What's in your kid's school lunch box? If some one asked me that question right now I could probably give an informed answer thanks to the recently launched Environmental Working Group's Food Scores. It's a helpful website that allows you to search over 80,000 foods that have been rated on a scale of 1-10 [1 being healthiest]. I recently tested some of the regular staples I feed my 9 year old son and started with his lunch box. While my scores weren't bad, there is always room for improvement. Here's why...
My son loves it when I pack my home-made, organic guacamole or salsa in his lunch box, along with chips. The ingredients I pick for the guacamole and salsa are all healthy and organic, but how healthy are the chips I serve with it?
Food Should Taste Good makes yummy Blue Corn Chips and they are a regular house-hold item but gosh darn it, they only scored 4.5. That's a disappointing score after putting all the time, effort and extra cost into making my own organic salsa or guacamole.
I wanted to find a chip with a better score. The EWG site makes it sooooo easy to "shop around" and offers comparisons to encourage healthier choices. I discovered that Way Better Black Bean Tortilla Chips [equally yummy] score a healthier 3.0. The healthiest score of 1+ only offers 2 options, and the one with the lowest score of all is not gluten-free.
- A healthy sandwich: Years ago we switched to Food for Life's Ezekial 4:9 a flourless, sprouted whole grain bread. We have never looked back. We alternate between our two favorites - Cinnamon Raisin and Sprouted 7 Grain Bread. Both received great scores, 2.0 and 1.3 respectively. I am sticking with Food for Life, especially now that they've introduced a Gluten Free range that I can enjoy, too.
- Meat: Applegate Uncured Black Forest Ham comes in second place with a 4.0 compared to the top score, a 3.5. We buy sliced, not packaged, organic sandwich meat from the deli counter so I am not sure if that makes a difference? Something to look into.
- Cheese: My boys LOVE cheese. the stinkier the better, but for sandwiches we use packaged Organic Valley Muenster, Organic Valley Raw Jack, or Organic Valley Raw Sharp Cheddar. All three scored 5, beaten only by a 4.5 score from Skinny Cheese Pepper Jack, but that's never going to make the cut in our house. Looks like I need to shop around to find healthier organic cheese options. That surprised me. I thought organic cheese would score higher. The site informed me that typically cheeses don't score very well. Here's what EWG writes about cheese:
Cheese can be a good source of calcium and protein, but a little goes a long way. Cheese usually packs in a lot of calories, saturated fat and sodium in a small amount. In fact, cheese is the number one source of saturated fat, and one of the top sources of both sodium and calories in the American diet (USDA & DHHS 2010). Antibiotics are often used in dairy production, primarily to treat sick animals, which poses a moderate concern for breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria. Milk-boosting hormone injections (rBGH) are injected into about 20 percent of American dairy cows. Neither treatment is allowed in Europe due to public health and animal welfare concerns.
- Fruits and veg: Organic tomatoes, cucumber slices and lightly cooked carrots. Organic apple or some washed organic berries.
- No juice: We invested in a water purifier at home, so it's filtered water from the tap in a BPA free water bottle that supports the school PTO.
- Save the best for last. There's room for a Sweet Treat, too: Ginny Bakes is not listed on the EWG site but it's a favorite in our house. Their products are gluten free, organic, and non-gmo. My husband and son love the Coconut Oatmeal Bliss Cookie. From the packaging, I can clearly read and understand every ingredient listed. Each cookie has 3.5g total fat and 3g total sugar, which when compared to other snack options is not so bad.