10 of the Worst School Foods

Brandi Koskie - Senior Editor for DietsInReview.com

For many parts of the country the first day of school is just days away. Just as Christmas seems to arrive around Halloween these days, marketers have been selling back to school for a few weeks now, which means many moms and dads are eagerly stocking up the necessary supplies for their children.

We know you'll get them a new pair of tennis shoes, fresh art supplies and notebooks, and maybe even replace last year's tattered backpack; but what are you doing about their eating habits? The school cafeteria should be one of the safest place our children can eat, a place that offers one more opportunity to learn, and in this case, about food being fuel, nutrition, portion sizes, and following that up with the physical activity of recess.

However, the majority of U.S. schools do not offer such a food haven. In fact at most, you'd almost be better off eating fast food. In 2009, USA Today reported that "In the past three years, the government has provided the nation's schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn't meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants."

Barely sustainable budgets leave schools serving low-quality, nutrition-void food that teaches children nothing more than how to fend-off hunger quickly and easily. No wonder our kids are crashing mid-day, don't have the energy to simply play and are facing an obesity epidemic that will shorten their lives.

What can you do about it?
1) Work with other parents to petition your district to make healthier foods available.
2) Pack your child's lunch.
3) Make food and nutrition education a part of your at-home responsibilities as a parent.

While most cafeteria trays have some reasonable items on them, like the 2% milk and salads, some of it is downright awful. These foods don't belong on anyone's plate, especially children who need it to grow strong bodies, develop healthy brains, and live long, healthy lives.

Here are the 10 worst school foods:

Canned Peaches: A serving of this candy-disguised-as-fruit has 136 calories and 33 grams of sugar. That's a day's worth of sugar and hardly any of their natural nutrients that are found in fresh peach slices.

Chocolate Milk: Recently, D.C. schools removed flavored milk from all of its public schools, saving kids 158 calories and 25 grams of sugar at lunch. The rich protein source is better consumed in a low- or non-fat unflavored milk.

Corn Dogs: This staple of cafeteria trays gets worse as kids dunk it in sugary ketchup. The low-grade meat inside the hot dog full of nitrates, coupled with the starchy cornbread coating leaves a lot to be desired. At 240 calories and 34 percent of the daily sodium intake, this is a food fail.

Mac and Cheese: A serving of this over-processed, neon-orange pasta sets kids back 340 calories, 18 grams of fat and 5 grams of sugar, not to mention the 900 milligrams of sodium. Make this at home with whole grain noodles, Greek yogurt and low-fat cheddar cheese and pack in their bag for a deliciously healthy alternative.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy: Odds are, those aren't even real potatoes doused in fatty gravy on your kid's tray, as potato flakes are typically used. A whopping 237 calories, 9 grams of fat and 700 milligrams of sodium are waiting your child in this side item.

Nachos: Better suited for a drunken football game than a child's main lunch entree, these processed corn chips and nuclear cheese dip contain 1101 calories, 1580 milligrams of sodium and 59 grams of fat. Anyone who serves this to children should be ashamed of themselves.

Sloppy Joes: Adam Sandler's comedic song makes the loose meat sandwich sound appealing, but the 635 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat make this completely appalling.

Tater Tots: If Napoleon Dynamite had shared his tots with his friends at lunch, he would have shared 150 calories and 7 grams of fat in a mere nine-piece serving.

Smucker's Uncrustables: The simplest of sandwiches to make becomes a calorie and sugar bomb for kids in this frozen white-bread sad-excuse of a PBJ with 320 calories and 14 grams of sugar. Instead, pack one in their lunch box with whole grain bread, almond butter and a natural jam.

Tuna Casserole: With all the opportunity in the world to be healthy, full of tuna and vegetables, this becomes one of the fattiest foods on the school menu. At 450 calories, 20 grams of fat and nearly 1000 milligrams of sodium, this is another example of foods that are better prepared at home than created in the cafeteria.

Plan a healthy back to school by reading:

Worst School Foods

Healthy Lunch Box Swaps that are Good for Your Kids

Chef Ann Cooper says the National School Lunch Program Needs a Makeover

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