Make Lunchtime Fun During the Pandemic

As cases of COVID continue and some kids still at home for much or all of the school day and week, we at Nurture are re-visiting our curricula to find ways to support parents during this challenging time.

Nurture has been involved in the movement to overhaul the lunch systems in schools and offer healthier and fresh options to children. We are so grateful to have been in part of this momentum fueled by celebrities (e.g. Jamie Oliver), chefs (e.g. Ann Cooper), and Michelle Obama’s (We are huge fans of her Let’s Movement and Healthy Kids Lunchtime Challenge).

But what can we do about healthy lunches at home?

How about playing a game with your child?

In the Nurture curriculum, we call it “Grade that Lunch.” And you can do it with your own kids at home!

Grade that Lunch Game

A simple game you can play with your kids is to have them give their lunch a “point” for each food group included.  Lunches ideally contain:

-Whole grains
-Dairy (for those that tolerate dairy)

And not necessarily in that order!  Kids can refer to the MyPlate and/or Harvard Healthy Plate.  Half of the plate should be fruits and veggies!

Here are some lunch examples so we can grade them together:

Lunch Menu Example #1:

-French Fries and Ketchup
-Power Drink or Soda
-Candy Bar

Grade: ZERO!  (No, the ketchup does not count as a veggie.  Ketchup is a wanna-be!).

Lunch Menu Example #2:

-Hamburger on white bun
-Tater tots and ketchup
-Chocolate Chip Cookie
-Sweetened Iced Tea

Grade:  Well, let’s give this a ONE.  The hamburger can count as protein (let’s hope that is lean, grass-fed sirloin).  Harvard’s Healthy plate mentions that white potatoes don’t count as a veggie (and the fried aspect of the tater tots renders them unhealthy).  Let’s move on to another lunch!

Lunch Menu Example #3:

-Enriched Crackers
-Cheese and Ham
-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
-Sour Candies

Grade:  We are moving up to a TWO.  The meat is not looking especially appetizing, but let’s go ahead and count that as protein.  The cheese gives you a point for dairy.  What about a point for the crackers as whole grains?  No!  Remember from our Newsletter on Whole Grains, the word “enriched” gives away the fact that the grains have been processed.  Let’s move on.

Lunch Menu Example #4:

-Tuna salad on enriched bread
-Cherry Tomatoes and Cucumbers
-100% juice

Grade:  Hmmm.  I think we are moving up to a THREE.  I see a fruit (the orange counts, not the fruit juice!), veggies (the tomatoes, cucumbers and pickles–yes I know these are botanically fruits but most consider them veggies), and protein.  You could exchange the juice with water, exchange the enriched bread with whole-grain bread, omit the pretzels, and forgo the cake—improvements to be made, but looking better.

Lunch Menu Example #5:

-Chicken Salad in a whole wheat pita
-Red pepper, carrots, hummus
-Yogurt and fresh berries
-Whole grain/veggie pasta salad

Grade:  Yay!  I’m ready to hand out a FIVE.  I see protein (chicken salad, hummus), whole grains (whole-grain pita, whole grain pasta), dairy (yogurt), and fruits and veggies (carrots, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, veggies in the pita—looks like more carrots and lettuce).  AND this plate looks about half fruits and veggies, plus it is very colorful.  Way to go!

Why not involve your own kids in creating a lunch at home that scores a FIVE every day?


This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.

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