Sunday, September 4, 2011

Healthy Lunches

I was reading an article in the Natural Awakenings Magazine recently about school lunch nutrition when I came across a staggering statistic. In an interview with Chef Ann, author of several books and advocate for improving student menu plans, I read that "some studies indicate that children born in 2000 may die at a younger age than their parents because of the food they eat."  Is that not a mouth-dropping statistic?

Apparently, it was a prognostication made by the Centers for Disease Control. I searched the CDC website last night, and couldn't find reference to the study. I would have liked to have read or least skimmed the study in its entirety.

Here's another statistic for us parents with young girls.  From Michigan State University, "girls eating a high-fat diet during puberty, even those who do not become overweight or obese, may be at a greater risk of developing breast cancer later in life."  What our kids eat now is definitely setting the foundation for their health as adults.

I've often joined Abigail for lunch and have seen what they serve in the cafeteria... pizza, nachos, mac 'n cheese, chicken patties, burgers, hot dogs, french fries, tater tots and chocolate milk.  I understand that for many children in this country, this is the best meal they're going to eat in a given day.  I also understand that it needs to be inexpensive.  But, does it have to be highly processed, high in fat, salt and sugar, full of genetically modified ingredients and additives?  These foods lead to cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes.  Should we not look hard at that statistic and invest in our children and their future?  We don't live in a 3rd world country. Why should our life expectancy be on the decline?

Now, in case you are sitting there thinking that you ate pizza, french fries and drank chocolate milk when you were in school and you are in good shape and healthy, let me just say that you ate real pizza and french fries and drank real milk.  That's the difference. There is nothing real about what is served in most cafeterias or packed in most lunchboxes.  1996 was the year that genetically modified/ engineered soy was introduced.  By the year 2000 (note the year), 54% of all soybeans harvested in the US were genetically modified up from 7% in 1996.  GMO corn made up 25% of the corn harvested in 2000.  That's up from 1.5% in 1996.  These numbers have done nothing but climb. Think high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, canola & vegetable oil, modified food starch, maltodextrin, soy lecithin to name just a few.  All ingredients commonly found in our food, and unless organic, all derived from genetically modified crops.  Don't forget the milk and cheese.  1994 was the year rbST was introduced.  By 2000, approximately 1/3 of dairy cows were in herds supplemented with rbST.

I only let Abigail purchase lunch from the cafeteria one day a week. On that day I even encourage her to take her water bottle as opposed to purchasing a milk.  If I had my way, she wouldn't eat from the cafeteria at all.  Don't get me wrong, packing lunch is no picnic at our house either. Abigail has to pack the majority of it, and would go without rather than having to take the time to put together something of substance.

She would also live off of starches and carbohydrates if I let her.  Crackers, chips, snack bars, pretzels and pastas are about all she wants to eat.  That and dairy in the form of cheese and yogurt.  Per my insistence, a typical packed lunch consists of a slice or two of ham or pepperoni (both organic), cheese stick (rbST-free) and crackers (GMO/additive-free).  If I have dip she'll eat a couple of carrots so I make an organic ranch dip.  I also insist on a fruit and purchase fruit cups in natural juice with no color or sugar additives.  Snack is usually pretzels or crackers, cereal or fruit bars (also all GMO/additive-free). One day a week, I'll heat up mac 'n cheese or toast some mini-pizzas to send in a thermos.  I try to keep a lot of other options in the pantry and the fridge, but this is what she chooses day in and day out.  If she could, she'd eat the cafeteria food every day. She's not worried about breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease and the like.  That's my job.  Educate her now, condition her to eating healthy now in hopes of it becoming an adult practice.  And, that one day a week in the cafeteria?  It's my attempt to loosen the reins a bit and not create resentment over the contents (or lack of) in our pantry.

For more reading on GMO foods, rbST and healthy eating, check out the links on either side of the blog posts.  Here are links that I used to get my statistics on year 2000 usages of GMO foods and rbST.

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