Right before school started, I was beginning to lose sleep over what I would make Claire, now in second grade, for lunch every day. The school she attends does not have a cafeteria and students are expected to bring their own lunch daily. I remember all those daily conversations last year,
Me: “Claire, what do you want for lunch tomorrow?”
Claire: “I don’t care Mommy”,
Me: “PB & J, or Turkey and cheese?”
Claire: “I don’t care, PB & J”, next day “Turkey and cheese”
It used to be easier, when I did just make one of those two types of sandwiches, threw in a Capri Sun, a couple of Oreos, and maybe a few grapes, and Claire’s lunch was a check list item that only took up 2 minutes of my time. That combination was over 3 years ago. Thank goodness her Montessori school teacher called me a few times stating Claire was complaining that her lunch is coming up to her throat. After careful reading of labels from all the items in her lunchbox, that combination had way too much sugar and clearly resulted in her having backwash or reflux symptoms. I stopped buying Capri Sun or any other juice box/drinks since then, and now she brings a water bottle daily.
Two weeks into school, Claire asked me one night why I do not pack her hot pasta in a thermos. I was dumbfounded. “Mommy never thought about that”. She informed us that her new dear friend at school has a thermos, and she enjoyed chicken noodle soup for lunch, hot lunch. I can’t believe that my 7 year old helped me think outside the box. I was born and raised in Taipei Taiwan, where hot lunch was the norm, every day, for everyone. We students had metal boxes and mothers and grandmothers packed rice and whatever we had for dinner the night before. I LOVE HOT FOOD! yet, I never thought about it for Claire.
Typical Julie Wei reaction, rushed off to Walgreen’s to look for a thermos as we did not have any Target close by, or okay, I sent my husband out to get one so that I can immediately impress my 7 year old with the ability to deliver and stop the PB & J and Turkey and Cheese madness. He comes back and hands me this cute plastic pink one, “Made in China” of course. The next morning, I heated up chicken noodle soup and put it in the thermos, all the while picturing the heat melting plastic and leaking BPA (bisphenol A), a chemical and poison which can be eaten and get into the blood stream, and my poor little girl eating that with her soup.
I insisted that Dave order a better one online, and we chose the Thermos brand real vacuum insulated food jar
. Ever since the arrival of the gorgeous, shiny, easy to clean thermos, I have been able to pack her home made spaghetti and meat sauce, pasta gently tossed with olive oil and some shaved parmesan cheese, chunks of steak and broccoli from dinner, various soups, etc. I feel awesome as a mom. My own mother would be proud. Hot foods are simply devine and warm the soul! Chinese people always believe in the power of warm and hot liquids instead of cold. My paternal grandfather never drank any cold liquids, and I know the reason was that by warming our core, it should encourage dilation of blood vessles and blood flow. This is believed to improve digestion overall. Grandpa always walked 1000 steps after every meal also, now I know that too was to help him stand up, not sit down and just let the food sit there. Grandfather lived until 93!
My routine now, decide the night before what you are packing. Place the hot food items in tupper ware and refrigerate. In the morning, put hot water in the Thermos food jar for a few minutes, then heat up the meal over stove or microwave, and pack in the food jar. Claire has loved this. I will admit since my new Thermos addiction she has had PB & J one day, but rest of the time I have enjoyed packing her chicken and pasta, and any variation of pasta. I cut up either watermelon, cantaloupe, or honey dew most times for fresh fruit. While grapes are easy, it is pretty high in sugar so as long as it is not part of a highly sugary lunch, you’re probably okay.
By not having a sugary drink and more sugar from jelly/cold cuts/other processed items, at least I am reducing her sugar consumption. I still pack something sweet, like a cookie or those yogurt covered raisins. But I feel so much better about what I am feeding her for lunch. In this hot Florida climate, because I am packing hot lunches I can stop using those ice packs and worrying about food spoiling.
Does all this take work? absolutely. Is she worth it? absolutely. I love food and expressing my love of family through food. I hope that you will get a Thermos as well and free you self from the 2 sandwich dilemma! Try it, I think you and your child will enjoy new lunch options and say no to Lunchables!
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Dr. Julie Wei is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist and the author of A Healthier Wei. As a mother herself, Dr. Wei is a passionate advocate for improving children's health through better diet and dietary habits. She has been committed to helping parents learn how to eliminate their child's ear, nose, and throat problems simply by reducing excessive sugar and dairy intake, as well as minimizing habitual late night snacking. She hopes to raise awareness for the need for accountability by both medical professionals and parents to ensure that children are not prescribed or take unnecessary medications long term.
When she is not in the clinic, operating room, or conducting research, you will find her in the kitchen preparing food with love along with her daughter Claire. If you sit next to her on the plane, she will likely share with you information about how to minimize choking hazards in young children, and many other tips for improving your child's health.