Friday, July 11, 2014

Lunch treats, after school snacks, and lunchbox searches


Packing nutritious lunch treats is challenging, especially with school workers inspecting lunch boxes

lunch treats | PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak
lunch treats | PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak

Having two gluten-sensitive people in my household makes finding appropriate lunch items an interesting and fun challenge. The first challenge is finding something suitable to pack in a sandwich bag or reusable Tupperware container. Next is making sure people will eat it. Of course, nutritional value is a high concern.
I pack two lunches, one for an adult, one for a school-age child. The adult’s lunch is the easier of the two. The child’s lunch presents additional challenges. The first challenge is to pack a lunch that will not draw undue criticism from other kids. Sure, there will be some, especially if they are jealous. However, we don’t want our kids ridiculed for their lunches, especially if they look weird and taste bad. If they taste good, it’s easier to ignore ignorant comments from preteen naysayers.

The second challenge comes from the school faculty. Whether you realize it or not, if your kid goes to a public school, your kids’ lunchbox is scrutinized regularly.

We eat rather healthy in my family. So, I am usually ready to debate any faculty member that wishes to challenge or comment of the lunches I pack. On occasion, I pack sandwiches made with gluten-free bread. Most days, however, they both get salads with home-made dressing and fresh-cut vegetables. I include Boar’s Head deli meats because they are certified gluten-free (and soy-free). It’s the rest of the lunch that begs some variety and creativity.

Here are two quick and easy, gluten-free, healthy, and tasty recipes for lunch treats or after school snacks:

Monkey Poop

It’s a funny name for a healthy and tasty blend. This recipe makes 6 servings.
Warning: contains peanuts and tree nuts
lunch treats | PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak
lunch treats | PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak

Ingredients:

Raw almonds – 1.5 oz (weight)
Cashews – 1 oz (weight)
Coconut – 0,5 oz (weight)
Bananas, ripe – 2
Creamy peanut butter – 1 cup
Dark cocoa powder, unsweetened – 2 tbsp
Honey – 2 tbsp

Directions:

Place almonds, cashews, and coconut in a blender or food processor and chop to a rough, coarse texture. Place mixture in a bowl or resealable container. Add the remaining ingredients and fold until well blended. The mixture is relatively shelf-stable. However, refrigerate unused portions. Monkey poop is easier to eat at room temperature. The few hours between packing and eating in a lunch give it time to warm to the optimal temperature.

lunch treats | PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak
lunch treats | PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak

Melon-berry salad

This is also a great side dish for picnics and barbecues. It is healthy and sweet.
Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

Watermelon, cubed (or balled) – 4 oz (weight)
Cantaloupe, cubed (or balled) – 4 oz (weight)
Honeydew melon, cubed or balled – 4 oz (weight)
Blueberries – 3 oz (weight)
Strawberries, fresh, sliced – 3 oz (weight)
Raspberries – 2 oz (weight)
Blackberries – 2 oz (weight)
Greek yogurt, plain (or vanilla, if you want this VERY sweet) – 4 tbsp
Honey – 1 tbsp

Directions:

Cut melons into cubes, removing the rind. If you have the time to use a melon-baller, that is an option as well. Slice the strawberries. Cut the blackberries in half. Place into a resealable container. Drizzle with the honey and toss gently. Add the yogurt and toss again, making sure the yogurt coats the fruit. Serve. This must be kept refrigerated. If packed into a lunch, use a cooling pack or ice pack to keep cool.

School Lunchbox Searches and Inspections

Over the past several years, schools, particularly public schools, have enacted some invasive policies regarding our kids and what they eat. Some make a bit of sense. For example, schools that provide optional lunches for purchase have regulations dictating what they can and cannot serve. The idea is that these services provide healthy, quality products instead of the “coleslaw flavored food substance” ridiculed in teen comedies. Also, the “pink slime” controversy upset several parents who were concerned about what these services feed their kids.

But these regulations originally directed at school lunch caterers don’t end with commercial regulations. Now they encroach upon the civil rights of individual citizens.

If your child wants to bring cupcakes to class to celebrate his or her birthday, they must be commercially produced, complete with nutritional labels. Even those of us with the ability to generate accurate nutritional information labels for home-made baked goods are forbidden from sending treats baked at home. School “bake sales” now require all donated items to be commercially manufactured. The claim is that these rules are to keep items containing potential allergens away from students. The allergens in question are peanuts and tree nuts. The kids aren’t trusted enough to ask or to gracefully decline the items.

When I was in school, a kid who was allergic to chocolate, peanuts, or tree nuts simply asked and refused the items to which he or she was allergic. Having a gluten-sensitivity, my kid does this on her own because most school officials don’t pay attention to it, though as many as an estimated 40  percent of Americans may have an undiagnosed gluten sensitivity, much higher than the percentage of peanut or tree nut sensitive population. School officials don’t need to play food police.

Yet school officials feel authorized to play food police. They look at your kids’ lunches whether you ever hear about it directly or not. They will tell your kids the lunches are “bad” or “good” hoping the kids will pressure their parents to change what they pack. Recently, one teacher commented on how healthy the lunches I pack are. However, she saw fit to comment on the lack of “healthy whole grains”.  My kid corrected the teacher, informing her of the pre-celiac condition. My kid told me of the interaction. The next day I challenged that particular school official.

The official has no degree in fitness or nutrition, much less the schooling and practicum required of a Registered Dietician (RD). She has a degree in elementary education, a field completely unrelated to nutrition. Next, she could not present a warrant or a basis of “implied consent” for searching and inspecting a lunchbox, which is private property. He jaw was on the ground when I told her if she did it again, I would file a civil rights case against her for violations of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. She stated I had no such claim. I rebutted with her claim she is a government official, and that places her under the authority of the US Constitution, the supreme law of the land. Then I gave her my lawyer’s contact information.

These violations of individual rights enacted through oligarchy-supporting left-wing tyrannical policies are exactly why my kid will not be returning to a public school next year. Infringing upon individual rights under the guise of “protecting” our kids is not protecting them. It is oppressing them.