The Skinny on Why Our Kids Are Fat

I have always packed school lunches. I am not the best cook, so lunches are where my culinary excellence shows – dinosaur cut sandwiches, rosette strawberries, little melon balls.  I’m the Wolfgang Puck of the lunchbox set.

In September, we sent Eilis to public school for the first time.  In January, we sent Granuaile.  The schools have real cafeterias, not Burger King one day and Papa John’s the next – this is real, government regulated food.  So it’s better for them, right?  Michelle Obama wouldn’t let the school serve unhealthy lunches, would she?

Oh – and did I tell you this part?  Because my husband is disabled, we qualify for reduced price lunches.  The cost to feed my children lunch each day?  80 cents.  For both.

But wait, there’s more!

Granuaile’s school began a breakfast program!  This is a busy mom’s dream, right?  The kids can sleep in an extra 15 minutes, and I don’t have to scramble to get breakfast ready.  Bonus – Reduced price for breakfast?  40 cents.

I browse the menu each week when it comes out, and it looks like there are all sorts of healthy options.  There are salads, fruits, vegetables.  But the reality is that I’m not there when my kids go through the lunch line.  I hear the salads smell funky, or the vegetables taste bad.  And breakfast, where there are no options, feature things I’d never feed my kids.  Granuaile on Monday had PopTarts.  How is that healthy?  I’ll tell you the school answer – it’s a whole grain PopTart, and it has a serving of fruit inside.  Let’s just disregard the fact that the fruit is steeped in sugar and the whole grain is frosted.

And gym class – remember that?  I do, because as a fat kid, I hated it.  And one reason I hated it so much is that it was an every day thing.  EVERY DAY!!  Granuaile has PE once a week, and they don’t even ask them to dress in PE clothes – they just take them outside to play.  Eilis has it once a week, and the class time is so brief, I’m not even sure why they bother to make them change.

I’ve ranted on kids meals before.  Why, when you go to McDonald’s, is there no kids sized salad?  Because kids don’t want them, McDonald’s won’t sell them, and parents (especially in cash strapped times) are going to opt for the $1 double cheeseburger over the $4 healthy option.

We put televisions and computers in our kids’ rooms, expecting them to use them for homework or occasional entertainment, but when was the last time you saw a game on your street of kick ball or street hockey?  I don’t mean something organized by the school – I mean just random kids playing a game outside.  It doesn’t happen in my neighborhood.  We bought out kids a basketball net, and it was stolen out of our driveway.  I went through the neighborhood to see if I could find it, then convinced myself that it was a conspiracy of neighborhood families to steal it because my kids were outside, laughing, playing and having fun.  I’m pretty sure that’s not legal anymore.  It was a message to get my kids back where they belong – in front of an XBox game or on Club Penguin!

Commercials aimed at children don’t pitch fresh fruit and vegetables.  They pitch the things kids love and moms love to hate.  But I buy them.  You buy them.  How can you look at those tiny, pleading faces and walk past the ice cream aisle or the cookie display?  And places like Costco and Sam’s Club allow us to buy three boxes of cookies at one time – cheaper!

Did you know that less than 10% of parents seek treatment for their child’s obesity?  Why is that?  Do we not want to acknowledge our kids are fat?  Do we not want the doctor to point fingers at us?  Do we think it’s going to go away?

Time to step up, Moms and Dads.  If it’s too late to help ourselves, we have to do something to help our kids.

I think I’m going to go pack a school lunch.