Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sundays with Sparky - Building Lunch

Sadly, the summer was as fleeting as it's ever been, and the school year has begun.  After writing my last post, I decided to take a dose of my own medicine, and created a weekly lunch chart to help Sparky pick what he wanted to pack.  Since I think it's a very appropriate and flexible model, I built a chart based on the USDA Summer Food Service Program's Lunch Meal Pattern.

My chart is pretty easy to emulate, columns for days of the week, and 4 different-colored rows* for: Vegetables, Fruits, Proteins, and Grains.  I then printed little colored cards whose backgrounds corresponded with the columns, labeled with all the different items we rotate through for lunch: I surprised myself by finding our standard repertoire had over 60 items for him to choose from; 15 in each category!  For instance, there are options you are all familiar with: PB&J on sliced bread with a side of grape tomatoes and an orange.  Sometimes, we have more international lunches: Tamago (omelet) sushi with a thermos of miso soup and Inarizushi (rice-stuffed tofu) and kiwi.  There are a couple of vegetarian and even vegan options (so beans could be in both the vegetable and protein categories.) I also offered pasta options, separating the sauces and toppings on the chart to fit them in the appropriate category - so mac and cheese, and spaghetti with Italian sausage and marinara.

Sparky to arranged the cards on the corresponding colored row to create a balanced meal with the following caveat: he could sub vegetables for fruits if he wanted to, but not the other way around, and he couldn't have the same meal or a very similar meal twice in the same week.  He sat down and went to town, and in no time, I had my week AND grocery list planned out, and he had lunches that satisfied both of us!  While allowing Sparky some control, this method is a terrific teaching tool:  he's now aware that food can be categorized in several ways, and that he needs to balance the different categories to create a good meal.

 (*technically, there are 5 components to lunches in the USDA meal planner, but I omitted dairy from my chart under the assumption that most kids, even those who pack, purchase milk at school - and Sparky gets lactose-reduced milk at home with his afterschool snack.)

(this week's menu: Mon - a banana-nutella wrap with bell pepper on the side; Tue - Tamago, Inarizushi, Miso soup and Strawberries; Wed - 7-layer dip with chips, assorted veggies, and watermelon; Thur - Assorted cheese and crackers with grape tomatoes and kiwi; Fri - Tofu and Egg salad on sliced bread with snow peas, and clementines.)  

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