Specifications for Packing My Child’s Lunch

My son’s grandmother did me the favor packing his lunch the other day.  (In a nutshell, I’m sick.)  All she required of me was his Monsters University lunch bag/box/whatever you want to call it (it’s one of those insulated softies), and I ended up throwing in a box of V8 Fusion.  My mother was doing me a favor, so I wasn’t about to lecture her on the specifications of packing my preschooler’s lunch.

I go all out with my kid’s lunches.  I like to be creative and make things fun.  Bagged lunches can be boring, so I like to include variety.  I also like to zazz things up with fun character or holiday-themed paper products (plate and napkin), colorful zip-lock bags (available at Target), and character-themed tupperware containers.  I’ll periodically rotate in special food themes –– “China food” or “Mexico food,” or even “spooky food,” and on the rare occasions that I throw it a dessert, I’ll find some way to make it literacy based.  (This used to be a major hobby of mine.)

I also make a point of including “love notes” in his lunches.   Even on the day that Grandma packed it for me, I made a point of slipping a little heart-shaped sticky note into his lunch box with an excuse explanation as to why everything looked so dull different.  (Wasn’t it NICE of Grandma to pack your lunch today?)

I’ll scribble down a few sentences worth of well-wishes, interesting facts, useful information, or suggest social prompts.  Some notes will have it all.  And every note contains an integrated “sight word”, which I also make a point of S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G O-U-T. It sounds crazy, but the kid loves it, and his teachers find it adorable.  (There are only six other kids in his classroom, so they can afford to give him a little extra attention.)

So this got me thinking… what if I had left my mother an exacting set of instructions on how to prepare and pack my child’s lunch?  There are plenty of parents out there who obsess over what they feed their kids, and god help you if you accidentally feed them inorganic produce.  Some insist artificial dyes were responsible for their children’s behavior problems; others seek to “cure” their kids of autism Jenny McCarthy style (which evidently involves removing gluten and casein from their diets).  More still have taken it upon themselves to “diagnose” their poor kids with multiple food allergies and intolerances before subjecting them to rigorous dietary restrictions.  I can only imagine the enormity of the written instructions these parents must leave their child care providers, who may not even be able to make the distinction between quinoa and couscous.

Grandma ended up sending the boy in with beans, spaghetti, and the V8 juice I’d given her.  Not quite the lunch I would have packed, but certainly delicious and nutritious enough to keep my child satiated and content.

But if I had left her a list of specifications for packing my kid’s lunch, here’s what it would have looked like:

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Steak vs Broccoli

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The following image has been making its way around Facebook, thanks to New York Times best-selling author Joel Fuhrman MD, a self-described “doctor of nutritional medicine” who believes in treating disease with diet.

Broccoli was chosen for this meme for a reason: compared to other vegetables, it is one of the most abundant sources of plant protein.  What the meme fails to address (for clearly ideological purposes) is the QUALITY of the protein in question.

Vegetable protein is garbage protein.  Not only is it incomplete (lacking in essential amino acids), but the essential aminos that are present are only available in trace amounts.

Now, the standard rebuttal here is that plenty of mammals (e.g. cows and giraffes) live on diets of nothing but green leafy vegetables, and they do all right.  But such animals have the ability to digest portions of the plant that we cannot (such as cellulose), and from there they are able to synthesize the nutrients lacking in their diets.  It’s similar to how bacteria within the human gut produce Biotin and B12.

Bottom line: broccoli is a wonderful source of nutrition and is readily available enough to be included in near everyone’s diet — just not as a source of protein.