According to the Centers for Disease Control, one-third of American youth are considered overweight or obese. This rate has tripled over the past three decades, and everyone – from First Lady Michelle Obama to lobbyist groups to everyday parents – is trying to come up with a viable solution to this “epidemic.” As a parent, your kids’ diets are probably important to you, as the food and drinks kids consume can affect their performance in school, alertness during everyday activities, and long-term physical and mental health. School lunches have become hot-button issues since Michelle Obama made childhood nutrition and exercise one of her main projects as first lady, but even with supposedly improved standards, it might still be better than your kids bring a bagged lunch to school and here’s why:
Know What Your Kids Are Eating
First and foremost, a major benefit to preparing your kids’ meals yourself is that you know what they’ll be eating at school. This allows you to better balance their diets between what they eat for breakfast and dinner at home, and the lunch they’ll bring to school. Counting calories isn’t a major concern for kids since their metabolisms are faster than ours, but it’s still worth keeping their caloric intake in check to minimize health concerns. Preparing your kids’ meals at home also gives them more of a say in what they want to eat, reducing the chances of them throwing stuff away like many kids do with unwanted school lunch items.
Fruits & Veggies
Did you know that under the Reagan Administration, they classified ketchup as a vegetable to save money on real fruits and veggies? Nowadays, Congress is facing more uproar after delegating pizza to the “veggie” category in an effort to provide healthy school meals for kids at a low cost to the government (which subsidizes meals for hundreds of thousands low-income students. In light of new school lunch regulations, many parents have complained that kids are simply throwing away the unwanted fruits and veggies – this can be easily avoided by shopping with your kids and having them pick out which fruits and vegetables they would like to eat at school.
Misc. Nutritional Concerns
School lunches are notoriously high in sodium – despite intrusive governmental regulations to reduce sodium content in items like pizza, pasta, and burgers – and although soda machines are largely banned on most campuses, the alternatives that schools offer aren’t significantly healthier. By packing your kids’ lunch yourself, you will know exactly how much sodium they’re consuming and if your kid isn’t a fan of whole grain bread or pasta – which many schools are switching over to, per government guidelines – you won’t have to worry whether or not they threw their lunch away.
School lunches generally cost between $3-5. This sounds cheap, but over time, it can add up to much more than what you’d pay for home-bought items. Unless you qualify for government-subsidized lunches for your kids, brown bagging it is ultimately cheaper because you can buy several items – such as chip bags, drink bottles, etc. – in bulk, and find several food and drink coupons from SumoCoupon to supplement your frugal grocery shopping habits. For extra savings on the actual brown bag, consider buying your kids reusable lunch bags, which can include cooling components and be used for the entire school year.
Perhaps the only downside to brown bagging it is the fact that bringing a lunch for home takes up much more space in your child’s backpack and it’ll require more time on your part to prepare either the night before or the morning of. It doesn’t take too long, but if you’re a very busy parent with several kids, then it could be a deciding factor. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong decision; it’s up to you to decide whether school lunches are right for your kids.