Tag Archives: eating healthy

School Lunch in England

When we lived in D.C. I packed lunches and snacks for all the kids every day for school.  We do not eat processed food (as much as humanly possible), we only eat organic, and the school lunches that were provided were, frankly, gross re-heated frozen processed garbage.  My kids might have purchased school lunch once in their lives before we moved here.

At the school in England, though, you are not allowed to bring a lunch.  It’s just not even a thing.  The school has a full kitchen and a chef and five other prep staff and the food is made from scratch on the premises every day, and every child eats the lunch provided.  It’s part of the tuition and fees.  And the food is freaking amazing.  The picture above is an actual photo of the salad bar in the Prep school where all three boys eat each day.

Every single day I ask the kids what they had for lunch that day.  I am always jealous.  Here’s a sample menu from this month:

My kids eat this stuff.  Gabe has a salad almost every day.  They are required to take a vegetable AND to eat it.  Every week they have “Roast Day” on Wednesdays, fish on Fridays, and every day there is a soup option, homemade desserts, and bread made from scratch.  The pizza on Friday is made from scratch — even the dough.  Everything is made on site with fresh ingredients.  It is incredible.  My kids have tried and learned they love new foods and have asked me to make them at home, providing me with more ideas and options at dinner time too! (Still working on a good recipe for Yorkshire pudding…or maybe a more skilled baker than I to make them.)

I also then don’t feel guilty if I occasionally have to give them PB&J sandwiches for dinner occasionally since they are eating a full hot meal with veggies and dessert every single day at lunch.

We pay a fee each term to cover the kids’ lunches which comes to a total of approximately $832 per term.  Divided by about 50 school days per term and by four children, that comes out to a cost of about $4.16 per child per day.  I can absolutely guarantee that I spent more per lunch for my kids when I was making them at home and packing them daily.  Do you know how gladly I will pay $4 per day for my children to eat this incredible and healthy food?  Contrast that with the $2.65 it cost to buy school lunch at our school in America and the difference is laughable. 

In addition to obviously being healthier than the lunches provided at the schools in America, the lunch program here makes my life easier because I don’t have to pack lunches every morning.  Instead of scrambling to make sandwiches or fill thermoses, I get to sit and eat breakfast and drink coffee.  It is awesome.

There are a few school districts in the U.S. that I’ve been able to find online that employ an actual chef and provide the students with healthy and high-quality food like this, but they are few and far between.  How much better would it be for all our kids if the food at schools were better? 

Here’s one resource I found for implementing this kind of program in schools: Chef Ann Foundation.

What stops a school from doing this?  I can’t imagine any parent would be against it.  It’s better for the kids, it’s better for the parents (I cannot imagine going back to packing 4 lunches every morning!).  It’s just BETTER.

For now I’m grateful to be sending my kids to a school where this good food is a daily reality.  And when we return to the U.S., I plan to work hard to make this a reality in whatever school district we end up in.  Our kids deserve it.

All photos are from the school dining hall website and used with permission.




You Are What You Eat


Last week I was sort of sick, sort of not.  I think I was actually fighting a bug, and it left me exhausted and unable to focus.  It was all I could do to get the normal, necessary daily things done, and it left me with no ability to do anything “extra”, like write.  Or fold laundry. Ahem.

In the few days that I was under the weather, I could feel that my body was struggling far beyond a normal I’m-coming-down-with-something feeling.  I realized that in the past few months since we moved, I really, really fell off the bandwagon of healthy eating.  And I really, really think that’s why I had so much trouble fending off fatigue.

For our family, healthy eating means lots of fruit, lots of veggies, all organic everything including meat and seafood, and as little processed food as possible.  But it’s hard when you move to stay on track because eating real food is more time-consuming.  When you have a bunch of ingredients rather than pre-made meals, you have to take the time to plan, prep, and cook before you can eat.  That process definitely fell by the wayside in the weeks after we moved to England.  Initially we were eating almost entirely at restaurants, which meant that although we had the option to get healthy items, we also had the constant temptation to get not-so-healthy meals and follow them up with dessert.  Even when we got in to our house, I was so busy with unpacking and setting up furniture and getting kids ready to start a new school and all the other million things you need to do when you move that cooking was NOT a priority. 

And now, three months after the move, my body is basically yelling at me to get my butt in gear, stop eating crap, and feed myself healthy and nourishing foods.  Otherwise, not feeling very good will become the new normal.  And we’ll get sick more and stay sick longer.

