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A Better Lunch

January 30, 2009

I need some help with my daughter’s packed lunches.  My strategy so far has been to go for variety in color and to limit the proportions to what can fit in these silicone muffin cups.  Most days she eats everything I give her and really enjoys that part of her routine.  The foods seem to be the same kinds of foods she gets at the morning snack: carrot sticks, cheese, apples, peanut butter, etc.  But one day she got a stomachache and complained to one of the teachers during the afternoon quiet time.  Her teacher told her that some moms don’t know how to pack a healthy lunch and that all the things in her lunchbox had converted to sugar in her body.  And that was how her stomachache was explained.  My daughter insinuated that her teacher considered the lunches I pack unhealthy.  At first it really hurt my feelings.  But I know that bananas and carrot sticks do rapidly convert to sugar, so I’m trying to learn more about what combinations of foods would be better.  This is not about me and my hurt feelings; this is about making a healthy lunch for my daughter.  Here’s what I packed today.  Any opinions?

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preschool packed lunch

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There is the Chinese way of categorizing food into yin and yang.  I don’t know much about that.  My daughter likes fruit, so I usually put two if not three fruits in her lunch.  Is that bad?  We also eat crackers made from white flour, so that’s not ideal.  And our peanut butter has sugar in it.  I need to learn more about the glycemic index and how sugar conversion works, but I thought I was doing reasonably well.  You might know how it feels to have your mothering called into question.  Any suggestions for small steps I can take to improve the balance of these preschool lunches?

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22 Comments
  1. anaca permalink
    January 30, 2009 11:55 am

    My daughter eats very small lunches so I to try to pack a variety of things in small portions. Some of the things she likes are peanut butter and graham crackers, cheese, salami and crackers, veggies sticks with sour cream dip. yogurt and granola or grahams for dipping. She really loves wraps made with cheese and turkey and tomato. I usually make a whole one and then slice it into sections and give her just half, (then my lunch is ready too.) Another thing she likes is soup or pasta in a little thermos cup. I never pack juices but instead send a thermos with just water.
    I don’t think her stomach ache was caused by her lunch and I would have serious problems with any teacher who “implied” things about ME to MY kids. But there is always room for improvement in the way we eat.

  2. January 30, 2009 12:44 pm

    I don’t think her stomach ache had to do with her lunch either, but I get what you are saying and think it very big of you! I would have been offended and even hurt. I was vegan sooo long ago that I don’t remember everything, but I am making a wrap that I love right now and was just about to post on my blog:

    I saute onions, black beans, and corn with garlic, cumin, and pepper. then I put this in a tortilla with add tomato and avacado. MMMMMMM! Something about the sweetness of the corn with all that~MMMMMM!

    I think the hard boiled egg is a good idea, and the cheese, and I guess I would always put a fruit and a veggie. Does she like pb and celery? or maybe some nuts? I like the yogurt idea, but I guess you hafta think about sugars there, too. I’m not much help, I’m sure, but I’m really MAD for you! (((((HUGS))))) sandi~MMMMMM~what about a tofu pudding? I can’t remember the name of the mix… I guess there’s always meatless versions of meat, too….

  3. January 30, 2009 12:45 pm

    *I think* beans, rice, and corn together are supposed to make a complete protein… ??? (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  4. January 30, 2009 1:09 pm

    I like the hard boiled egg and the cheese- those will add a lot more sustenance as far as fats/protein goes….

    I would be livid if someone told my child that “some mothers” don’t know how to pack lunches. What a load of crap. I wonder how many of the other kids in her class go to school with junk like pop tarts for lunch. Sorry, I know this post isn’t about being angry at the teacher… but geez!!! It’s not right to talk to a child about their parents like that. AND you already pack healthy lunches!

    You can totally get peanut butter without added sugar, and it doesn’t have to be the kind where the oil separates out to the top. I found a good one, but it was just our local grocery store brand so it’s probably not up where you are.

  5. January 30, 2009 1:28 pm

    I understand your concern. That looks like a fairly healthy lunch to me. At least it’s not full of junk food. I wish I had some advice to help you out, but have to admit I’m not the best lunch chef either. Since the teacher has a strong opinion about the lunch, perhaps you could ask her what she thinks would be a better combination?

