A few tips about kids from a non parent. Part 1.

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September 24, 2012 by dairycarrie

Catchy title? No, I am not going to tell you about how you should raise your kids or how kids should act in a public setting. Hubs and I don’t have kids and they aren’t even a certain part of our future. But there has been something on my mind for a while that I wanted to blog about, even though I am not a parent. So what qualifies me to talk about this subject? I was a kid once and I was a kid who ate…. “Hot Lunch”

School lunch has been making a lot of news lately, recent changes seem to have upset the natives and they are growing restless. Here in Wisconsin there have been students that have organized protests at their schools over the changes. This morning the news channel I was watching reported that participation in school lunch has dropped 7-8% at the schools they talked to.

So what’s the ruckus about? In an effort to reduce childhood obesity and encourage healthy eating habits the USDA has issued new guidelines for the school lunch program. These new guidelines require more fruits and vegetables, as well as reducing the overall caloric content of the meals and decreasing the amount of protein lunch contains.

I will be honest, the idea of reducing calories and encouraging healthy choices at lunch sounds like a great idea to me. The only real issue I had was that I didn’t think reducing the amount of protein allowed, the new guidelines reduce amounts of protein to just 2oz per day for kids in high school, was enough for growing kids. In fact the difference between the minimum amount of protein required for a Kindergartner and the maximum amount allowed for a high school senior is less than than an ounce a day.  That just doesn’t seem right to me.

So what’s an ounce of protein? First of all nutritional information shows protein content in grams not ounces. So I clarified that the USDA is referring to meat or meat substitute i.e. beans or cheese when they refer to allowed ounces of protein. I had to think about exactly how much an ounce of protein is. A slice of cheese is about an ounce and a piece of lunch meat from the deli is slightly under an ounce. A serving of protein according to those who decide these things is 3oz or 1 cup/8oz of milk. So let’s take a look at what the schools are serving for lunch and see how they make a balanced meal within the current allotments.

Click on the image to have it come up in a larger screen.

So first test I give the new menu is the same thing any school kid does… Which days would I eat hot lunch with this menu? Honestly, old or new this menu is a vast improvement over the Salisbury “steak” lunches that came in tin foil rectangles of my youth. I remember two lunches from my grade school days, pizza because I liked it and Salisbury steak because I was always hungry on those days. Hungry or not I wouldn’t eat it. The new menu sure has a lot of choices for kids. Kids should be able to find something they like. Except maybe on Monday, I know a lot of adults that hate refried beans, more for me I guess. I consider myself a bit of a foodie but I don’t think I have ever had Jicma in my life. Jicama is also called yambean, I guess they thought that Jicama sounded more appealing to kids than yambean, go figure.

Anyways I wanted to know what this meal added up to nutritionally wise so I plugged it into my food tracker.

Ignore that it says breakfast … that doesn’t matter right now and I was in a hurry.

So 588 calories, 82 grams of carbs, 16 grams of fat and 31 grams of protein. According to my food tracker this all adds up to about a third of what I should have on a 1,500 calorie diet as an adult trying to loose weight.

Well I guess I was off a little….

A small percentage of the kids in my 1,500 student high school were in a sport during any given season and we need to look at the larger percentage of kids when we make policy like this. Of course recess and gym also accounts for burning calories but let’s be honest, for a lot of kids that’s the only physical activity they get in a day and I don’t think that most of that accounts for the need of a ton of extra calories to make up for what was burned off by kick ball or the energy used being humiliated in the ‘social dance unit” of PE. So the meal on Monday only meets about 1/4 of the daily caloric needs for a moderately active high school kid.

So here is where the non parent part of my opinion comes in to play. This new lunch menu is putting a lot of responsibility on the other meals a kid eats in a day to close the gap. What happens if you’re a picky kid? You don’t like refried beans or raw green bell pepper and you’re not about to eat something that you can’t pronounce, where does this menu leave the picky kids?

Continue to ignore the Breakfast thing.

Ouch, If you’re a picky 15 year old kid you’re left with a small turkey and cheese sandwich, some melon and a carton of milk to get you through till the end of the day. And by small I mean small, remember these guidelines dictate that your sandwich has 1/2 a piece of cheese and one slice of turkey on it. Interesting that they allow you to have equal parts low fat mayo to actual meat on your sandwich. Now your picky kid lunch gives you 1/5 of the calories your high school body needs.

