What’s in a School Lunch?

It's true, school lunch(es) are overall becoming more nutritious in recent years. But as many of us have kids headed back to soon, among the many concerns is: what are they EATING?

Why is school lunch SO bad?

Well (and of course it depends on what school, too), schools are subsidized by our taxes, sure. Unfortunately, some schools end up with less money than others, or the funds are misallocated. (At least in my mind, a nutritious lunch is one of the most important things a school can offer our kids!!) So those schools end up woefully underfunded, which is part of the reason for Mystery Meat Mondays and Greasiest Pizza Ever Fridays.

The "food pyramid" STRIKES again!

However, another problem is that, even if the school has enough money to give its kids whatever is best, most schools receive a lot of funding and guidance on meals from the USDA.

"The USDA?" you might think, "Well, Melissa, that's great!"

I would have to disagree with you. The USDA is the group that first popularized the Food Pyramid, with, unsurprisingly, massive monetary influence from the grain industry. You're probably pretty familiar with the food pyramid, since it's been around since 1984, and so you may have grown up being taught this dietary model in school yourself!

The problem with it, at least in my mind, is that it not only over-represents how many grains (carbs! Starch!) you should be eating, but also lumps fat in with sweets ("fats, oils & sweets…use sparingly!") Plus, it acts like dairy is an absolute essential – I don't hate dairy but I know my daughter's skin cleared right up when she eliminated dairy from her diet. And acts like sugary, carb-heavy fruits are essential for every meal too.

So let's take some school lunch examples: cheese pizza, nacho chips, donut, milk. Or, chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, cookie, peas, peaches. Corn dog, applesauce, tater tots, corn.

So many sugars and starches, oh my! And, again, part of the reason for this is underfunding and these foods, most of which are processed, being the cheapest and easiest to store. But there's also this idea, I think, that you've gotta have your bread-based items, your fruit, your starchy veggie instead of greens…Where is the fish on this menu? The avocado? The salads? Hard-boiled eggs? Maybe some healthy full-fat yogurt?

You won't see these items on kids' plates, because there's still the pervasive message that fat is bad, and carbs and grains are good. Sigh. Well, you always have the option of packing a lunch…And get your kids to help, too, so they can learn at home what a balanced diet ACTUALLY looks like! 😉

It's true, we can't change school lunches in a day…But you can change what YOU are consuming, today! Are you intrigued by the health benefits of a low-carb, high-fat diet? I want to help YOU break the cycle of unhealthy dieting and being chemically addicted to these unhealthy foods and patterns! Learn more about the books I've published…chock full of health science, motivation, humor, and meal plans!