“This then is the first duty of the educator: to stir up life but leave it free to
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
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:
1. Are more likely to meet their daily nutritional needs
2. Tend to keep their weight under control
3. Have lower blood cholesterol levels
4. Have fewer absences from school
5. Perform better academically, with fewer behavioral problems
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.
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
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
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?