Food Junkie

The emerging science of addictive overeating

Why School Lunch ISN’T Making Kids Fat

Many school districts have changed their lunch program to adopt a more healthy menu. But it isn't working. Why is it that the change from 800-calorie Sloppy Joes to whole grains and bigger portions of fruits and vegetables hasn’t made a different? It is simple: we abruptly changed the foods and didn’t consider the psychological aspects of eating. Read More

Um...not really!

As a mother of three boys, I have some experience with the school lunches.

My boys are active and thin, with high metabolisms. They eat big breakfasts--scrambled eggs, wheat toast, and fruit; oatmeal, fruit, and milk--and the older two hate school lunches.

It's simply not enough food to satisfy them.

I should add that neither of them drink the school milk because it's not very cold. (It sits out during lunch and gets "warmish."

We eat healthy foods at home -- very little processed food and plenty of home cooking with local produce (we're in a wonderful farm co-op). They don't drink juice or soda, unless they're at a party, and they snack on fresh fruit.

Obesity is not an issue at our house.

I should add that the youngest, at 7, likes hot lunch. It's plenty of food for his little body, so he gets hot lunch a few times a week.

But the older ones, at 11, would need two of those lunches to fill them up. It's crazy that a first grader and a fifth grader would be expected to need the same number of calories.

We don't count calories at our house...we eat nutritious food until we're full. That's it.

It frustrates me that I don't have the option of hot lunch for the older two...because some days it would really simplify life!

I honestly think the biggest problem with hot lunch is that so much of it is processed "junk" with a "healthy" label. Bring back the old school lunch ladies who actually cook real food. Low-fat cheese tastes weird. A small amount of the real stuff is much more satisfying and adds a lot of flavor to food.

We pack every day. Hearty sandwiches, soups, salads, fruit, veggies with hummus, wraps.

People like to talk about the healthy school lunches, but have you actually gone to a local school and eaten one? I have and I wasn't impressed. (A few cold noodles with some marinara and one meatball, a small baggie of plain romaine lettuce, some watermelon (the highlight of the meal), and a packaged "dinner roll" with margarine on the side. (I'm not a big fan of transfat.)

I never forced my kids to get hot lunch again.

Obesity is a problem, but I don't believe this is the way to fix it.

You raise some good points. I

You raise some good points. I became more aware of the "real world" of school lunches this year when my child started kindergarten. I also pack lunches for her, but we are limited because it has to be "cold" (i.e., there is no way to heat it up). What are your go-to packed lunches that your kids like?

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Nicole Avena, Ph.D. is a research neuroscientist and an expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction.

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