    I do have to admit I share kristin’s reaction towards the teacher’s comment…

  6. anaca permalink
    January 30, 2009 1:58 pm

    My kids LOVE plain yogurt with just a touch of honey. So you can really control the sugar there but plain can be an acquired taste. Fruit smoothies with plain yogurt are another option.

  7. January 30, 2009 3:40 pm

    You’re a better woman than I am. If someone hinted to my kids that I didn’t know what I was doing, I would have fallen apart in an ugly, embarrassing way. (That’s me– ugly and embarrassing. 😀 )

    Could your daughter not have had a stomachache because of 100 other reasons? A virus, perhaps? Mild indegestion? Anxiety? Stress? My husband is diabetic, and confident that when he has too much sugar, it NEVER manifests as an upset stomach.

    I think the lunches you pack her are perfectly appropriate. They are healthy, fresh, varied, and colorful. I agree with Kristin– I think if you were able to snoop through other kids’ lunches, you’d find a lot of chips, cookies, snack cakes and candy, with nary a fruit or vegetable.

    “Some moms don’t know…” How about some OTHER moms don’t know… *grumble, grumble*

  8. You, madam, are no Ambrose Bierce permalink
    January 31, 2009 9:39 am

    Ditch the goldfish, those transfats and chemicals just aren’t right. Perhaps a homemade muffin would be good and you know what’s in it. The rest looks excellent. The teacher sounds like a douchebag. But don’t listen to me, I have no kids.

  9. January 31, 2009 10:59 am

    For food combining, I don’t know how much stock to put in it, but for people interested in it, they will say that you’d want to eat the fruit first. And melon before other kinds of fruit. Something about how fruit digests so fast, that if you eat it after other things, it actually ferments while it sits there in our digestive tract waiting for everything else to clear.

    Like I said, I don’t know how much stock to put in that, but it does seem to be something that some people are quite sensitive to.

  10. January 31, 2009 11:44 am

    That looks like a great lunch! What a rude lady.

    (1) Carrots are low calorie, so unless she is eating a ton of them, they are much less of a worry than a piece of sandwich bread.

    (2) Kids get stomach aches sometimes. It’s a fact of life. Could have been something she ate for breakfast or for dinner the night before.

    (3) My plan for 2 adults is to make half of the meal fruits/veggies and the other half meats/dairy/grains. A little kid might need more protein and calcium though? Anyway, I think you are are doing a great job!!

  11. January 31, 2009 11:55 am

    Thanks for all your helpful comments! My daughter thinks I’m doing a good job and she almost always eats everything in her lunchbox. She knew that telling me what the teacher said would hurt my feelings. But I told her that I was trying to do well and that perhaps I had made a mistake that day. Everyone makes mistakes. It is interesting to learn more about all the theories of what to eat in what order. There are so many opinions!

  12. February 1, 2009 11:34 am

    First, FW, I really don’t like your daughter’s teacher for that comment. She may otherwise be an excellent teacher, but she basically told her “your mommy gave you that tummy ache”. If the teacher thought that her lunch was the problem, how about something like “Honey, I’m so sorry you have a tummy ache, let’s see what we can do”, then an email to YOU mentioning the tummy ache, and telling YOU what the problem might be. Instead, she burdened your daugther with a comment to tell you that your daughter knew would hurt you. Nice.

    BUt on to the next thing – my confession: I know that it is far from the healthiest think I can give my son, but he gets a Lunchable or lunchable equivalent every day (meat, crackers, cheese), plus water or juice (if it’s a treat), trrail mix, grapes/apples/oranges, fruit-jelly snacks, a “fruit” roll up, an organic/natural fruit leather strip, and applesauce. First: No he never eats it all. But he does need extra small snacks more often than the school offers them. He has a very high metabolism and is really active, so he burns through food super quickly. I know they aren’t great for him, but he gets the roll-ups and “fruit” snacks for when he’s having low-blood sugar bad attitude. They pick him up quickly enough, and he never eats both in one day, and his eating even one of those items is becoming increasingly rare. 🙂

    As for everything else, I figure it will all keep, and then he gts a variety to eat according to his needs. I think that when offered pretty healthy choices, kids choose what to eat what their bodies crave, and this way, plus what we feed him at home, he has a pretty good balance to pick from – carbs, fruits, protein. And yes, lunch meat is really gross, but other than edamame, lunch meat and chicken nuggets (!) are about the only protein he eats. He’s a carb boy.

