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Lunch Money August 26, 2010

After reading several articles earlier this year, we began to wonder if our food choices were putting our health at risk, so we decided to rid our household of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and as much processed foods as possible.  Before we began to read food labels closely, we thought we were feeding Ava healthy meals.  For example, a typical lunch might include: peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat, yogurt, and apple sauce.  Imagine our surprise when we realized every one of those items contained HFCS.

No doubt most of us have seen the commercials sponsored by the corn industry, which claims HFCS is fine in moderation.  Perhaps that’s true, but I wonder how this cheap sweetener, which is used in so many products, could ever be consumed in the prescribed “moderate amounts.”  Is it any wonder that Americans are more obese than ever, and today’s children are at risk for living shorter lives than their parents?  Between the sedentary lifestyle and poor diet (with an abundance of HFCS), it’s not surprising!

Fortunately, with a little research and time spent scouring our local store, we were able to find products that to do not contain HFCS: natural peanut butter, pure fruit spread (instead of jelly/jam), Greek yogurt (which is also higher in protein), and certain brands of whole grain breads, wraps, and tortillas, along with sugar-free apple sauce.  Over time we also learned a lot about choosing organic foods, and decided to buy whatever fresh local produce we could.  Since we live in a rural city in the heart of farm country, we were able to find some local organic food at reasonable prices.  Additionally, we decided to grow our own salad greens, spinach, basil, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Our decision to change what we were buying, preparing, and eating as a family, was reinforced by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution series that aired earlier this spring on ABC.  Jamie’s show was able to shine a bright light on the dark truth about school lunches in America, as well as the way many families are eating (prepared processed foods, or fast foods) out instead of cooking meals from fresh ingredients.

With kindergarten looming in the fall, that really got me thinking about what Ava might be exposed to at school if she were going to buy lunch from the cafeteria.  I began researching the local school district’s breakfast and lunch menus, and was dismayed, yet not surprised to find much of the standard school lunch fare of processed prepared items that were featured on Food Revolution.

A typical school lunch

That’s when we decided not to throw away our lunch money on low quality foods that might put Ava at risk of becoming overweight or obese like so many other children these days.  Despite the extra cost of buying healthier foods, and the added burden of preparing and packaging them, we can not put a price on her health.  It is worth it to us to take the time and make the effort, so that we know we are spending our lunch money wisely.

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