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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Beverages for you and your kids?

Recently, a friend posted on Facebook that she was cutting back on her soft drink intake because it was affecting her teeth.  The acid was causing her teeth to hurt. That is just one of many reasons to avoid soda, pop, coke or whatever you call it on your neck of the woods, both regular or diet.  Some of the other reasons include: no nutritional value to sodas, sugary ones encourage diabetes and weight gain, weakened bones, kidney damage, and concerns about artificial sweeteners, HFCS, and artificial colors.

Soft drinks mostly consist of filtered water, refined sugar, and artificial colors/flavors.   Yet the average American drinks about 57 gallons of soft drinks each year.

We mostly gave up soda over a year ago.  My husband does still have one at work every so often and I have about one a month at a party or event, but we don’t drink them at home anymore.  We both used to drink lots of diet coke and the like.  No, really a LOT, more than the 57 gallons a year stat given above.

Luckily, we never let our kids have soda even before we stopped drinking them.  The girls’ drink choices have always been just non-flavored milk, water, or 100% juice.   They always get milk for at least two meals each day and then either water or juice for the other meal and snack.  And we do limit the juice to at most once a day and in the 4 oz. serving size preferably.  One of their treats is carrot juice from Bolthouse Farms.  For more on why, read this article “Fruit Juice Intake Predicts Increased Adiposity Gain in Children From Low-Income Families” or watch this “Sugar: The Bitter Truth“.

Currently, my husband and I drink unsweetened brewed iced tea, coffee, and water.  Occasionally, I will have a glass of milk or juice perhaps once a week or so for each.  We only drink coffee at breakfast, so the rest of the day is either iced tea or water.  I usually make the tea at home using half green tea and half black tea and then just bring it with me wherever I go.

The “100 Days of Real Food” blog recently had one of the 1-week mini-pledges related to beverages here.  “Beverages will be limited to coffee, tea, water, and milk (only naturally sweetened with a little honey or 100% pure maple syrup). One cup of juice will be allowed throughout the week, and wine (preferably red) will be allowed in moderation (an average of one drink per day).

What beverages do you drink and in what quantities?  Why?  What do you give your kids?  Do you think those are healthy choices for them and for yourself?

Dinner mostly from the Farmer’s Market…

Farmer Market Dinner

Smokey Roast, Italian-Style Sautéed Greens, 5-Spice Honey-glazed Carrots, Asparagus, New Potatoes with Chives

I stopped by the local Norman Farmer’s Market this morning and got lots of yummy stuff…aspargus, kale, red and orange carrots, new potatoes, pastured eggs, lettuce, grape tomatoes, fresh herbs.  Quite a delicious haul and most of our dinner was from there.

I had already made the “Smokey Roast” from Everyday Paleo the day before in my crockpot.  But here in Oklahoma we had tornadoes Tuesday evening, so we spent the evening in a shelter not eating roast; the roast had to wait until Wednesday.  I used the recipe as-is except that I didn’t have any ground chipotle, so I used 1 tsp of smoked paprika and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper instead.  Also, note that the coffee grounds are unused ones, in other words, not leftovers from this morning.  🙂

It was very good and all four girls and Mike gave it a thumbs up.  Mike added some salsa to his, but I ate it without and thought it was very flavorful.  I really doesn’t taste at all like coffee despite the 2 tablespoons of grounds in the spice rub.  You also don’t taste the cocoa in it explicitly. Everything just blends together to make a smokey taste, thus the name.

I believe that the recipe, besides being paleo would also be gluten-free.  The sauce it makes is not really a gravy (since no flour or other thickener is used) but more like a rich condensed broth.

The “Italian-Style Sautéed Greens” recipe was from the Clean Eating Magazine website and used both chard and kale.  I tasted it at the stove and thought it was a little bland and to chard-y and kale-y.  So, I added about 1-2 tsp of balsamic vinegar.  It helped and the raisins did give you a tiny bit of sweet but this recipe is not a winner unless you really just like the taste of chard.  My family doesn’t.  So, still looking for a recipe for chard that tastes good, meaning it doesn’t taste like chard.  Ha-ha.

