Skip School Lunches

Save Your Lunch Money And Get Packing

Anyone who’s been to an elementary school cafeteria cannot help but notice that too many children are eating badly. As parents, we are required to feed them properly, even while they’re at school. 

I’ve never really enjoyed cooking and my oven has always been more useful storing vodka bottles. And yet, on most nights, I am found in my kitchen making lunch for the next day so my boys have something good to eat while learning to add, subtract, and pick up girls. I also save money by making lunches myself instead of paying for cafeteria food, and I don’t feel guilty about all the preservatives they aren’t struggling to digest. If I can put together two healthy lunches for finicky and opinionated children while writing three columns and arguing proper laundry-folding with my finicky and opinionated husband, anyone can.

Some acceptable alternatives to school food include:

Organic macaroni and cheese, apple, and yogurt tube.

Homemade pizza, pear, granola bar, and celery sticks.

Soft-boiled eggs, hormone-free cheese and crackers, cottage cheese and peaches.

Include snacks like nectarines, fig cookies, grapes, celery with natural peanut butter and raisins, or hummus and veggies. Don’t forget water canteens or, if the school has a student refrigerator, some milk without pesticides and growth hormones. Kids don’t need breasts or acne – dressing for PE is hard enough.

Pack real food every day, devoid of hard-to-pronounce ingredients, partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. Concentrate on a plant-based diet, thinking “1950s” when it comes to portion control, not “Texas circa 2010.”

Some parents complain that their kids pressure them into purchasing junk food like Twinkies or Lunchables for something other than a science experiment. Teach the importance of reading labels and encourage your children to help find healthy alternatives to the garbage their friends eat every day at school.

Once in a while, give the okay for a treat. Sometimes it’s good to be bad. Otherwise, learn to live with their complaints and remember who’s in charge. Pack napkins with little notes telling them how much you love them. That reminder might make them think twice before buying soda and moon pies. Remember, guilt and manipulation is part of a healthy diet, too.

Catherine is a nationally syndicated, award-winning writer on family and parenting for The Tampa Tribune, Creative Loafing, and Canyon News (Los Angeles.) She has won Best Contributor and Best Columnist in Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay for the last two years. This year, she was a finalist for Humorous Commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine State Awards. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Denver Post, The St. Petersburg Times, Parenting, Hybrid Mom, and Sasee, as well as Broward Family Life, Yahoo Smile and websites all over the world.

Catherine is the President of National Coalition for Accountable Parenting. In her spare time, she investigates missing socks.