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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
About those lunch boxes . . .
Schoolchildren can complain about the food, but they don't have to worry about what they carry it in. Most of today's lunch boxes are divided and have insulated containers that keep cold stuff cold and warm stuff warm; everything stays nice and neat. They undoubtedly are better suited to their duty than those really old metal boxes were. But are they as fun? Hardly.
Metal lunch boxes bearing pictures of pop culture icons gave kids a way to make a personal statement. In fact, the metal lunch box as personal statement first took off in the 1950s, along with television. After domed tops were added in 1957, Aladdin Industries sold 9 million domed Disney school buses, making it the biggest lunch kit seller of all time.m
Collecting those and other lunch boxes from that era is still a popular hobby, for young and old.
Here's a look at some lunch box history, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution and Whole Pop Magazine Online:
• The first commercial metal lunch boxes came out in 1902. They looked like picnic baskets.
• In 1935, Mickey Mouse became the first popular figure to appear on a lunch box.
• In 1953, Thermos put bright lithography on both sides of the lunch box instead of a decal on only one side. They sold 2.5 million Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunch boxes that year.
• In 1954, Aladdin retooled to offer the same full-box lithography. The lunch box wars began.
• Aladdin stamped designs into the metal in 1962 to make a bas-relief, 3-D effect.
• Vinyl lunch boxes (cue Barbie) in the 1960s were never as popular as metal.
• Aladdin made a Beatles lunch box in 1965; Yellow Submarine in 1968; and Psychedelic in 1969.
• Thermos made a domed Lost in Space lunch box in 1967, The Partridge Family in 1971 and Knight Rider in 1981.
• In the 1980s, they began making lunch boxes out of molded plastic and their popularity started to decline.
• The last metal lunch box, Rambo, was made in the mid-1980s..
Patti Ewald , Times staff writer
Here are some of the findings from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy's GREEN (Growing Right: Eco-friendly Eating and Nutrition) Project Lunch Box Study of 626 third- and fourth-graders:
(most common item).
had snack foods (chips, cookies and candy most common).
had sugar-sweetened beverages.
Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
What child doesn't come home from school looking for a snack? Kellie Gilmore, Fit4Allkids outreach coordinator at All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg, provided some healthy choices from Sarah Krieger of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They all contain fruits or vegetables because, Krieger said, most kids don't get their recommended five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day — and snacks are a great way to get them in.
Slices of low-fat cheese with slices of seedless cucumber instead of packaged cheese and crackers. The water and crunch in the cucumber balance the richness of salt and fat in the cheese and it has fewer calories than full-fat cheese and crackers.
Pudding cup (made with nonfat milk) as a dip for fresh strawberries or fresh cherries.
Low-fat cottage cheese cup (the 4-ounce package) topped with favorite fruit (blueberries are great), or keep it savory with a sprinkle of black pepper and use as dip for baby carrots and sliced red peppers. Protein from the cottage cheese means this dip is more satisfying than salad dressing.
A hard-boiled egg, sliced and served on top of mini popcorn cakes. Eat at home.
A smoothie made from 1 cup frozen berries (½ blueberries, ½ cherries or strawberries), ½ cup nonfat vanilla yogurt, 1 small frozen banana and ½ cup orange juice or milk. Antioxidants and fiber are in the berries and banana.
Edamame and rice crackers. No need to add salt to the edamame because it balances the salt in the crackers. Edamame can be found in the freezer section of most
Carrot salad, made by mixing shredded carrots with canned pineapple tidbits. Sprinkle ground cinnamon and add dried cranberries or raisins if you want.
Sprinkle low-fat mozzarella cheese over a small corn tortilla, melt in microwave for 10-15 seconds, roll up, slice and dip into salsa. I have not met a kid who does not
like this snack!
Trail mix made healthier at home with light popcorn (microwave or stovetop). To cooled popcorn, add whole-grain cereal (such as Cheerios or Life), unsalted pretzels and dried fruit (mango, pineapple, dried cherries, sliced apricots).
Graham crackers dipped in no-sugar-added applesauce sprinkled with cinnamon. Kids love this naturally sweet, low-sugar