5-Spice Honey-glazed carrots

5-Spice Honey-glazed carrots

The 5-Spice Honey-glazed carrots were my own creation.  I had gotten 2 bunches of tiny carrots, one orange and one purple.  I cleaned them and sliced them into coins, giving me about 2 cups.  Then I sautéed them in about 1 tablespoon of butter until almost cooked.  Added 1 tsp of Chinese 5-spice powder and about 2 tsp of honey.  Then, cooked them the rest of the way.

Two of the kids and I loved them.  Mike and one kid thought they were OK, not great.  Sarah did not like them. Because the 5-spice powder does have some liquorice tones, if you don’t like liquorice you might not like them either.  I will probably make them again because I liked them and I am the one that cooks.

The asparagus was great, but not because of any great recipe.  It was just steamed and then topped with butter, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper.  But, it was so fresh and intense because it was local.  So much better than the grocery store asparagus we have been eating.  The potatoes were just boiled and then tossed with some butter, salt, pepper, and snipped chives.

Dessert was some mint coconut milk ice cream made in similar fashion to the chocolate one I made last week.  I just steeped some mint leaves from out garden in coconut milk and then added a bit of honey for sweetness.  Yummy, but could have used more mint, I didn’t want to overdo it and instead I underdid it.

So, if you want some delicious fruits, veggies, and herbs, check out your local farmer’s market.  If you don’t know where one is close to you, look here.

Mint Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Mint Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Childhood Obesity

Childhood Obesity

Who watched “One Nation Overweight” on CNBC this week?  I think I had seen parts of it last year…some was familiar and some was not.  You can watch it on hulu here or on CNBC here.

There were lots of remarkable parts…did you notice the number of overweight or obese doctors, nurses, and orderlies in the section about bariatric surgery?  That shows what it means that 2/3 of American adults are either overweight or obese. Even the people who work in healthcare have the same struggles.  But, as a parent the most unsettling piece was on childhood obesity here.

On Saturday, we went to the Oklahoma City Zoo with the girls.  I guess I am just becoming more observant, but I really noticed the numbers of overweight and obese children that were there.  For some reason, the numbers seemed to be higher than what I see around my girls’ elementary school.

We all have heard that the rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. has been increasing over the years.  Federal government data  shows:

  • Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. Another significant chunk is “just overweight”.
  • Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.
  • There are significant racial, ethnic and socio-economic disparities in obesity prevalence among U.S. children and adolescents.

For example, back when I was a “kid” in the late 1970’s the rate of obesity among 6-11 year old was 6.5%. In 2007-2008, the rate in this same age group was 19.6% according to the data here.

childhood obesity graph

While I was an overweight teen and am an obese adult, I was not either as a child.  In Oklahoma, a state where over 30% of adults are obese and thus I “fit right in”, I wonder how many of them were a “healthy weight” as children…probably most.  The fact that so many American kids are now starting out overweight or obese really scares me about what their health futures will be.  It is predicted that this generation of children is the first that will have a shorter lifespan than their parents and a lot of that is attributable to weight-related health problems.

For more on the data, there is a new CDC report “Children’s Food Environment State
Indicator Report, 2011” available here  and there is also some interesting information here.

So, why do we care as parents and as a society?  Well, as parents, I would hope that we would all care about the health and happiness of our kids.  I think that almost all parents care, they just don’t realize how inundated they and their kids are by food marketing and how surrounded they are by a poor food environment from which to make choices.  As a society, we will be paying for the medical costs of this trend for years to come.  So, even if you and your kids are a healthy weight, you need to care
about their friends and classmates, especially if they are reliant on the government through various social programs to provide them with much of their food.

