Recently I was invited to present to the parents and administrators of two local NY school districts. I genuinely enjoy the opportunity to speak to parents and caregivers about their child’s nutrition. As a sidebar, to be able to speak directly with a group like this is unique, noteworthy and a clear illustration of a […]
Want to get better food into schools across America? We do! Guiding Stars recently responded to world renowned Chef Jamie Oliver‘s call to speak to the USDA and raised our voices in support of new nutrition standards for school breakfast and lunch. We encourage you to speak up as well at Jamie’s Petition Site.
So here you are more than halfway through the school year and let’s face it: you’re in a rut. You’re sick of packing those stinking school lunches and snacks and your kids are probably thinking you’re the most consistently unimaginative being on Earth. You’re struggling to get the right fruits and veggies into them and they’re coming back with a lunch box full of flaccid, slimy, and uneaten stuff. Of course, a fruit is usually thrown in whole or cut up because you’re trying; but, you’re busy, the morning routine is worsening the situation, and that whole thing about packing lunches and snacks the night before is, well, a nice idea and all…
Guiding Stars, knowing the importance of getting kids to eat more nutritiously, has implemented its nutrition navigation program in two high school cafeterias in Maine.
A high school setting can be an especially challenging environment to change what is offered in the cafeteria. Many schools earn “spending” money from the sale of competitive foods such as pizza, fried chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, desserts, ice cream and sugar-sweetened beverages. Not familiar with the term “competitive foods”? Many aren’t, but they are foods and beverages that do not have to meet the nutrition standards set by USDA for school meals but are sold alongside those meals. Typically, competitive foods are higher in fats, salt and added sugar and provide fewer nutrients that promote health such as fiber, whole grains and vitamins and minerals.
It is back to school time for just about everyone now, which also has me thinking about all my first days of school and how we ate in school. I was a public school kid. Some kids had bag lunches they brought from home but most kids were ‘hot lunch kids’ and we ate what the school made us for lunch each day.
Some days were obviously better than others. I think in just about every school’s pizza day was the favorite. Much of the food was lacking taste and some was even unidentifiable (like a block of ‘cheese’ that we cleverly found could also be used as a pencil eraser – more functional than tasty).
Here is a list of some old cafeteria staples that with a little grown up TLC can be updated to fit back into your grown up diet and provide lots of nourishment and maybe some fond memories…
It’s no secret that I have hesitated to let my two children “help” me in the kitchen. It has always seemed like more trouble than it’s worth, with poorly measured ingredients, big spills, and squabbles about who gets to do what.
Today, however, something magical happened: I changed my mind. I realized that in order to survive this long summer at home with my four-year old and six-year old, I’m going to have to give them jobs beyond setting the table and feeding the dog. And, who knows? They just might be ready to handle it.
This afternoon, after having her hose off our very sandy beach shoes, I let my six-year old help put away the groceries. Grace did this very well, and she felt proud. Buoyed by a surge of self-confidence, she then decided to fix herself a snack.
First, she put yogurt in a carefully chosen bowl (she spilled some, but cleaned it up without any prompting), and spooned some granola over the top.
Then, she asked me…
Every Sunday, I plan out a week’s worth of dinners. I make a detailed grocery list so that I will hopefully only have to take my two kids to the grocery store once. I take pride in my organizational skills and my ability to come up with healthy, kid-friendly meals that also appeal to me and my husband.
Every night, I swirl around the kitchen, doing a deliberate dance between the sink and the island, the stove and refrigerator. All while trying to keep the peace between two tired and hungry children. I give them art projects, recommend games to play, let them ‘help’ me cook. Mostly, I try to keep them from whining, or hurting themselves, so that I can accomplish the task at hand: feeding us, sustaining us, keeping us healthy.
Every night, when we sit down to eat, three-year-old Tess immediately pushes away her plate and says, “I not like that. I want something else.” This is probably because we used to give her something else when she requested it, until I got really, really tired of catering to the whims of a toddler. (Plus, the pediatrician told me I should stop.)
So now, we explain that this is her dinner, and if she doesn’t want to eat it, she’ll be hungry later, but this is her only chance to eat. I felt bad about this new strategy for a millisecond, until I realized that she wasn’t going to waste away overnight. And did I really want a child who would only eat four things, anyway? So now we sit through dinner, listening to her ask for yogurt and watching her make her ‘yucky’ face at the meal I so lovingly prepared.
And every night, when I put her in bed, she says, “Mommy, I hungry.”…
Fairies are a big deal at our house. My six-year-old has discovered a seemingly endless series of books about fairies. My very patient husband reenacts the stories with Grace on a regular basis (even though he always has to be the goblin), and she and her younger sister dress up as fairies and perform elaborate musical routines with much spinning and waving of wands. Grace talks about her fairy books on the way to school (and on the way home), and every morning she walks into our bedroom carrying all of them (24 books at last count). Fairies seem to have taken over our lives.
In fact, the fairies even followed us on vacation recently. Over February break, we spent a weekend with friends who are very conscientious about what they feed their daughter. I have always envied this family and their ability to prepare appealing school lunches in which all of the food groups are covered. My friend once summed up their philosophy by stating, “Food is love.” I certainly agree, although I can’t quite seem to get organized enough to show my love as deliciously as they do.
It so happens that our friends’ daughter also loves fairies (although she’s not quite as obsessed with them as our own child). Her mother made lunch for all three girls, and I was astonished to discover that she had made a fairy right there on each child’s plate. The fairy’s wings were pieces of a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich. She had a cucumber face, purple cauliflower hair, a body made of baby carrots, and legs made of almonds.
That’s a fantastic way to put the fairy obsession to good use, and to get two kindergartners and a three-year-old to eat purple cauliflower! I was totally impressed by her creativity, and with the fact that she even had even purchased purple cauliflower, but I was even more impressed by the genuine enthusiasm with which our girls tore into their food. The next morning, I made oatmeal with a dried-cranberry smiley face on top. It wasn’t a purple-haired fairy, but the girls devoured it all the same!