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What About Kids’ Nutrition At School?

Learn How You Can Help Your Kids’ Nutrition At School

At the beginning of each school year, I discuss with each teacher that I do not want my child given sugar or other refined food products as rewards in the classroom. You do have that right to ask the teacher not to provide your kid with junk food—just like you wouldn’t expect her provide your kid with junk curriculum! Put it on that form they have you fill out the first day, under “allergies,” if you want.

I provide each teacher with a box of whole-food treats that will last a semester in her drawer (a box of natural, no-sugar added fruit leather, or whole-grain, naturally sweetened granola bars, for instance). That way, when a parent brings birthday cupcakes or donuts at 9 a.m., my child doesn’t go without a treat but also doesn’t have a blood-sugar jolt in the form of toxic food.

Room mothers often bring my child a piece of fruit, a box of raisins, or they even call me to ask what I suggest. I always tell people who go the extra mile like this that I never expect special purchases for my child. That’s a quick way to make people hate us health nuts! But I express my gratitude to them for their thoughtfulness when they do. Often teachers purchase appropriate foods for my kids, even though I’ve offered to supply them, because they simply want to give something to my kids.


If a parent or teacher asks what she can buy for your child, make a point of telling them that you avoid artificially sweetened things even more than sugar and white flour. I have learned this the hard way when well-intentioned room mothers bring my kids pretzels instead of cookies, or Nutrasweet (diet) products instead of sugar-sweetened treats. I’d choose sugar over chemical sweeteners any day.

We’re lucky that our charter school doesn’t provide hot lunch. (I’ve always been amazed that dietitians actually design the awful hot-lunch menus at schools and hospitals. It’s time to rethink what dietetics programs are teaching students!

But this year, the PTO has begun bringing in fast food for students a couple days a week. Making a whole-wheat sandwich with a baggie of fruits and veggies is something we do every night and put in the fridge for the next morning. It’s a 15-minute task that’s well worth your time. My kids might be one of only a few not eating the pizza/cookie/punch meal. But I was one of only a few bringing sack lunch when I grew up, too, and I’m not scarred for life.

We put together 101 Healthy Lunches for working people and students. It’s lots of ideas, most contributed by my readers, for easy, quick, portable, healthy lunches on the go!

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