So, what are the problems that childhood obesity can cause?  Some of them are the same as adult obesity, mainly health issues, etc.  But, some are more critical to kids and teens.  Bullying is a big threat when you are overweight or obese.  I recently witnessed some elementary-age boys taunting a girl in their class that is overweight.  They were calling her “fat girl” and she was in tears.  The boys were punished for their behavior by the teacher, but the girl’s self-esteem was already affected by those hurtful words.  As an overweight adult myself, I know how embarrassing it can be when you are singled out because of your weight; it must be so much worse as a kid that is trying to just “fit in”.

What are the causes of this recent trend in children?  Kids’ daily environments – their schools, childcare facilities, churches, and their local communities influence the healthfulness of their diets.   There is direct marketing to children of food items, misleading marketing claims about healthiness of food made to parents, access to and affordability of healthy foods in the school and local community, increased consumption of soda and juice by kids (the leading source of added sugar among children is sugar-sweetened drinks) and less exercise in the daily life of kids.

What are some things we can do as parents and more globally as a society to combat it?  Providing all children with healthy food environments is key to reaching the public health goals of reducing childhood obesity and improving nutrition.  So we should:

  • Reduce the amount of marketing that kids are exposed to.  This is not going to be done voluntarily by companies.  It is only going to be achieved through
    regulations similar to those that keep cigarette and hard liquor ads off TV.  Yes, I am a political liberal, but do you really think that any of the companies advertising soda, fitness drinks, candy, potato chips, pizza and burgers to kids are going to stop on their own because they really care about kids?
  • Reduce kid’s screen time.  There is a correlation between the amount of time kids spend watching TV, playing video games, surfing the web, etc. and being overweight.  Yes, having a statistician husband, I know that correlation does not equal causation, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that kids sitting in front of a TV are not getting as much physical activity as those outside playing.  Also, from a health perspective, it is not a wise thing for a kid to have a TV in his or her bedroom.
  • Build physical activity into everyday routines. Back when I was a kid, it was common for kids to walk or bike to school. When we got home from school we would head off on our own and play outside with other kids all over the neighborhood.  Now, most children are driven to school, whether by a parent or on a school bus. For some kids school is too far away and parents do have justifiable safety concerns about kids walking and biking on their own or playing outside unsupervised.  So, parents have to find ways of adding activity to their kid’s day.  Believe me, I know this is hard to do with working busy parents, but it has to be a priority.  A family walk or bike ride several times a week is a great way to give everyone in the family some exercise and also spend some time together. If the weather is bad, take a page out of the older generation’s
    handbook and walk around the mall.  🙂
  • Ensure that the school breakfast and lunch programs reduce their reliance on processed foods and increase the amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables available to kids.  I posted recently about the lunch offerings in our local school cafeteria run by Sodexo.  To see lots more examples of what kids are really being served, head to the Fed Up with School Lunch blog .  We as a society have to start caring enough to spend more money on school food. Whenever I see criticism of school menus online, there is always a vocal contingent that claims it is elitist to care about food quality when there are hungry kids whose only food all day may be what they eat at school.  To them I say: If that is their only food,
    then it REALLY needs to be healthy food heavy on the fresh fruits and veggies,
    not processed chicken nuggets, white bread and processed cheese sandwiches, rice krispy treats, and chocolate milk. As one blogger recently called it “Carnival Food”.  In the long run, I believe that giving less fortunate kids a good nutritional start in life will benefit us all through reduced medical and other costs in the future.  Also, well-fed kids think better and get more out of school.  So, they will be a greater asset to our society.
  • Eat meals together as a family. Parents have tremendous influence on children’s food behaviors. Eating meals together as a family has many positive effects on children, including the development of healthy eating habits and maintaining a healthy weight. Also, foods prepared at home are likely to be more nutritious than foods prepared away from home.

I hope I have not offended anyone.  As someone who has struggled with her own  weight for years, my hope is this is something that our kids would not have to deal with.  And it is up to us to do our job as “their village” to help them.  So, what are your thoughts on childhood obesity and what do you think we can do to help our kids?

