Friday, September 06, 2013

Competition, Bylaws and Negotiation: How Business Principles Apply To School Lunches

As you know, my daughter just entered Kindergarten this week. As a mom, and as a dietitian, I worry about her: not just her emotional well-being, and her fears, but her physical health too. Thus enters the lunch competition.

Their are a million blog posts out there about packing healthy lunches for your kids. Just like most mommy topics, plenty of amazing ideas can instantly trigger the 'm-sending-my-kid-with-Cheetos-shame and subsequent guilt.

Here's the truth: stop feeling guilty. It's not too late to make a plan and gain some ground.

But here's a more important truth: you have limitations and so do your kids. Maybe, your five year old won't eat organic sunbutter (here) or doesn't like nitrate free lunch meat (here again). Not to mention that not everyone has the time or energy to create gorgeous, organic bento box and flower shaped cutout fruit bowls.

I am blogging this in real time. My kids ate eggs for breakfast, but Kate just refused to drink a honey sweetened fruit smoothie. Blast. She's getting dehydrated at school and, ahem, you moms know what that means for their bowels. 

Challenges. They're real. Especially when it comes to kids and healthy foods. They're picky, they're forgetful, their distracted, and then, to top it all off you are competing with the cafeteria, aka the magical kitchen where they can get pizza, nuggets and everything else theywould  rather eat anyways.

Sure, K will eat salad and broccoli, where G will have none of it, but the comparison between my lunch and that lunch in the cafeteria is just a world of difference in their minds. Moms, they just plain want that other choice more.

Here's some tips: 

1. Let them choose some of what they want for lunch. Getting them involved will create buy-in, that thing every mom should know: marketing strategies must be applied to children so they want the food.

2. Create ground rules. Don't be manipulated by school-aged children. Just like you don't give them the option of brushing their teeth, enforce some healthy guidelines for that child and stick to your by laws aka drinking water instead of soda.

3. Bend the rules occasionally. The worst thing we can do for our children is to create a black and white world that doesn't exist in the real world. Live (yourself included) in the 80/20. Do the right thing 80% of the time so you can break out of the box 20% of the time. This is called negotiation, a very powerful tool when you wield the power, not them.

Last night we were having a crisis of grand proportion at the dinner table. K was crying hysterically that her enchilada filling (usually her favorite meal) was falling out of the tortilla. And G was crying because he wasn't hungry and refused to eat any more than one bite of both that and the side of cantaloupe  Wow. A new low. So, after we had our requisite two bites, I pulled Kate aside and told her Here, eat this piece of chocolate, and that I told her extra snuggle hugs and a piece of chocolate fix most problems. Boom. World crisis averted. Break the rules sometimes, moms, and get over it if they don't eat all the right food groups yet. Persistence will eventually win them over from the dark, I mean, junk side.

Finally, just give yourself a pat on the back for surviving the first week of school lunches and have a piece of chocolate.


1 comment:

Cara S. said...

Nora, as a full time mom, full time teacher, and head volleyball coach, this post made me smile. Thanks!