I am all for exposing kids to new tastes, textures and food experiences. But when I see this menu the memory of my father trying to force me to eat chicken gizzards when I was 5 keeps playing in my head. Sure maybe some kids request chicken gizzards and jicama for their birthday meal but I don’t know those kids. My nephews refused to eat the “inside out pizza” I made for them because they didn’t think it looked like pizza and since I had them help me prepare the meal they knew there were some green peppers in there somewhere and they didn’t like them…. These are the kids that I know and these kids would be coming home very hungry at the end of the day with this menu.

Am I wrong?

Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2 of this post.

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19 thoughts on “A few tips about kids from a non parent. Part 1.

  1. GREAT job.

    I was a picky kid. (I’m still picky about some things, honestly…) I was also an over-busy kid, in every club and academic team and every honors class and a few sports, as well as working and socializing. Even if not all of my activities were highly physical, I had a pretty busy/stressful schedule in junior high and high school.

    I was going to write a super-long comment about this but I think I know what my next blog post will be instead, as an over-busy picky kid. Thanks for the inspiration, Carrie! And for proving that we can have a voice in the well-being of our students, even if we aren’t raising any currently!

    You rock.

  2. Sherry Bunting says:

    Your analysis is interesting, and I would add that a child who comes home hungry will raid the twinkies and chips in the pantry while mom is still at work. If they don’t eat it, then it is a bad idea. Give them real food in moderate portions … real cheese… enough protein for growing bodies… yes even fat for the brain cells… just cut out the sugar. If they are satiated, they will concentrate, think, and yes, learn (the primary reason they go to school after all). When they get home they may raid the pantry but not with the gusto of the starving. And for the kids with empty pantries at home. God help them on this menu if they don’t have ketones to burn.

  3. Andy Vance says:

    Carrie, there is one additional piece of information I think you need here, and that is to note that the protein levels afforded under the new lunch menus are actually unchanged from the old standards. A registered dietician with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association ran the numbers for us, and found that despite the hue and cry from some of our friends and colleagues, USDA did not in fact limit protein amounts any further than was already established guideline.

    Secondarily, and I think this is extremely important, USDA cannot possibly be responsible for the students I’ll deem somewhat outside the middle 80% of the student population. As one example you have the athletes playing three sports per year, or perhaps those students like Kelly who acknowledge being a “picky” eater. These guidelines can’t cover those extremes (relatively speaking, Kelly 🙂 nor any other individual anecdotes tossed out by angry parents or coaches.

    Schools have a real problem and a real challenge in providing students with balanced meal options, and parents have a real responsibility to help see that their children are provided with additional meals, snacks, vitamins and exercise options and encouragements to be strong and healthy.

    I highly encourage you to check out Sarah Muirhead’s coverage at Feedstuffs.com and via the Feedstuffs Facebook page for more quality reporting on the topic. Really value your observations and insights (as a fellow non-parent, too)!

  4. Mare says:

    I know you know where I stand on this… but the kids won’t touch the whole wheat bread or pasta. It tastes like cardboard. Once every six weeks the school serves Rocky Roccoco’s pizza at the elementary schools and daily in the middle and high school. Not one kid I know will eat it this year because it’s now whole wheat and the older kids don’t want to pay for a slice 1/2 the size it was last year. All three of my kids – elementary, middle and high school – are athletes and in practice 6-20 hrs a week. It’s not enough. I am back to making lunches every day for all three, which I don’t mind since I know they are eating. The other side is the amount of waste. You HAVE to take the fruit/vegetable, even if you say you don’t want it. So, much of it goes right into the garbage cans directly from the lunch line. Ask any lunch lady – it’s horrific. And federal guidelines won’t allow the food to be donated, either.

    The thing that really gets me are the poor kids who are on free or reduced lunch. Often, this is the only meal they get per day. I don’t care how hungry I was as a kid, if there were mashed potatoes, I wasn’t eating them. I feel so bad for these kids. Their situations have gone from a little hopeful to a little more dire. Can you really sit at a desk and concentrate on your studies if you’re hungry? It’s just a bad situation all the way around.