–Stacey

Blueberry 100% whole wheat pancakes

Blueberry 100% whole wheat pancakes

Saturday’s breakfast was one of my two whole wheat pancake recipes.  This is the one I use when I want to add blueberries to them.  No pancake is a health food…the word CAKE is part of its name.  🙂  So, enjoy these or any pancakes in moderation, but this is an improvement over a typical white flour and sugar pancake and since it is real food it is so much better than anything that comes in a box or bottle.

The basic recipe is from Smitten Kitchen under “blueberry pancakes + pancakes 101“.  Since she shows you what the cakes should look like when you add the blueberries, I will not go into details myself here.  Adding blueberries

I changed it to use all whole wheat pastry flour instead of white, subbed a smaller amount of honey for the sugar, and used 2 to 2.5 cups buttermilk.  I felt the recipe was too liquidy with the 3 cups in the original.  I made 1/2 plain and 1/2 with unsweetened frozen blueberries.

Blueberry 100% Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Original Classics Cookbook and Smitten Kitchen

Yield: Depends on size It makes either 9 6-inch pancakes or about 16 4-inch ones.

2 cups 100% whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum-free such as Rumford)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk (add a bit more after mixing if you want it more runny)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen and thawed (optional)

1. Place a griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and honey in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons melted butter, and whisk to combine.

2. Test the griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water bounces and spatters, the griddle is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush melted butter onto the griddle and wipe off the excess with a folded paper towel. Or, use a handy Misto filled with your favorite oil to spray the pan.

3. Using a 1/3 to 1/2 cup measure as a scoop pour the batter in pools 2 inches apart. If you wish to make blueberry pancakes, wait a few seconds and then arrange a handful of blueberries over the cooking pancake, pressing them in slightly. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. If any batter oozes or blueberries roll out, push them back under with your spatula. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

4. Repeat with the remaining batter.  You can keep the finished pancakes on a heat-proof plate in the oven at 175°F. Serve warm with real butter, honey or real maple syrup.

I ran it through the Recipe Analyzer at Calorie Count and it got a grade of B+.  Basically, the butter is frowned upon by this site, so if you are a low-fat dieter, feel free to reduce the butter to your preference.  Here are the numbers per pancake, assuming the recipe makes 16:

Calories: 117, Calories from Fat: 36blueberry pancakes too
Total Fat: 3.9g,  Saturated Fat: 2.2g
Cholesterol: 35mg
Sodium: 200mg
Total Carbohydrates: 17.3g, Dietary Fiber: 0.7g, Sugars: 4.6g
Protein: 3.5g
Vitamin A   3%,  Vitamin C 2%,  Calcium 8%,  Iron 5%

— Stacey

Easy Oven Baked Lentils and Brown Rice

I am not a vegan or a vegetarian.  I think that humans are basically omnivores and so that is what I am.  I even flirt with a Weston A. Price diet which is somewhat doable or a paleolithic diet which is not because I love peanut butter (natural, of course) and milk (and yogurt) too much.

Oh, forgot to mention that I am also a recovering bread addict…well, carb addict in general.  Simple carbs do bad things to me, like make me want to eat lots more simple carbs.  “No one can eat just one, no one can, no one can eat just one Lay’s brand potato chip” kind of want to eat more carbs.  So, it is safer for me to not eat a lot of carbs and make sure all the ones I do eat are whole grains or from fruits/veggies.  So, while I am not a vegetarian, I like to find novel and yummy ways to serve veggies, beans, and whole grains as a part of my omnivorous diet.

At a church potluck recently, one of the other members, JoBeth, brought a lentil and brown rice casserole that my girls liked.  She said it is so easy to make; it is baked in the oven.  She quickly rattled off the basics of the recipe and I went home and looked online for a proper recipe for it, since I don’t like to “wing it” the first time I make a new dish.  The closest I found to what she described is this: LessMeat’s “Oven Baked Lentils and Brown Rice” which is based on one from Zonya’s Health Bites Zonya’s Oven Baked Lentils and Rice.

