I have been inspired. Jamie Oliver has always been one of my favorite chefs in the world, and now he has just been upped a notch in my book. I recently watched the premier episode of his new show "Food Revolution" and I am in shock and amazement. So much so, that I decided to do my own bout of research into the food and nutritional system of our country. If you visit the school guidelines (section 210) of the FDA regulations you will see that they appear to be pretty standard. At first glance. But further inspection reveals something almost sinister. According to the FDA, a student age 14 or older is allowed up to 846 calories per meal! And the fat allowances are up to three grams. What concerns ME is this. I just took a peek at the school meal plan for my kindergarten. What's on the menu? Frito chili pie. Chicken fried steak. Steak fingers. Pizza, hamburgers, lasagna . . . And the vegetables? Almost non-existent. Corn, potatoes, beans, peas (all starches, BTW), MAYBE carrots or green beans. And salad? It's OFFERED (as a substitute) but is STILL loaded with fat and calories from the meats, cheeses, and dressings added to it!
This is a problem in my child's school, obviously. But what about across America? Not much different. The problem IS, not only the food and nutrition guidelines written by the nation, but the food budgets. Schools would rather spend less money for a box of cheap chicken nuggets then shell out the extra cash for fresh meats, fruits, and veggies.
This is a problem that needs to be solved at the root. The FDA. The FDA needs to have stricter guidelines, first of all, on fat and calorie consumption. They also need to add in their guidelines that at least one fresh, raw fruit/veggie should be served with each meal. Not to mention whole grains - which right now are NOT even mentioned in the guidelines. Second, the FDA needs to crack down on schools and do more investigations and checks on what is being served. I can almost guarantee that the meal being served today at my child's school is NOT well within those guidelines. They also seem to be under the misconception that JELLO is a FRUIT. Uh, REALLY??
So, what can WE do about it, as parents? Well, first and foremost, don't spend your hard earned money on that junk. Send your kids with good wholesome meals from home in their lunch bags. My daughter today chose her own lunch - peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat with carrots and apples. She DID chose to carry cheetoes with her, but I only gave her about 1/4 of the typical serving size (serving size 26 puffs, I gave her 8 puffs). I can guarantee she's getting more fiber, more nutrients, and less fat and calories than what she would have eaten at school. So, boycott your school lunch! Encourage other parents to do so as well! Perhaps, if no one is letting their kids eat the school lunch, the "powers that be" will take notice.
Second, write your school board. Tell them you're unhappy with the current nutritional status of your districts lunch program. Give specifics.
Third, write your congressman. Sometimes change needs to be made at the top.
At home, teach your children how to eat. Offer them fresh fruits and veggies. Don't give them unhealthy alternatives. The more they see the "good stuff" the more likely they are to at least try it. When they DO try it, reward them! Kids THRIVE on praise and recognition for a "job well done". Look for healthier alternatives to their favorites - make home made chicken nuggets, add a whole grain crust to your pizza and throw some mushrooms and peppers on top while your at it. Put a salad in front of your child once or twice a week.
The bottom line is this. Our kids, our schools, our COUNTRY is UNHEALTHY. We have a higher percentage rate of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes than ANY OTHER NATION IN THE WORLD! There is a reason for this. Let's make the change!
Home Made Chicken Nuggets
1 lb Chicken tenders, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 c flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c seasoned bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste
Spray a baking sheet well with cooking spray. Cut the tenders in half, then half again to get bite size pieces. Put the flour and salt and pepper into a large baggie and drop the chicken in. Shake the bag to coat well. Dredge the chicken pieces in the egg, then in the bread crumbs, and lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer. Spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, turn and bake for another 5-6 minutes, until crispy.
Better Sloppy Joes
1 lb ground chicken or turkey breast
1 can sloppy joe sauce of choice
4 whole wheat hamburger buns
Brown the meat in a skillet over medium high heat. Add sauce and stir to combine. Serve over hamburger buns.
Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
1 package yeast
1 C warm (91-102 degrees) water
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 1/4-2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine yeast and water in a bowl and allow to sit for five minutes. Add all-purpose flour and oil and mix well to combine. Allow to sit for another five minutes. Add salt. Add wheat flour 1/2 cup at a time until you can no longer mix in any more flour. (If using standing mixer, add flour until it forms a sticky ball on paddle attachment). Remove from bowl. Coat bowl with cooking spray or 1 tsp olive oil. Return dough to bowl and turn to coat (will be sticky). Top with moistened kitchen towel or paper towel. Allow to rise one hour, or put in fridge and allow to sit up to 24 hours. When ready to make pizza, divide dough in half, roll out to fit sheet pan and par bake five minutes in pre heated 375 oven. Add toppings as desired and bake at 375 10-15 minutes.