Emma Waverman writes about the chaos of modern family life in the kitchen and out of it. She has a weekly food column on CBC Radio One, Here & Now. She is the co-author of the family cookbook Whining and Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and Families Who Love Them and is hoping to one day finish her certification as a parenting coach. She lives with her three kids, ranging from tween to university student, and husband in Toronto. Emma has written for a variety of national lifestyle magazines and newspapers. When she's is not making typos, telling you what she thinks, and thinking about dinner, you can find her on Twitter at @emmawaverman and Instagram. You can contact Emma at embracingchaos@hotmail.ca.

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OK, Sanctimommies Put Down the Lunch Box

Do you remember that sad kid in the 70s who had whole wheat noodles for lunch and carob chips as a treat? Now all are kids are that kid.

Or at least on Facebook they are. So, I am going to come clean and tell you that my kids are not those kids. My kids live on carbs from 9 to 3 and they are just fine. 

I take my kids health seriously. I encourage them to make healthy choices, I have lots of fruit and veggies in the house. We bake our own cookies and sometimes even use whole wheat flour.

I want my kids to be healthy but I also want them to be independent kids. So I don’t even know what goes in their lunchbox. I make their “main course” (sandwich with deli meat (egads!) or homemade mac and cheese with white noodles (yikes!). They get to choose their “sides” from the pantry and fridge. They are learning to make choices for themselves and that is far more important than whether or not they eat their cookie before their sandwich. 

I want to remind people that we grew up on lunches consisting of bologna and Wonder bread and we turned out fine. I even wrote a post on Today's Parent comparing the lunches we were packed as kids versus the gourmet selection we pack for our kids. (I happen to think I'm hilarious.)

The sanctimommies come out in full force over lunches. The ones who say they only pack homemade leftovers in a thermos; the ones who decry packaged cookies and who say they are shocked at a juice box. A harmless conversation on Facebook about jam sandwiches can turn into a battle for the most righteous parent. (Just ask my friend Alex about that.)

That’s nice for them – they must have the time to shop and lovingly place each fresh, organic fair trade item in a small square in their overpriced Bento Box lunchbox. They can judge another kid for eating a Bear Paw without knowing that the parent works shift work and doesn’t have time to craft nut-free, gluten-free, granola bars from home dried-fruit. Or maybe there is not excuse, maybe that parent just wants the kid to have something in their lunchbox that they will eat.

 I’m a realist.

I know that kids want lunches that are simple and that they like. I don’t sell myself on a fantasy that if I only give them one treat a week that they won’t crave treats. I don’t think that a granola bar is going to bring down their healthy immune system like a house of cards. I also don’t think that baby carrots everyday will improve their eyesight, or their disposition. If you ask a lunchroom supervisor, they will tell you that kids throw out or trade a lot of their lunch items. You may think your kids are treat-free, but their friends are probably taking pity on them and handing them cookies, or worse -- gummy bears.

Parents are scared of making their kids fat, of them not turning into the best they can be. That kind of fear can be more harmful than good – many studies have shown that banning foods often has the opposite result.

Perfection-seeking parents are being enabled by the media and Pinterest. Ugh. Pinterest. I blame the visual social media site for so many things. As if parents have time to make boiled eggs into shapes or think of new themes everyday.

 My house is stocked with fairly healthy treats – but once in a while a box of Bear Paws does enter the premises. And I know very well that there are cookies in their lunches every single day. I also know that they pack a couple extra to give to their friends.



Reader Comments (3)

Thank you for making me feel like I'm not alone. I go for quick and dirty for lunches as it is my least favourite but most necessary chore. I am so tired of competing with the parents who must have too much time on their hands to prepare themed lunches, etc. Are these people even real?. I wonder if the helicopter blades held to make the fun fruit and veg shapes....

October 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMimmers1973

Hahaha -- helicopter blades do indeed cut the veggies into fancy and wonderful shapes. I think the majority of people are simple with lunch, not that you could tell with Pinterest.

October 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmma Waverman

I feel relieved reading your post. We pack lunches to work every day. We pack from saucy pasta, white rice, pasta salads to green salads and everything in between. Ironically, we look the fittest in our offices. At home, we carry the same philosophy as yours, that we grew up on this starchy food and turned out fine. :D As long as there is moderation, starch is ok to eat.
My colleagues usually ask me what I eat every day and I tell them the truth... the real food: protein, starch, veggies... just in moderation.

December 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNancy T

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