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To All Parents:
A Note From the Kitchen

“This then is the first duty of the educator:
to stir up life but leave it free to develop.”

~Maria Montessori

February 2, 2011
Chris Liddick  •  Certified Nutrition Specialist

 

I know what it’s like to be a working parent.

While my son was in school, I worked full time and, I can honestly say, it nearly killed me. There was never a time when I wasn’t being pulled in ten directions at one time. From the time he entered kindergarten, until the day he graduated, I was distracted, rushed, disorganized, and exhausted. I never found the balance. When he graduated last year, I didn’t leave his graduation ceremony with any bittersweet nostalgia about ‘my baby growing up’. All I was thinking was, “Thank God it’s over!”

I’m telling you this because I want you to know up front that I understand how tough it is. But we need to talk, because your child’s health is important to us at Courthouse, just as we know it is to you. It’s a proven fact that well nourished kids get sick less often and perform better in school. And, after all, isn’t that what we’re all striving for?

 

Breakfast:

Long touted as “the most important meal of the day”, breakfast is just that. It’s the meal that ‘breaks the fast’ of a long night’s sleep. It revs up the metabolism for the coming day, and provides the jump start that energizes us through the morning, not unlike recharging a low car battery.

According to the American Dietetic Association, kids who eat a healthy breakfast:

That’s a pretty convincing argument for eating a good breakfast, isn’t it?

Still, when you’re frantically trying to get yourself ready for work, and your kids ready for school, the thought of cooking breakfast can be daunting, to say the least. Who has time? If you’re anything like I was, most days, your child eats breakfast in the car on the way to school, or at the bus stop, while waiting for the bus. And there’s nothing wrong with that, IF they’re eating the right things.

The good news is, in the time it takes to toast a Pop Tart, you could make a bagel with cream cheese, a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread, a fruit filled cereal bar with yogurt, a sliced banana filled with peanut butter, a whole wheat pita stuffed with hard boiled egg or lean meat and cheese. Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless. A good breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Even the standard bowl of cereal (low sugar, please) or microwave oatmeal with a piece of fruit is a great option when you have the time.

So, lets revisit Pop Tarts for a moment. Humor me. I know, I know... they’re fast, convenient, kids love them, and we see a lot of them here at school in the morning. Okay, it does fill their little bellies for a while, but what does it fill them with? That’s the question, and the answer is sugar. Lots and lots of it. The average Pop Tart contains between 12 and 18 grams of sugar. Did you know that...

 

4.2 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon

 

Think about that. That means that when your child eats a Pop Tart, he or she is consuming the equivalent of 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar! Visualize your child sitting at the table with a bowl of sugar in front of him, spooning it into his mouth. Horrifying, isn’t it? Pop Tarts contain ‘simple carbohydrates’ which are just that... simple sugars, which means that once the short-lived ‘sugar high’ wears off, there’s nothing to sustain your child’s energy until snack or lunch. The result is a hungry, cranky, undernourished child. Not only that, but over-consumption of refined sugars, over time, can lead to uncontrollable sugar cravings.

‘Complex carbohydrates’ are our friends in the morning. You’ll find these in whole grains, yogurt, fruits and vegetables. Foods comprised of complex carbs digest slower, leaving us feeling ‘full’ longer. They stabilize blood sugar levels, and keep energy levels stable. Whole grain breads, cereals, fruit (even dried), and yogurt will serve your child’s nutritional needs much better in the morning, and many ‘complex carb’ foods are convenient for a ‘pick up and carry with you’ breakfast.

Almost any food is acceptable in moderation, and Pop Tarts may be implemented in your child’s diet as an occasional treat without detracting from overall nutritional satisfaction but, as a breakfast staple, it’s useless and, in actuality, detrimental to your child’s nutritional well being.

 

Lunch:

We try very hard to provide your child with a balanced lunch, and I think we succeed pretty well. We try to make the food agreeable to young palates while incorporating nutritional ingredients. We serve very few commercially processed entrees. We pride ourselves on that, and the kids seem to enjoy the results.

There are some kids, though, who, no matter what’s on the menu, prefer to bring their lunch, and that’s fine. But let’s talk about what they tend to bring with them for lunch.

Lunchables... Oh my... where to begin? Lunchables are a popular choice of our ‘lunch carriers’, and one of the absolute worst. Aside from containing little nutrition, most of them contain at least half a day’s sodium allowance (some, a whole day’s worth!), between 45 and 70 mgs of cholesterol, a high level of saturated fat, and a high sugar content. What’s not to hate?

And the Ramen type noodles? Don’t get me started. It’s a cup of flavored salt...period. They shouldn’t even be classified as ‘food’.

But what are the alternatives? One good, basic option is a sandwich (lean meat, cheese, hummus... no peanut butter at school, please) on whole grain bread. If you want to get imaginative, use a cookie cutter to cut it into interesting shapes. Salsa, bean, or fruit dips with whole grain crackers, mini-rice cakes, or mini-waffles are a good choice. Fresh or dried fruit with yogurt dip is also an excellent option.

Most young children prefer simple foods that are fan to eat. Preparing a healthy lunch doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It doesn’t require a pantry fall of exotic ingredients. The simpler, the better. For much less than the cost you’re paying for purchased convenience foods, with a little imagination, you could make your own nutritious and appetizing ‘take along’ meals in very little time, at home.

 

Snacks

Our pledge to you is to provide more complex carb snacks, more whole grains, more fruits, more vegetables, and fewer simple sugars. Of course, on occasion, we will treat the kids to the goodies they love (everything in moderation... a good nutritional rule of thumb), but overall, it’s back to basics. We take your child’s well-being seriously, and that includes physically, as well as academically. Working together as a team, we have the capability to provide your child the optimum chance for a healthy and productive future. We’re ready and willing to do our part, but we need your help to succeed. Please consider the information on these pages, and help us by choosing foods that will compliment our efforts to encourage healthy eating habits. The nutritional habits they develop now will influence them all through their lives. Let’s start them off right, shall we?