The end of summer. The beginning of school lunch.
The summer is coming to a close, and I’m having to switch gears as the school year begins, and to re-engage my teacher self.
During the summer I worked on a food truck, The Beachcomber, where I served no vegan food, but I had a blast.
I’m never too far away from fried food or grilled burgers, whether it’s the food truck or the high school cafeteria.
School kitchens are firing up their ovens. Bulk bags of frozen fries are being ripped opened and drained into boiling oils. Lunchroom vending machines are being stocked full of energy drinks and cheezy-flavored nachos.
With schools pressed to maximize student-learning time, lunch periods have often become the victim and are squeezed shorter in an attempt to gain longer classes. At my school, students have 20 minutes to eat–that includes getting to the lunch room, getting their food from the lunch lines, eating it and socializing with friends.
I don’t think it’s any secret that eating quickly is not ideal. We were told from a young age that we should chew our food (It’s also something my health coach wife Terra emphasizes with her clients), but we also learn from a young age that we need to be quick with our meals because there is work to be done.
Eating slowly not only helps students’ bodies digest the food better (avoiding indigestion), but it also allows students’ bodies to realize that they are full so they don’t eat too much.
Now, if students are eating pizza, burgers, fries and sugar drinks at lunch, it won’t matter how slowly they eat, because they’re eating foods that are mainly empty calories, and whether students eat the food quickly or slowly, they’ll feel like falling asleep during my 6th period World Cultures class. So, teachers, before you get frustrated with the sluggish kids in your class, ask them what they ate for lunch.
Because the students ate a nutritionless lunch (full of beige), they’ll probably begin to get hungry at the end of the school day. Students will turn to the loaded vending machines for sugary and fatty foods for an extra spark of energy, which of course will give them a spark, but that spark will fizzle quickly, because once again, the calories in that bag of chips or chocolate muffin are useless.
So, what are the students gonna do?
Let me pull the students aside for a moment. Students! Arm yourself! Arm yourself before you go to school, children. Bring a lunch with a healthy option. And if you don’t feel like packing an entire lunch, pack a snack–some nuts or fruit. Something full of beneficial calories.