I'm really glad to have this summer break from making lunches for my kids.
Don't get me wrong – I still feed my kids lunch! But packing a lunch for school? I'm glad to have the eight-week holiday.
Toward the end of the school year, my seven-year-old stopped eating his lunch. He had always brought the same lunch since he was in junior kindergarten (actually, two lunches a day, because our school board has adopted the "balanced day" schedule where the children get two shorter lunch hours per day.)
His lunches were a thing of nutritional beauty. He always had whole-wheat mini-pitas with cream cheese, cooked ham, turkey or chicken, veggies (usually carrots, cucumber or tomato) and a piece of fruit. Add to that milk from the milk program, and all four food groups were represented. I believed the teachers and lunch monitors would marvel at his healthy lunch and, more importantly, I believed it allowed him to concentrate without getting overloaded with sugar and processed food.
But at the end of grade one, peer pressure had started to rear its ugly head. Every day, he would bring home his uneaten lunch. He didn't want his healthy little lunch anymore. He wanted what the other kids were having, he informed me.
"Well, what do the other kids eat?" I asked.
"Candy," he replied without batting an eyelash.
"They do not!" I protested. "They may get a treat in their lunches, but they do not have CANDY as their only lunch."
"Some bring hot dogs," he then told me.
"Ewwww!" I replied. "How do they keep them warm?"
"I dunno. But I’d like a hot dog."
I put the kibosh on that too (hot dogs are notoriously high in nitrates). After further questioning, it appeared he no longer wanted the mini pitas or the cooked meat anymore. He didn't want sandwiches. He didn't seem to want anything I deemed acceptable or nutritionally sound. He also didn't seem to want enough food to fuel all his activity needs.
He's a pretty active kid. He spends his breaks playing soccer or mini-stick hockey. He takes swimming lessons, plays soccer in the summer, hockey in the winter and participates in sports like basketball at the YMCA. He's a budding athlete – and that means he needs a ton of fuel (if you want to know just how much, check out "High octane kids" this week on Primacy Life).
In the end, we compromised on his lunches. He took half a whole-wheat bagel or English muffin instead of pita, and yogurt, eggs or cheese instead of the meat. We went grocery shopping together to try and find a solution we could both live with and feel good about. He had enough fuel for his active day, and I even agreed to add the occasional treat to his lunch.
Still, I'm glad summer is here and I don't have to pack his lunch anymore!
A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.