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day 62: cute little evil in a plastic tray

April 4, 2011

On Day 62, my husband had an all-day commitment and I had the boys all to myself.  Because we had no obligations whatsoever, I decided to allow them to take charge of our Sunday.

After church, I asked them what they wanted to do for lunch, assuming we would either sit outdoors at a restaurant or pack a picnic and eat at the park.

My four year-old, thrilled to be given the choice, asked for a Lunchable…  and I succumbed.

I know.

Lunchables, or premade plastic trays filled with processed ham, processed cheese, and processed crackers (with a side of red Jello, in Day 62’s case) are a rare treat for my children.  I rue the day that I ever bought one for my older son (no doubt a day on which I’d forgotten to pack his lunch and was desperate for an easy fix) because he is now sucked in by their chemical siren song.

On Day 62, I was trying to go with the flow.  I was also trying to keep my house clean, in the event that we received a last-minute showing.  Thus, the Lunchable was a convenient trap into which I readily fell.

After my kids finished their preservative- and dye-laden lunches, we went to the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science to enjoy the spring sunshine.  It was a perfect day, and we were in no rush to enjoy it.  Ambling from one outdoor exhibit to the next, we all had a wonderful time.

Until we didn’t.

I can’t remember which of my children started to fall apart first, but the slope was slippery and things barreled downhill at a high rate of speed.  First there was a tantrum over a ball, then a hitting incident, then a joint decision to hide from Mommy in hopes of  “being locked in the museum after it closed.”

The day ended on a low note.  My kids were tired, certainly, and they might have acted like punks at four p.m. on a Sunday regardless.  I couldn’t help wondering, though, if the Lunchable — and all that the Lunchable symbolized — was to blame.  Day 62’s processed lunch was undoubtedly a questionable choice for my kids (see Slate’s review from a few years back), but it symbolized an even greater concern.

The Great Meltdown of Day 62 got me thinking about how careless I’ve become with my children’s diets in recent months.  With this week’s news about the FDA assessing the link between ADHD and food dyes, I became even more worried by my slide into food complacency.  Most days, we do a pretty decent job of eating fruit, whole grains, and protein.  Most days, we eat too many processed foods.  Most days, we eat too much sugar.

Since right now is the time my children are developing their eating habits for adulthood, and right now is the time their little brains and bodies need the best possible nutrition they can get to thrive, my gift on Day 62 is to them.  Starting on Day 62, I began limiting the number of processed foods that come into the house, and into their little bodies.  I am not promising perfection, but I commit to improving their (well, our) diets.

In this effort, I am fortunate to have a lot of great resources at my fingertips.  A bookshelf full of cookbooks, this healthy recipe index, and smart Mommy friends are just a few supports to which I can turn.

I’m sure my kids will occasionally act like punks on Lunchable-free diets, but, when they do, at least I’ll know where not to lay blame.

I hope your day is full of whole grains and free of Yellow Dye #5.  Thank you, so much, for showing up.

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