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The Truth About School Lunch

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As a senior in high school, I have eaten my fair share of school lunches. Now that I have been dieting, I had to do a little research on the subject of what I was eating at school, and OH MY GOD... First of all, most meals served at my school are dripping with grease, especially the ground beef and pizzas. Nextly, we have the big handful of fries served with most dishes. Let's not forget those bags of cookies, or chips. Most school lunches, to my surprise, ranged from 800-1100 calories. Not just my school, but a LOT of schools all over the country, according to my research. I know schools aim to be "nutritious" and such, and offer foods from every segment of the pyramid, but when you're dieting, the choices they offer are just TOO darn high in calories.
I was wondering if anyone else knows anything about this and what I can do to substitute for this problem, considering I don't have an opportunity nor the time to pack a lunch.
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No salad bar? I know some schools have a salad option?

OR maybe bring it up with the principal.. good present to leave your fellow students---- healthier options.
bagged lunch.  or dont order a full lunch.
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Most school cafeterias offer salads... you could try eating those.  They usually have fruit for sale as well.
I would go for the sandwich line. You can do a filling sandwich at a relatively decent calorie amount.

I usually get 2 slices of rye (70 calories each), 2 slices of swiss cheese (full fat swiss = 100 calories each), tomato's and mustard. Keep the meat slices to around 2 - 4, if you have a meat sandwich do not have cheese on it, pile on veggies you like and pass on the mayo and oil and layer on the mustard. It is about a 400 calorie sandwich.

That is my staple as a University student. I also eat caesar salad (dressing on the side; I dip my fork in the dressing then pierce the lettuce and do not eat more than 1oz of dressing), with no bacon bits and only eat a few croutons. This comes out to about 250 calories. Sometimes I will also get a slice of pizza (dab the oil off) and 2 light and fit yogurts. This comes out to 200 calories.

My food combinations are so strange, haha...
Considering you're at school for 8 hours... 800 calories isn't too horribly bad... 100 Calories for every hour you're there....

But I can understand your distress... I'd be pretty upset, too...

You can always pack a lunch :)
Here's an article from the New York Times that you might find interesting

School Lunches
you say you don't have time for packing a lunch, but it might be easier than you think. Throwing a piece of fruit, a container of yogurt, a bag of sliced lowfat cheese and wheat crackers, baby carrots, celery sticks, protein bars etc. would all take seconds to throw into a brown bag.

you'll save a ton of money, too. my high school charged exorbitant amounts of money for their food, and I cringe to think about how much I must have spent on complete junk. It really is a shame.

So protest by boycotting their services :)
If I have to stay on campus (im in college so its easier, but our lunches are still not healthy) i'll get some special k, or a banana or soemthing. To my embarassment sometimes we'll go off campus to mcdonalds and I'll get a happy meal mcnuggets which runs about 420 calories. =D

But yes, school lunches SUCK. I'd rather eat fast food.
My kids always take their lunch..I'd never pay for school lunch. It's pure junk and incredibly overpriced.
I was fortunate that my highschool had such a wide variety of foods to offer that this was never a problem (although I still ate the bad stuff)

However, if you toss a lunch together, like Laura_loo95 suggested, which you could do in the evening before bed, and have it ready for you in the morning, then that might resolve the early am rushing.  I know all about that too, I was oldest of 3 all trying to get ready at the same time with 1 bathroom. :):)

Good luck! :)
Mine isnt school, buts its the same food. I have a fat intolerance (mild) and its really opened my eyes. I have to get speical meals made as I used to only wbe able to eat salad there most nights (with bread) and I'd be lucky to get some meat I could pat down. Sometimes potatoes if they steamed them (maybe once a week) They tossed the pasta in oil too. So stupid!! Even the salad bar was dripping in mayo, sour cream, oil etc
You mentioned not having time to pack a lunch.  Try packing it the night before and keeping it in the fridge overnight.  (I did this all the time in school.) That way you can just grab it before you leave in the morning.

The school I went to only had 2 lunch lines. One was pizza and fries (everyday) and one line that rotated which foods were served. Neither line was healthy and the cafeteria ladies wouldn't let you check out if you didn't have a "balanced meal" (you had to have greasy entree and at least 2 of their sides with grease). they also wouldn't let you grab an extra fruit instead. It was a weird school. 

 I avoided the cafeteria like the plauge. My senior year they decided to have a salad line. The salads contained a whole egg, ham, cheese, real bacon bits, iceberg lettuce and 1 slice of tomato and other unrecognisable things...(easily 400-600calories) Most days I went to the snack bar and got a bag of popcorn and diet coke or water instead (200calories), unless I packed my lunch.  
I know, seriously - I usually pack my lunch but I bought a simple chicken tortilla wrap at the cafeteria today and I logged everything as best I could to a total of ~600 calories. My daily limit weeps. Methinks I will eat a bit over today.

They used to sell salads and fruit parfaits, but they stopped, much to my dismay, god knows why. There is nothing there to cater to a healthy lifestyle (at least in my high school).
as recently as when my kids were in school, the USDA proscribed the lunches that had to be served -- and the school had to meet the guidelines or lose its lunch money (the amount charged for lunches didn't cover the full cost of serving the food, hiring the cooks, etc). 

Then at some point in time, schools decided they didn't want to be in the lunch business and started contracting their lunch programs.  That's when everything started to go down hill.

For some schools, fast food would indeed be an improvement.  It's really sad how our government has let our school kids down, and a lot of parents aren't even aware of how lousy the food is because the kids like it - hey, it's pizza and french fries and shakes.  what kid is going to complain about that?
First of all...'Nextly'...I'm not sure that's a word. HaHa

When I was in Highschool (just graduated last year) I was extremely skeptical about school lunches. I NEVER EVER ate from the cafeteria. I always went home for lunch because I lived close to my school. I do believe that since schools have to make so much food in bulk it is most-likely made with unhealthy ingredients because it's the cheapest way to do it. Sad, but true.

Anyway, going home for lunch may not be an option for I recommend taking some on-the-go healthy snacks to 'graze' on throughout the school day. That way, you can stay energized and never be hungry.

Here's a list of some things that a very portable and healthy:
1. Bananas
2. Kashi Bars or Protein Bars
3. Dried fruit (pick your favorites)
4. Almonds
5. Pretzels
6. String Cheese
7. Yogurt (freeze the night before)
8. Whole grain breads/ or crackers

The options are endless! And I think any of these things would be much better than a greasy school lunch. Good luck!
When my husband got laid off my kids qualified for free lunch at school, and breakfast.  Over the year that they ate both meals there everyday my oldest put on quite a bit of weight.  He was 9 at the time.  When the year was up, dh was back to work, so no more free lunch.  Now I pack for them 4 days per week and let them buy one and the weight gain has completely stopped and he's maintaining.  I always packed before that, but the kids don't like the packed lunches and I just was lazy I guess.  So my point is that I agree with you.  I know that when I was in high school our lunches were a la carte and I used to eat things like mashed potatoes everyday because they were cheap and my parents wouldn't give me lunch money.  That's not good either, but lower in calories.
17 Replies