lunch box

My job is that of a meditation, mindfulness and wellness teacher/speaker. I am not a nutrition “expert” but know enough to spark change as I am poignantly mindful about not only what goes into my head but also into my body.

While some of my students proclaim that I “eat bark,” I am truly about balance and keeping it real. I have a passion for veggies but also chocolate and kick butt, homemade French fries. It also helps that I have a spouse who heavily consumes nutrition-ish books like In Defense of Food and Rich Food/Poor Food. And, let’s add one more thing… I am also a parent who cares about all kids having an opportunity to live a healthy life.

lunch note jokes

And, here we go… oh look… I’m stepping up on my podium preparing to spread the cautious word about school lunch. I pack my kids’ lunches every, every day. When I pop in to visit my girls during their lunch hour, I see their lil’ faces cringe because they know that every “buyer” within earshot is going to get an education about the questionable items on their lunch tray.

And, now that I’ve got you within earshot… have you really contemplated what your child is eating at school? If not, have I got a strawberry milk treat for you. Here is a photo that I took on a typical day during lunch at my child’s school (a public school in Ohio). Below this feast for the eyes, my two certified, nutrition friends summarize this yellow delight.

school lunch

First, let’s hear from Mandi Babkes with Holistic Health with Mandi out of Pennsylvania, with all of her many titles — MNH, HHC, AADP, QRA:

“This lunch makes me sad and concerned, as it is bombarded with processed, sugar-laden and toxic foods. Look closely: syrupy fruit, pink “strawberry flavored” milk and yellow slurry resembling cheese? Studies prove that sugar, high fructose corn syrup, GMOs, and food additives are fueling childhood obesity, early onset diabetes, immune suppression, attention/behavioral disorders and disease. Why not fresh, organic and the real deal? Is it merely coincidental that food allergies began to skyrocket the year GMOs were introduced?

Dyes that make that milk pink and cheese yellow have been linked to cancer and hyperactivity in children. Hormones and antibiotics have been proven to cause precocious puberty and severe immune suppression. We must recognize that food matters. Most chain grocery stores carry affordable, healthy options for the whole family!”

See Mandi’s full review here.

Next is Heather Lentz at Koi Vitality Health Coaching also in Ohio:

“Wow! Two things stand out immediately — lots of additives and plenty of sugar. I will tell you the nacho cheese sauce has MSG, which is an excitotoxin and could trigger or worsen learning disabilities; partially hydrogenated oils which are trans-fats*that cause inflammation which can lead to heart disease; and yellow food dyes which may contribute to behavioral disturbances in children. Corn chips – fat and salt – end of story. Yogurt… here’s the deal on that 4 oz little guy, he boasts 1 tablespoon of sugar! The maximum daily limit of added sugar for children ages 4-8. And the strawberry milk is going to have about 22g of sugar. Some of those grams will be from lactose (milk sugar) while the rest will be from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). So nearly 2 tablespoons of sugar in that 8oz carton, and one villainous artificial sweetener that has been linked to our obesity epidemic and implicated in the rise of childhood fatty liver disease. Moving to the pineapple… given the amount of added sugar and additives in the other items, the pineapple tidbits are probably the healthiest bits on this tray. This lunch offers roughly 510 calories, 12g fat, 3g sat. fat, 16g protein, 89g carbohydrates, 59g sugar, and 4g fiber. Unfortunately not a balanced meal at all.”

(*Note, as we were writing this article, the F.D.A. just took a stand on trans fats as no longer “generally being recognized as safe.” See the New York Times.)

lunch photo wall

After reading all of that, are you ready to check out 3 immediate ways to help make a change??

#1

This is an obvious step but definitely not a particularly convenient one… pack lunch for your kids/teens!!! If it is too challenging to commit to everyday, how about once a week or even once per month. And, wink, Lunchables don’t count. Check out these good ideas.

#2

Educate yourself or become friends with someone like me who can’t stop talking. As referenced above strawberry and chocolate milks have sugar content comparable to soda. Just knowing that fact is powerful. The day I took this picture 90-95% of kids who bought lunch were drinking flavored milks (the average says 70%).

Watch documentaries like Weight of the Nationon HBO, and I still am a huge fan of Super Size Me from 2004. I’ve converted many to a more mindful eating philosophy just by having them watch that movie (it also discusses school lunch).

Can’t forget Jamie Oliver – my hero (who has taken some major heat). Check out the awesome, persevering work he has been doing now for many years and see his incredibly useful school food fact toolkit.

#3

Begin reading labels on packaged foods at your own grocery store. The crazy, scientific sounding ingredients found there are also in your child’s school lunch (and possibly on your own dinner table). Blue #1, polysorbate 60, corn sweetner, aspartame… google them… the info is abundant and astounding.

Start talking to teachers, principals, neighbors and share facts. If you begin packing or already pack, tell others. I believe in a school lunch revolution but baby steps are sometimes the biggest steps. Start taking yours and together we will be a force for food change. For inspiration here are some schools stepping it up, right now!

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Eden Kozlowski’s passion is to move people into the authenticness of their being and help them take full responsibility for their lives and health. She is founder/CEO of her dynamic meditation/mindfulness-based company out of Akron, Ohio USA – Just Be, LLC as well as Co-Editor on the meditation page at All Things Healing. Visit her website at justbemeditation.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JustBeMeditation or on Twitter at twitter.com/JustBeMeditate.

Finally, visit her blog on The Huffington Post.