(Un)Happy Meals?

No, no, I haven’t given up on this blog. I’ve just given in to the power of my allergies, colds, busy agenda and a few minor projects that inhaled all my writing time and energy in the recent weeks. May was surprisingly a very busy month for me.

But now I’m back with a few thoughts on the topic that has been making me boil over for a while. I was procrastinating with writing about it but  Michelle Obama’s recent setback in Congress reminded me that the issue can’t wait. I’m talking of course about the public school lunch menu.

I fully agree with the First Lady. We can’t play politics with our children’s health. Child’s obesity and bad eating habits are not just theories. These are scary facts. There is no place for lobbying, marketing campaigns and cost cutting in the school cafeteria. It’s about nutritious lunches for growing children and developing brains.

But unfortunately, not only. Surprise, surprise, children have taste buds! Next to being nutritious, the food must taste good as well!

When I first saw how the hot lunch works at my son’s school, I couldn’t believe  my eyes.  To begin with, there is no canteen on the school premises. The food comes pre-packed. Children pick up their lunch-boxes in a big meeting room and eat their meals anywhere on the campus.  Just to give you an idea, the lunch looks like an airplane meal. Economy class that is. It comes on a paper tray/plate and consists of a handful of deflated,  lettuce/veggie mix, packaged dressing, a little box of milk and the main meal, which is a foil-sealed, hot mystery: pasta, pizza, and even corn dogs, to name just a few. How healthy is that? What did they serve before the new guidelines?

Honestly. Really? Could the school lunch look less appealing?  How can a child take to eating healthy fare if the healthy part of the meal is so tasteless? Do you really think a seven-year old is going to eat raw broccoli and enjoy it? I’m not saying  let’s go back to the old junk version of lunch. What I’m saying is that the whole attempt to make the school canteen food healthier has turned out a little undercooked.  Is changing whole milk into low-fat better for children’s brains? Ask any dietician. Is replacing sugary soda with artificially sweetened one helping children focus better? Ask any ADHD counselor and offer your child water. Does pizza sauce qualify as a serving of veggies? Ask anyone from out of the country. How about a refreshing tomato & cucumber salad with greek yoghurt? Roasted carrots with a bit of butter anyone? Yes, butter. Not butter flavor. Baked sweet potato wedges? Italian wedding soup with spinach and meatballs? Any soup perhaps???????  Tasty and nutritious options are endless and it only requires a bit of common sense, creativity and real food to come up a nutritious menu that tastes good.

To conclude, I think the First Lady should stick to her guns. She is definitely on the right side of the debate. But I wouldn’t waste my time arguing with lobbyists and ignorants. I would hire a few good chefs to create healthy and delicious menu that no child will be able to resist. It’s certainly not a mission impossible.