I have made it twice now with slight variations and all four of my kindergarteners liked it both times.  The variations were mainly based on what veggies were in the fridge that day, so feel free to experiment.  Of course, I had to tweak the recipes above a bit, mainly to add a bit more veggies and here is my latest recipe:

Easy Oven Baked Lentils and Brown Rice

2 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
32 ounces chicken broth (or used veggie broth to make it vegetarian)
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones
1 cup dry brown rice (not quick cooking)
4-5 stalks of celery, chopped
1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
1 cup chopped zucchini or yellow squash
1/2 can of either tomato paste or sauce
1-2 Tbsp of whatever fat you think is healthy (butter, coconut oil, ghee, peanut oil, olive oil, canola oil, you decide)
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1-2 teaspoons of sea salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
To up the protein content (but will obviously not be veg) you can add about 1 cup of leftover cooked chicken, chopped, but totally optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix all ingredients together in large greased baking dish and bake covered, for 90-120 mins. Yes, it takes that long, but you don’t have to do anything except wait.

Variation:  As I searched online for a recipe, I came across lots of lentil and rice recipes with different spice combinations.  Apparently, there is even a Lebanese dish called Mjadra or Mujadara that is similar.  I even found this link  to a stove-top mujadara recipe using a homemade Moroccan spice blend…the spice blend sounds very good.  So, here are some possible substitutions for the Italian-style basil/oregano/thyme spices in the above recipe.

Indian verison – Use curry powder or garam masala instead of the original spices.
Middle Eastern version  – Use cumin/cinnamon/cloves instead of the original spices.
Or maybe use cumin/chili powder/tumeric.  What about finding a way to incorporate smoked paprika, which is ridiculously yummy.  Can you think of a way to make it Asian?  Maybe ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil?

Sorry, no picture today.  😦

–Stacey

Our breakfasts…

I had a request for details on what we eat for breakfast, especially the faster, easier options.

Well, about once a week we go really fast and easy and have cold cereal with milk.  The cereal is one or more of these: Kashi Heart To Heart cold cerealsCereal – Honey Toasted Oat, Kashi U, Kashi Whole Wheat Biscuits in Cinnamon Harvest, Kashi Strawberry Fields, Cascadian Farms Fruit & Nut Granola, Cascadian Farms Multi Grain Squares, or Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola.  Some are more nutritious than others, but they are all OK, made from real food, and we limit the portion to a normal size.  Besides serving them with milk, we also have some fresh fruit with it.  Since it is a fast day, usually something easy like a banana or apple.

But, most mornings I make scrambled eggs.  We have this about 5 days a week.  I use organic eggs from the store in the winter and when the farmer’s market is open, I get local pastured ones there.  I scramble them in real butter with sea salt and pepper.  The eggs are served with some fresh fruit (cantaloupe, pineapple, bananas, mixed berries, grapes, oranges, etc.) that can be cut up the night before to save time.  I usually add one of the following to the breakfast: plain yogurt with a squirt of honey, steel-cut or old-fashioned oatmeal, whole wheat toast or whole wheat bagels.

I occasionally make homemade yogurt using the recipe here for crock-pot yogurt, but normally, it is the Dannon plain yogurt you can buy in the 32 oz. tubs…we have four kids to feed so that only lasts a couple of days for us.  The storebrands tend to have gelatin in them and oBrown Cow Cream Top Plain Yogurtther thickeners.  Real yogurt should thicken because it is yogurt, not from gelatin.  If we want to spend more and go organic, I get the Stonyfield or for a real treat, the Brown Cow Cream Top Plain which is so yummy.  Most of the time I get regular or low-fat yogurt for the girls. Since they are young and thin and you need some fats for your brain and to fully absorb the calcium in the yogurt, I tend to avoid fat-free yogurt for them.  We also eat plain yogurt with either honey or natural peanut butter mixed in as a snack in the afternoons or as part of their lunch.  They all like yogurt, but Sarah is my biggest yogurt fan.

