Finding Nirvana in Nutrition
Join us as we share resources and news as it relates to nutrition and diet.
So I was all happy and excited that the school lunch program under the USDA law required healthier lunches, but now that I see the reality of it at my daughter’s school, I’m not so happy.
It’s great, that my daughter sees two vegetables, a fruit , a carbohydrate, protein and milk on her trays but she has started to tell me that she wants lunch from home just because it doesn’t taste good. I was joining her for lunch with my 1 year old for the majority of the time and I tasted the food on her lunch trays. How can our kids enjoy the food if it isn’t cooked correctly or not appetizing in certain ways? For example, take the green beans. I tasted it and honestly it really didn’t have any taste! It was soggy, which is understandable considering the possibility that the managers chose this type of cooking method to cater to the elementary school kids who are losing teeth. Next, consider the main entrée which is the pizza. It’s too hot for her to bite into, so she waits and tries the other foods on her plate. She then takes two more bites of the pizza and stops. I taste it to see why she has stopped and I see it is not very appetizing. Also now time is up.
I also went through the tray line with my daughter, and I noticed that the food service workers seemed quite tired, disgruntled and rather unapproachable. When my daughter reached out to pick her fruit, her favorite fruit banana was taken up by the child in front of her. She asked for a banana, but the food service worker said nothing and merely pointed to the fruits that were left. Knowing that my child is very picky about her foods due to her sensory issues, my heart was saddened but I did encourage her to take what was there even though I knew she wouldn’t eat it.
When I got back home that day I recalled my college years when I worked in the food service industry. I recall working 8 hour shifts and feeling tired by the end of the day. I remember thinking “I wish I was paid more for the amount of work that goes into this job.” Then I remember telling myself what an easy job it is. My coworkers would chant “mucho travajo poquito dinero!” meaning “lots of work and little money!” Haha so true!
So I began to think , if the USDA has made such positive changes to change the food trays and to make them healthier, what if they could also increase the wages of the food service workers in the industry? Wouldn’t that make a difference? Wouldn’t training at all levels make a difference aswell? I definitely think it would. A person would be happier at their job and probably pay more attention to how the food that is served to all the children is cooked. Paying attention to the small details in food such as temperature, display, size, color makes a big difference in it being appealing to a human being. I do see the school’s food service manager always having a smile on her face and encouraging the kids to try the “harvest of the month.” I’m sure this is one of the school’s nutrition/healthy eating initiatives, which is great as I see a harvest of the month newsletter sent home as well.
To add to my thoughts, when I did my internship at the Head Start program in Chicago, I really enjoyed my time there as I saw the recommendations for schools turns into reality in the classrooms and at lunch time. For example, according to consistent research, family meals were encouraged in food settings. I saw that the director had decided to implement this recommendation in her school. It was great to see the food service worker “the cook” take the meals in big bowls on a tray to each classroom, the teachers would offer a spoon from each bowl to the students, and they would accept it into their plates. That was considered the family style approach to eating. The teachers were also encouraged to eat the meals with the children in the classrooms. Another recommendation that was implemented was the teeth brushing. However, that did not do so well. The teachers had already implemented the handwashing prior to and after meal time, but to add tooth brushing after mealtime seemed to take much longer for the children to do. The teachers complained how this new job duty was not helping and was only making it harder for the 2-year-old classroom kids to fall asleep during nap time.
This reminds me that maybe all the recommendations that come from scientific research cannot be successfully implemented in society or real lives. It would take trial and error to see what works.
So back to the lunch trays. I wish the foods were more appetizing! I wish they were served at the right temperature! I wish the school lunchtime was longer! I wish the little ones had just a little more time as a lot of time goes into standing in the tray line, opening up the bottles, utensils and so forth.
I know I’m not the only one who thinks along these lines! An additional link on this topic:
Here are a list of snacks that my kids eat:
Its good to try and think of snacks as mini-meals that provide some protein or fat with the starch to keep the little tummies full.
