The most disgusting thing 11-year-old Logan Coleman says she ever found when she opened up her lunch box was a tuna and peanut butter sandwich.
"I'm pretty sure my sister made it," said the about-to-be sixth-grader at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School in St. Petersburg. "It was really gross."
Any sandwich eater of any age would be hard pressed to argue that one. But there were many other lunch items labeled "disgusting" by elementary and middle school students we talked to last week at city recreation centers, proving one thing: Gross is definitely in the eye of the lunch beholder.
Coincidentally, recently released results of the Project Lunch Box Study at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, which sought to compare packed lunches with school lunches, found that some home-packed lunches are also not very nutritious.
Just 27 percent of the lunches brought from home by the elementary students studied met three of the five National School Lunch Program standards: half a cup of fruit (excluding juice), ¾ cup of vegetables, 1 ounce of grains, 1 ounce of meat or protein, and 1 cup of dairy.
The study found that lunch boxes contained a lot more high-calorie packaged foods than fruits, vegetables and dairy items, and 42 percent contained snack foods.
What they should eat
Although some might find that filling a lunch box with items that meet the School Lunch Program standards isn't always easy, there are many choices available to keep a meal healthy. From the USDA's choosemyplate.gov, here are some suggestions:
1 ounce of grains
• a slice of bread
• a cup of ready-to-eat cereal
• ½ cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta
• a mini bagel
• a small biscuit
• 5 whole wheat crackers
• ½ English muffin
• a small muffin
• a pancake
• 3 cups popped popcorn
• a small flour or corn tortilla
1 ounce of protein
• an ounce of meat, poultry or fish
• ¼ cup cooked beans (black, kidney, pinto, white, baked, refried)
• an egg
• a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter
• ½ ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves)
• ½ ounce of seeds
• ¼ cup cooked peas (chickpeas, lentils, split peas)
• ¼ cup tofu
• 2 tablespoons hummus
• a falafel patty
½ cup of fruit
• ½ small apple
• ½ large banana
• 16 seedless grapes
• ½ large orange or peach
• ½ medium pear, a large plum or 4 large strawberries
• ¼ cup raisins, prunes or dried apricots
¾ cup vegetables
• 1 ½ cups leafy greens (any type of lettuce, spinach)
• 15 medium french fries
• 1 ½ large stalks celery
• ¾ cup broccoli florets
• ¾ cup baby carrots (about 9)
• ¾ cup cooked vegetables (broccoli, greens, sweet potato, squash)
1 cup of dairy
• a cup of milk
• an 8-ounce container of yogurt
• 2 slices of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss or Parmesan cheese
• 3 slices processed American cheese
• 2 cups cottage cheese
• a cup of pudding
Once the items have been selected, keep the lunch cool by packing it in an insulated lunch box or bag, including an ice pack or frozen beverage container.
Patti Ewald can be reached at [email protected]