I used to make mainly old-fashioned oatmeal when I got up in the morning, but after reading Nourishing Traditions  I started soaking my oats overnight in water with a bit of whey (if you don’t make your own yogurt, you can pour it off the top of the store-bought plain yogurt, it is that watery stuff that separates out).  That led me to this easy and relatively fast recipe for 7 minute stove top steel-cut oatmeal.  That is how I make oatmeal about 75% of the time now.  If you have ever made steel-cut oatmeal, you know it normally takes like 40 minutes to cook, so this is a real timesaver.  Of course, you can always make your oatmeal ahead and just heat it up in the morning.  I usually end up with 1 or 2 extra servings of oatmeal when I make it and Emma and I have it the next morning since she LOVES oatmeal.

Occasionally, usually on Saturdays, I will fry up a 12 oz. package of nitrate-free uncured bacon.  The most easy to find is the Hormel Natural Choice Uncured Bacon that you can get locally at both Homeland or Target.  You can also get other brands that are more expensive but may be higher quality such as Applegate Farms at natural foods stores. Or, buy some from a local farmer.  Sometimes, we will have breakfast sausage patties instead of bacon.  To avoid nitrates and all that other weird stuff, I have started mixing up my own sausage using ground pork and spices.  Here is my most recent iteration of my recipe, but feel to simplify if that makes it easier for you:

Breakfast Sausage

3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar, optional
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pinch ground nutmeg or cloves
1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 pound ground pork

In small, bowl, combine the salt, black pepper, sage, brown sugar, cayenne, red pepper flakes, cloves or nutmeg, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary.  Mix well.  Place the pork in a large bowl and add the mixed spices to it.  Mix well with your hands and form into patties. Saute the patties in a large skillet over medium high heat for 5-6 minutes per side, or until internal pork temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

The big thing about our breakfasts is they always include fresh fruit, they always have a shot of protein (eggs or yogurt or sausage) and the grains are whole grains (real oatmeal, whole wheat bread or pancakes).  The girls always have milk to drink, white of course.  They may get some orange juice too on a Saturday morning.

Some other good breakfast recipes are Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Parmesan and Kevin’s Oatmeal Pancakes, but both take time to make.  I will share those with you another day.

–Stacey

Eating lunch at school…

Eating lunch at school…

Today was a rushed morning.  I am sure you all have them.  We had forgotten last night to put the lunchbox ice packs back in the freezer and we got up a bit late.  So, Mike says “Instead of packing lunch, why don’t we just let them get the school lunch?”  So, with trepidation, we checked the school lunch menu.

Today’s school lunch is…

Choice of:
Tater-Tot Casserole
Taco Salad
Cheeseburger
*Ham & Cheese Sandwich
Mini Mouse Salad

Sides:
*Fresh Apple and California Blend Vegetables

The asterisks are next to what they consider “Lift Off’s Healthy Choices”  (which is a bit of a joke if you see what Lift-Off thinks is healthy).

The contractor Sodexo runs the cafeteria here, so I am assuming that a lot of your kids in other cities and states are also eating the same thing.  How many of you have eaten lunch with your kids at school lately and seen what these words on paper really mean and what selections kids are actually making?

We let our kids get school lunch about once per month, usually for our convenience on a day like today, not because they get to choose the day based on the menu.  And there are plenty of days when I look at the menu and say “I can’t let them eat any of these things; I will just pack their lunch after you take them to school and drop it by later.”  Today, I thought I would let them get the taco salad.  I have seen it before, mostly a big plate of corn chips (which are hopefully just corn, oil, and salt) with about 1 tablespoon of iceberg salad mix and 1 tablespoon of ground meat pellets (I really do not want to know what is in those).  You would think I would choose the “mini mouse salad”, except in a school of over 500 kids, the day I asked for 5 of those for me and my four daughters, I was told that they only make up 2 or 3 for the entire school since no one picks that.  So, that is not really an option, it is just on the menu for PR purposes, I guess.  Maybe one or two teachers actually choose it so there is enough for them?