  13. February 1, 2009 11:37 am

    Oh – and yesterday, my son cracked me up with this one: “Mommy, why don’t I get messy things?” “Like what?” “In my lunch – the other kids bring pizza and chips.” I just laughed. And didn’t feel so bad for sending lunchables.

  14. February 1, 2009 12:58 pm

    Princess Edamame, you know when my daughter told me about talking to her teacher that’s exactly how I felt and it made me cry. Like I had been blamed for giving my daughter a stomachache. My daughter’s confidence in me was definitely shaken. But I wasn’t sure if I was reading too much into it. Thanks for telling me about your son’s lunches and explaining your decisions.

  15. February 2, 2009 1:05 am

    My DD has a limited diet due to food allergies to eggs, dairy, and apples but I usually try to give her a variety of foods from: meats, grains, fruits and veggies plus soy milk and soy yogurt. She hardly ever eats everything I give her and no two days does she eat the same things or the same amouts of each thing but I figure it is there in the in case and whatever she doesn’t eat she brings home.

    I would be SUPER offended if my DD’s teacher said that to my DD. I would not be as dignified as you that if for sure. I has ALWAYS been a sugaraholic (my mom never told me no… she was one of those parents your DD’s teacher was speaking about) I have only gotten a tummy ache once or twice due to sweets and that is because I gorged on a huge amount of sweets (the unhealthy kind)…

    {Taken from About.com} Even though fruit does contain carbohydrates, almost all fruits are filled with vitamins and antioxidants. They are low in calories and are virtually fat free. Fruit also has fiber, which has been shown to help lower blood sugar levels as well as contribute to overall health.

  16. February 4, 2009 8:12 am

    Would she eat celery with peanut butter on it? Or celery with a cheese spread (pimento cheese) on it? I’m just trying to get something green in there!

    • February 4, 2009 12:10 pm

      Lolly, hi and welcome. She’s not a fan of celery. She did try it only because of The Wonder Pets, but didn’t like it. Sometimes I pack avocado or a salad with lettuce and cucumbers. And she likes kiwi fruit. There are green things in her lunch occasionally. 🙂

  17. February 6, 2009 11:00 am

    I absolutely love how you handled the issue with your daughter, though. Saying, “Well, I might have made a mistake this time” is really cool — to show her that adults make mistakes, and it’s not the end of the world if it happens.

    Many moms (probably me included?) would have said something like, “Well, that’s just ridiculous, your lunch is perfectly healthy, that was a horrible thing for your teacher to say!” Even though you may have though that, you didn’t say it. Very mature. Go Sarah!

    Also, I just looked at the pic of your daughters lunch again and it made me hungry. Will you make my lunch, too? 🙂

  18. February 6, 2009 3:30 pm

    Ah, the Wonder Pets – sweet sweet crack for my son… This. Is. See-wee-us… 🙂

    I can’t wait until the day that the teachers tell me I”m making him fat, despite the fact that he eats half or less than half of what I pack him each day, and is thin as a rail (well, maybe a post…)

  19. February 6, 2009 9:24 pm

    That looks like a pretty healthy lunch to me, too. Unless your daughter is diabetic, I don’t see a problem. (In which case she would be fainting not bellyaching.) Eggs are perfect protein, btw — they are the only food which contains all eight of the essential amino acids needed by our bodies and in the correct proportions.

    When my three-year-old says she has a tummyache, it usually means she needs to go to the bathroom 🙂

  20. February 8, 2009 12:26 am

    Yeah, when my 4 y/o has a tummy ache, a fart is not far behind…

  21. Kristen permalink
    April 26, 2009 9:28 pm

    In all honesty I’m a bit of a health nut, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with that lunch you packed. It’s much better than anything I’ve ever seen served.

    That teacher should learn to not make accusations to something that couldn’t ever be the cause.

    The lunch is great in my opinion, and the teacher is incredibly rude.
    The stomach ache would be pretty unrelated.

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