Keep in mind of certain foods being choking hazards for ages 1 to 4 and always watch your child during meal or snack time.
Here is an additional link to some more healthy snacks!
*Remember to watch your child at all times while they are eating and to keep in mind the foods that may cause choking in babies and toddlers.
As a registered nutritionist myself I remember feeling frustrated when I used to see them not touching any vegetables. That is ok! You are doing a wonderful job as a parent/caregiver even serving the kids these nutritious foods. It helps to remind yourself that and just be patient. Just simply put fruits and vegetables on the table at meal time and if they don't eat it, you can show how much you enjoy it! Last night I had put corn on the table with my regular Indian chicken curry and whole wheat chapati (tortillas). They were delighted to hold the cobs in their little hands and bite into them. My 6 year old did fuss as a few got stuck between her teeth. We helped her by teaching her to bite from the side of her mouth. My 2 year old did enjoy holding it and picking at each kernel.
My kids now prefer corn on the cob rather than steamed corn that is cut from the cob or a bag of steamed corn. Its a good idea to try serving different types of the same food. Maybe they prefer a different texture or temperature of the same food. So what is the trick to get a child to eat more of what you want them to eat? Exposure Exposure Exposure!
If you haven't already noticed but by federal recommendations, school lunches should provide a fruit and a vegetable. At the local public school, I choose my child to eat the lunches provided because I see the health benefits of her being exposed to the 2 vegetables on her tray, a fruit, a protein source and a carbohydrate/starch. Honestly like many other busy parents, I don't know if I will get the chance to pack a healthy lunch for my child everyday!
1 - 2 whole beets
2 cups shredded lettuce
2 small apples
2 T of Nuts (your favorite kind!) ( I put chopped walnuts and flaxseeds)
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (good quality!)
1 T Raspberry Vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 clove minced garlic
Begin by steaming beets and cut them into wedges for easier eating. Here is a good website on how to cook beets:
Peel, section and cut the orange.
Place the beets, orange sections and chopped apples on top of the shredded greens.
Whisk together all the ingredients of the salad dressing and pour over the salad bowl
Top with the nuts and seeds.
Note: I usually buy a bunch of the beets. You can use the beet greens in the salad or use it to make chutney/pesto. I suggest steaming all the beets and cutting and storing the leftovers. I take out the beets and put it on the table with the next meal. One extra vegetable exposure for the kids and the family!
They are very important! I remember how hard it was with our busy lifestyle to get my children to sit down with both parents for dinner. Perhaps mornings were a possibility, but even those seemed difficult as getting the kids to brush their teeth, get ready and prepare breakfast or set the table was getting to be almost impossible as we might get late for school or our jobs. So what was left were the weekend breakfast and lunches. I considered that very important at least once or twice a week even!
Now thankfully, with our different schedules and my older one being more independent in daily life skills it’s possible to eat our family dinners. I consider it a beautiful time, sitting down at the table and each of us enjoying food. I make sure I don’t force and only encourage my kids to try everything. I enjoy watching my little one as she devours her favorite food on her plate and mimics our gestures by tasting everything and even trying to serve herself with her little hands. That is my joy. Once I have introduced a variety of foods to my children, I get to learn what their likes and dislikes are. I make sure to have at least one food that each child likes at the table. This way it makes the child feel comfortable and willing to try other foods at the table. For example, today my older one enjoyed her whole-wheat naan, and my little one enjoyed poking a little fork into the diced mango and grapes. I did encourage them to try the Indian lentils or “dal”. Sitting together at mealtime not only teaches the children table manners but also makes eating a meal more enjoyable. There is a lot of research showing the importance of family meals. It brings closeness and stability to the family and children’s lives. It has also been found that kids snack healthier and teenagers stay away from negative lifestyle habits.
Once I feel we are not really doing our family dinners or very little of it, I try to set a goal to make sure we have atleast 1 to 3 per week. Here are a few references that show the documented research on family meal time.
I live in the Houston, Texas area and have a passion for helping people maintain good health through the latest nutritional recommendations.