To help the girls make good choices, Mike will be joining them for lunch.  One of many issues I have with the lunch is that after picking the entrée, the kids (mine are kindergarteners) are asked if they want the fruit choice (usually something canned in light syrup) OR the veggie choice.  Note the capitalized “OR”.  Actually, kids are allowed to get BOTH, but the way they are asked implies they have to choose, so almost all the kids or course pick the fruit over the veggie.  So, it seems that very few veggies are doled out; there will be very little “California Blend Vegetables” on kids plates today.

A positive is that they have a pseudo salad bar available.  It is not really a salad bar in the sense that you are familiar with, more a cold bar to display four or five specific fruits and veggies.  For example, they may have several bins with things like cucumber slices, apples, baby-cut carrots, pickles, etc.  but not really the fixings for a complete salad.  Also, the kids are given unlimited access to ranch dressing, so they may be getting more ranch than veggies.  I have also seen kids get ranch from there and then dip their entrée (such as pizza or chicken nuggets) in it.  flavored milks

Actually, the first hurdle the kids face in the lunch line is the milks.  The menu lists “variety of milks”.  What that means is they offer low-fat white, HFCS-sweetened chocolate, and HFCS-sweetened strawberry.  I counted the milks on the line of tables my girls eat at one day.  Of about 50 kids, 2 chose white, 3 chose strawberry and all the rest had chocolate.  So, Mike is there to also help our girls make the better choice of white milk since the school thinks that kindergarteners are mature enough to decide on their own to forgo large amounts of a sugar-like substance in their milk…not.

I have to share another of the “Lift-off Healthy Choice” selections with you.  It is served two Thursdays a month at the girls’ school and listed on the menu as “Fun on the Run Y & P”.  The Y & P stands for yogurt & pretzel.  It consists of a bag with a white flour soft pretzel, TRIX yogurt, and a rice krispy treat.  Most kids then add the HFCS-chocolate milk to that.  This is what they consider a “healthy choice”??  I was shocked the day I ate with my girls (we packed) and saw one of their friends pull these items one by one out of her bag.

rice krispy treat

We all know that rice krispy treats are a dessert, right?  Go check the ingredients on TRIX yogurt and see what is really in there.  And why does the entire bag only have 1 gram of fiber according to the nutrients supplied by Sodexo?  Could they not find a pretzel that was at least 50% whole wheat to put in there with the other “candy”? This is what your kids are eating.Trix Yogurt

Before anyone jumps down my throat as is often done to Mrs. Q from the Fed Up with School Lunch blog saying “Well it is fine for you to be all elitist since you can afford to pack your girls a healthy lunch.  For some kids, the school breakfast and lunch is the only food they will have all day!” Um, I say, yeah, I totally agree with the last part.  That is why the only food the kids have all day needs to be HEALTHY food with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, not Trix yogurt and rice krispy treats.  I know it has to be cheap since the government gives them less than $2 a day per kid for free lunch and half of that goes to labor and facility expenses.  But, our school is about 50% free and reduced lunch, so what they are serving each day is a major part of these kids diets.  These kids do not have the luxury or going home and having a snack of organic apples and natural peanut butter washed down with local organic milk from pastured cows..I know that.  Um, that is my point.  Obviously, what they eat at school matters.  While we are lucky enough to be able to take the option of packing our girls lunches, my heart breaks for the kids and parents that do not have that option and are offered foods of dubious nutritional quality.  Yes, I am sure that the “nutrients” meet whatever federal guidelines are required for Sodexo to get reimbursed by the government for the meal, but that doesn’t mean the meal was quality.  We as a society will pay for short-changing our kids nutritionally in 10-30 years as medical costs continue to skyrocket and more children are diagnosed with “adult-onset” diabetes.

OK, I am getting off my soapbax now.  Need to go plan a healthy veggie-heavy dinner for the kids since they are eating lunch at school today.  🙂

What are your thoughts?

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