NO OFFENSE, BREAKFAST, you’re important too, but for kids in school Lunch has it all going on. Sure breakfast gets kids through the morning, but without a healthy lunch, kids just can’t function in the afternoon.
Recently, I spent some time in my son’s preschool lunch program and while it’s been interesting on a number of levels, what’s in kids’ lunch boxes has completely intrigued me — mostly in a good way.
But in one case, not so good. One kid consistently had – there’s no delicate way to put this — a crappy lunch. One week it was two Nutrigrain bars, a box of raisins, and a Capri Sun fruit punch. The next it was a Nutrigrain bar, Keebler PB&J crackers, and a Capri Sun fruit punch. The next week… well, you get the idea.
Let me be clear: this is not a socio-economic issue — this family is upper-middle class with two working professional parents. Nor is this a “picky eater” issue — I’ve seen this child eat lots of other things for snack in class, like fruit, yogurt, cheese, and turkey.
So what happened after this child had this lunch? The rest of the afternoon in class, this child was whiny, weepy, uncooperative, and/or tired.
I experienced something similar with my own kid (a first-grader). He would ask for a bagel for breakfast and want the same thing in his lunch. Even though he was also eating lots of fresh fruit, he was having some rough days at school and coming home cranky. After a couple times I (finally) made the connection – no protein. Once I got some protein back in his lunch box, things straightened out.
There is a link between what kids eat and how they act. Every kid is different and as parents we can see how our kids react to different foods and ingredients then make adjustments. Some kids need more protein, some react more negatively to dyes or sugar. But one thing is true for all kids: a lunch full of additives, dyes, and refined sugars and carbs are a recipe for a bad day at school.
So, back to my preschool friend. Processed snack foods aren’t lunch. Kids need a healthy, balanced lunch that includes fruit and protein to make it through the day successfully. I’m 100% certain this child would have had a lot more fun at school after a healthier lunch.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A healthy lunch is very important for kids. Crappy food in, crappy behavior out.