This week is an organization week — planning our meals, making grocery lists, and probably buying a blender because green smoothies are one of my favorite healthy snacks, but they’re pretty hard to make without a blender.

And then we dive back in — tons of fruit, veggies, lean meat, free range eggs, less pasta, fewer (no) pre-made meals, just good, healthy, REAL food.

It’s a simple thing, but going to take a few days to get the momentum back behind us to make that the norm.  I know that once we get back on track we’ll all feel better, which makes it worth it even if it were hard. (Which it’s not.  Really.  You should try it too!)

Also, here’s how we feed our family of six an all-organic diet for about $8 per person per day, and here’s my soapbox rant telling you why you should REALLY, SERIOUSLY stop eating processed food.


Get In Shape, Girl

your body can stand almost anythingAlthough it’s a year-round goal of mine to be in shape and stay in shape, the impending season of shorts and bathing suits always makes me kick it into high gear in the spring.  I’m doing a self-imposed fitness challenge: cutting calories a bit to lose a few pounds of winter insulation, and increasing my weekly workouts to try and tighten up all the parts that got a little squishy over the winter.

I am not a naturally self-disciplined person when it comes to eating in moderation (cheese is good, more cheese is better). 

And I’m also not naturally motivated to work out every day without some kind of incentive. 

I really don’t enjoy: running.

I really enjoy: eating food.

So I run in order to eat more.  Sad but true, my only real incentives are cheese, wine, and bread.

Because I need assistance in the get-motivated-and-lay-off-the-brie-and-pinot department, I use an app on my phone called MyFitnessPal to track my calories, my exercise, and my water intake.  It really helps me get a handle on things to track every little bit of food that goes in my mouth, and it motivates me to work out more when I see calories added on to my daily allowance every time I exercise. 

In weight-loss-mode, my daily calorie allowance for my current height and weight is 1200 calories per day.  When I’m not dieting, I eat like I am a 6′ tall, 200-lb man, not a 5’3″, 130-lb woman.  So 1200 calories a day is a pretty drastic decrease. 

I mean, I CAN eat 1200 calories a day and be just fine.  But I have to go to bed for the day at 3PM.  And I can’t be around other humans without wanting to kill someone.

Working out helps me get a few hundred extra calories per day, which helps me not be a homicidal maniac.  And it helps me tone and build muscle, so it’s a win-win.

Right now I’m in the honeymoon phase where I’m still excited about eating less and working out more and can’t wait to see my results in a few weeks.  That will end soon though, and I’ll need to work hard to convince myself it’s worth it to eat another salad instead of bread. 

Maybe I should just post this on the fridge:

get off your assAnd then try on some bathing suits.  If that won’t convince me to keep it up, nothing will.

Eat Real Food


A few years ago, our family made a huge change in the way we eat.  I read a few books (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to start) that really opened my eyes to the realities of the food industry in the United States.  Once I’d read these books, I couldn’t NOT make changes.

I can’t lie, at first it was a pain.  I had to read every food label as I grocery shopped, which took way longer than just throwing stuff in the cart.  I had to stop buying a lot of the foods we were used to eating, and I had to try to find substitutes (honestly, I still haven’t found suitable, store-bought substitutes for a lot of snack items).  I began baking all our cakes, cookies, and treats from scratch. 

I started buying all organic fruits, veggies, and dairy.  I researched farms in our area and found one where we could buy organic, grass-fed, humanely-raised (and slaughtered) meat.  We stopped eating fast food entirely, and actually we rarely go out to eat at all anymore (which, with four kids, isn’t that much fun anyway). 

It was a lot of work up front to make these changes.

But.  BUT.  Fast-forward to now and it has become so second-nature, it takes no effort at all.  Our whole family eats better.  I don’t spend any more at the grocery store than I used to, I just buy different things. 

I have literally changed my own and my family’s taste buds too–when one of us does eat processed food for some reason, we often comment that it tastes bad or weird and I am reminded WHY we eat the way we eat.

And we are SO much healthier now.  I’m not kidding you–I can count on one hand the number of times my kids have been to the doctor in the last two or three years.  (Not counting well-child checks.  For some of my kids, those well-child checks have been the ONLY doctor visits in the last few years.)  It has been an amazing, life-altering, completely-worth-it, change.

It seems hard, I know.  But it gets easy pretty quickly and the benefits certainly outweigh the initial annoyance. 

Eat real food.  It’s worth every bite.

Real food


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