    • I don’t want to derail this post, but I really have to object to the comment that kids won’t eat whole wheat breads or pastas. I realize taste is subjective, but whole wheat products are just as fresh and flavourful as the highly refined versions, and in my experience, kids who aren’t offered the option quickly discover how good the whole wheat varieties are. The nutritional benefit is significant—you do kids a disservice if you perpetuate the belief that whole wheat products are terrible. Does it take effort? Yes. Will it make a difference? Definitely. Is it the only thing that will make a difference? No, but it’s a start.

      • dairycarrie says:

        I prefer whole wheat pasta over regular but that doesn’t mean that other people do. I think Mare was just stating that her kids think the whole wheat pasta tastes like cardboard….

      • Carrie: I appreciate Mare’s comment, and I have faced her sentiment from lots of parents. My concern is based on setting examples and standards. I used whole wheat buns at a hot lunch for the school; not one kid complained, and we had just as much support the next time.

        I don’t doubt it’s a tough situation, and many kids seem to have strong opinions. We need to be just a little stronger. (I am also willing to accept that the whole wheat option offered at their school wasn’t very good—there are bad products out there. Trial is necessary.)

  5. wisdomfromme says:

    I know you know where I stand on this… but the kids won’t touch the whole wheat bread or pasta. It tastes like cardboard. Once every six weeks the school serves Rocky Roccoco’s pizza at the elementary schools and daily in the middle and high school. Not one kid I know will eat it this year because it’s now whole wheat and the older kids don’t want to pay for a slice 1/2 the size it was last year. All three of my kids – elementary, middle and high school – are athletes and in practice 6-20 hrs a week. It’s not enough. I am back to making lunches every day for all three, which I don’t mind since I know they are eating. The other side is the amount of waste. You HAVE to take the fruit/vegetable, even if you say you don’t want it. So, much of it goes right into the garbage cans directly from the lunch line. Ask any lunch lady – it’s horrific. And federal guidelines won’t allow the food to be donated, either.

    The thing that really gets me are the poor kids who are on free or reduced lunch. Often, this is the only meal they get per day. I don’t care how hungry I was as a kid, if there were mashed potatoes, I wasn’t eating them. I feel so bad for these kids. Their situations have gone from a little hopeful to a little more dire. Can you really sit at a desk and concentrate on your studies if you’re hungry? It’s just a bad situation all the way around.

  6. As a mom of kids in school, I really haven’t seen the hubbub that others have. I haven’t said much in this debate because I felt like I must not be seeing what others were seeing. There is no “crazy” foodie type foods on our menu. Sure there is a little more fruit/veggie, but I wouldn’t call a fruit cup, applesauce, green beans, pickles, etc out of line. We still have chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs and everything else as last year. The kids have always had to take everything at our school, maybe it has been different at others. The only major change at our school is that crackers are no longer allowed at snack time, just fruits and veggies (son is in Kindergarten and has a snack time and two milk breaks). I WISH my son’s menu looked like the “after” one you are showing. That is what he gets at home. I usually pack my son’s lunch. Until I no longer see chicken nuggets, hot dogs and pizza on the menu, our son will only get one “hot lunch” choice a week.
    Maybe I am not getting it….

  7. raylindairy says:

    Maybe I am reading the dietary standards wrong but I read the amounts as MINIMUM amount allowed not MAXIMUM.

    • dairycarrie says:

      If you look at the standards is shows the total allowed per week with the minimum per day shown in parenthesis. So for high school students the minimum per day is 2 oz but a meal could have 3oz if the other meal totals for the week don’t top out over 12oz.

  8. Bryan Quanbury says:

    I have a 10yr son who can be picky eater and a high rate of metabolism. He would need to supplement that diet for sure. I think activity for kids is the bigger issue. Great post.

  9. […] lots of discussion on yesterday’s post and previous questions I had asked on Facebook one thing about the new school lunch plan stood out […]

  10. […] I make less sense that usual I apologize. I am fighting a head cold. I hope you have read the first and the second post in this series. I have obviously spent way to much time thinking about […]

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