Food For Thought: What Will Your Kids Eat For Lunch When They Go Back To School?

Food For Thought: What Will Your Kids Eat For Lunch When They Go Back To School? by Shauna Young in the September 2013 issue of CarbSmart Magazine.

What Will Your Kids Eat For Lunch When They Go Back To School

Summer is over and it’s time to get the kiddos back to school. In all the hustle-bustle of equipping them with new clothes, books, school supplies and backpacks, I want to emphasize one chore that often gets lost in the mix, and it’s the one I feel is most important.

What are kids going to eat for lunch?

Many families are trying to do the best they can for their kids, making nutritious, tasty, grain-free and carb-smart meals and snacks for them at home, but what about when they go off to school? The main emphasis of school lunches seems to be more cost than content, and you really can’t expect the school cafeteria to provide a lunch for your child that you would consider healthy. As I’ve learned, school lunch programs are put together by registered dietitians, and in today’s world, “nutritious” is defined as incorporating a lot of “healthy whole grains,” little to no saturated fats, and emphasizing calorie restriction instead of the quality of the calories. Blech! A recipe for disaster.

On a website suggesting ways to “improve the quality of school lunches” I found among their “improvements” things like pizza, french fries, breaded chicken nuggets and patties, chocolate milk, spaghetti and nachos. If that’s the “improved” list I’d hate to see how it looked before! Not a single one of those items would hit my “good” list.

Slice of Pizza

Here is the nutritional breakdown for one slice of pizza

  • Calories 332
  • Sodium 846 mg
  • Total Fat 13 g
  • Saturated 6 g
  • Polyunsaturated 0 g
  • Monounsaturated 0 g
  • Trans 0 g
  • Total Carbs 38 g
  • Dietary Fiber 2 g
  • Sugars 0 g
  • Protein 14 g
  • Cholesterol 30 mg
  • Potassium 0 mg
  • Vitamin A 0%
  • Calcium 0%
  • Vitamin C 0%
  • Iron 0%


Fortunately, packing a grain-free lunch is a lot easier that it used to be. When I began my grain-free odyssey there were only a handful of informational websites and
two or three cookbooks. Now there are thousands of helpful websites, magazines, newsletters, subscription services, blogs and cookbooks all dedicated to the grain-free
lifestyle. In a Google search I did today, I used the search term “grain free lunch ideas” and got 1,800,000 hits! Using “grain free lunch box” I got 1,850,000 hits. Think you can come up with something out of that? There are even several actual lunch boxes you can buy that facilitate packing a lunch that isn’t between two slices of bread. Talk about making it easy!

The task of keeping your kids healthy, active and focused is all about the food. In the course of our work, my colleagues and I, and many other like us, have discovered that the SAD* way we feed our kids is the basis of many of the attention deficit and Autism spectrum disorders that we see today.

Even if your child is not affected by one of these — lucky you — there is still just the basic “facts is facts” part of digestion to consider. Think for a moment about how Thanksgiving usually goes. You eat a massive meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes (good) with marshmallows (bad), green beans swimming in mushroom soup with canned onion crispies, cornbread stuffing (bread), hot rolls (more bread), with pie for dessert (more bread… and sugar…). And what do you do after dinner? Does everyone run out into the yard and toss a football around? Nope. You groan, loosen your belt, crash onto the nearest flat surface and try to stay conscious long enough to watch a football game. Just to prove how much denial people can be in, I’ve heard it said that this phenomenon is due to the amount of
tryptophan in turkey! Huh? It’s because your body can’t digest all those grains and sugar so it shuts down the rest of your systems to try! Tryptophan my eye.

Same thing applies to your kids’ school lunch. If they eat a few slices of pizza or a breaded chicken patty on a whole wheat bun, how do you think they’re going to feel for the rest of the day? Overly-full and sleepy! An easy rule of thumb: If you don’t get energy from your food – YOU JUST ATE THE WRONG THING! Food should be fuel, not

As Google and I have demonstrated, packing a nutritious lunch for your child isn’t the hard part. This is: How do you get them to eat the fantastic lunch in the brand new lunchbox you just gave them? How to you keep them from swapping lovingly-made meat wraps for a slice of gooey lunchroom pizza?

A conundrum if ever there was one. After thirteen years in practice, I have some strategies I’ve seen work.

Unfortunately, kids make fun of others for being different. So make your kids proud! This has worked wonderfully for many families I work with. I talk to the boys about all the top athletes that are eating grain-free, how strong they will be, how jealous other boys will be of their lean physique, and how special this makes them that are making choices for themselves about what they put in their body. To the girls I say that this will help them avoid the weight gain and/or acne problems that plague so many of their friends, and again, how special it makes them that they are taking control over their lives.

I also suggest that moms go on some of the grain free sites that feature color pictures along with the recipes and let the kids pick out some things that they’d like to have. If you go one more step, it works even better: Get them to help you make their school lunches. Making it yourself = pride. Pride = success.

Bottom line: Is packing lunch for your kids more convenient? No. Is it necessary? Yes.

* SAD: Standard American Diet. Sad indeed.

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