Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gettin' Chippy

I often send a "fun size" bag (15 chips) of chips in the Gs lunches. I know they will eat them, and they're something low in sugar, unlike many of the other things they prefer. My approach to lunch has always been focused primarily on making sure they get enough calories. For instance, the OG usually takes a slice of pastrami, a soft pretzel, a piece of fruit, a peanut butter cup, and a granola bar. A little heavy on the sugar, but I know from experience that "helpful suggestions" will be ignored and come home uneaten, destined for the compost bin.

Yesterday, the BG, who has a very sensitive demeanor, was near tears when I asked why she had not eaten the bag of classic Lays that I had included in her new lunch box. "The lunchroom monitor told me there was a rule against bringing potato chips." she sobbed. "She's so mean."

That's interesting, I thought, because they serve nachos at lunch, and there was no notification of the change in her orientation packet. I told her that I would contact the teacher and solve the puzzle. That, of course, mortified her, and after shrieking "No!" we did not discuss it again.

This morning I asked my neighbours at the bus stop if they were aware of the rule. Both replied negatively, admitting, somewhat sheepishly that they sometimes included yogurt covered pretzels or something called "Pirate Booty" in the lunches of their loved ones.

So I decided to write the teacher. Trying to be as diplomatic as possible, I sent the following note:
I am Evie LeDuc's father. She was a little upset yesterday after being told that she had violated the rule against bringing potato chips in her lunch. I think she didn't quite understand the context, as I don't think there is any such rule. I would appreciate it if you could clarify this for me, so that I can make sure that I don't send her to school with anything that she shouldn't have.


She quickly responded (it's amazing what email has done for parent-teacher relationships):
Mr. LeDuc,
I am sorry to have caused you and Evie distress. I just spoke to her
and she seems to understand that she is welcome to bring chips with
her lunch, but we would prefer that she choose something a little
healthier for snack. It was snack time when I spoke to her about it.
That's not to say that Evie is not allowed to bring chips for snack,
but we would prefer another choice, if possible. Chips are fine with
lunch. I hope this clears up any confusion.
Thank you for staying in touch,
I always think the speaker is talking to someone else when I'm called "Mr. LeDuc." Anyway, my distress aside, this doesn't really clear up the confusion, but the BG and I settled on the heuristic that "chips are fine with lunch" and she was satisfied. When I pressed her for more information this afternoon (the teacher was verry nice to her today, apparently) she also told me that "baked is OK, but not fried."

So, let's do the numbers. A fun size bag of lays has 160 calories, compared with 120 in the baked version. And the classic version has 10g of fat, compared to only 2 in the baked variety. But the latter has 23g of carbohydrates, compared to 15 in the original. To quote Alan Arkin in my favourite movie. "It's not cut. It's not dried." Especially when recent science has been indicting carbs (and sugar, which is added to the baked chips) over fat.

The Bottom line is that the battle over nutrition and obesity is not going to be won over "chips are fine with lunch" and "baked is OK at snack" and these types of rules are in the end, I think, going to leave kids more confused and misinformed. The Michael Pollan rule of "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" is a much better guide, and I think even he would agree that a potato chip (which contains only potatoes, oil and salt) is a good choice, particularly for someone in the 25th percentile of the Body Mass Index for her age group.

I have not yet begun to fight. I think seriously about diet, nutrition and wellness, and I will not have someone impugn the choices I have made to keep my kids healthy, fit and happy in this world of assorted types of food fascists.

Well, actually, I'm finished fighting. Chips are fine with lunch.

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