healthy. Enough said.
Alphaghetti/Chef Boyardee/Kraft Dinner:
I know, I probably spelled the second one wrong, but I don’t buy it so I can’t remember how to spell it. Ever look at how much salt there is in these? I have. That’s why these things are only occasional foods in my house. Don’t get me started on the sugar and fat either…
I have to admit, whoever came up with these is a business genius. Targeting them to kids though? That’s low. At more than $15 per week, I have no idea why people put this kind of money into lunchboxes. Our school has a healthy options hot lunch program that costs approximately the same per week and everything is made fresh. Convenience is great, especially for working parents, but overprocessed, overpriced food is costing more than that saved 10 minutes every morning.
Please note, I’m not saying these things should be absolutely prohibited, just that they shouldn’t be included every day. I am totally okay with giving kids treats and rewards….occasionally.
One in four Canadian children are overweight. Most “little Anne’s” are in this group. This statistic is probably higher in the United States. We hear about rising obesity rates and the importance of a healthy lifestyle all the time. People know that this means watching what we and our children eat, but watching what you eat is more than looking at the face of the box.
To little Anne’s parents: Educate yourself as to what it means to watch what you eat. Learn how to read the labels, teach your kids how to read the labels. Know what you’re eating. Know what you are feeding your children.
Over the last thirty years, the statistics have been going the wrong way. Try keep your kids from following the trend. Make sure you KNOW what’s in your grocery cart.
No matter how dark the day, the sun is always shining somewhere!