Building a Better Lunch for All
If every school in America included vegetable soup on their menu as a required daily item, students might be a bit healthier and more alert throughout the day. Instead, processed foods of pizza, burgers and chicken nuggets are daily staples on school menus in the United States. No wonder we have a higher incidence of onset diabetes, particularly in children.
When in Rome
In France, students are given a minimum of 45 minutes to eat lunch on-campus and 120 minutes for off-campus lunch. A typical French school lunch is prepared with fresh ingredients, the table is set with linens and students are encouraged to engage in conversation while dining.
This is the complete opposite of U.S. school lunch standards, where students are allowed 30 minutes total to eat lunch. This 30 minutes includes 10-12 minutes waiting in line, and the remainder to inhale processed foods. In China, school children actually assist in the preparation/serving of the food. Time is allotted for going to the cafeteria and loading up big bowls of the day’s servings; bringing it to their classrooms; dividing up duties (set the table, some serve the first course-soup, while others serve the second and third courses; all children are on the clean-up committee). They are given a full two hours to accomplish these tasks!
New Criteria for College Selection
College students don’t generally get a “lunch period;” instead, they’re more likely to eat on the run. However, a new trend is starting in universities across the nation, and higher education institutions are vying for on-campus cafeteria bragging rights.
Many top governing bodies in higher education have begun to realize the criteria of a college selection goes beyond academia and social clubs. Colleges and universities are scrambling to find the best and brightest contractors and designers who can build the most beautiful, ergonomically designed dining areas, and chefs who can offer the healthiest, most versatile, and local menus to students at a reasonable price. With millions graduating and entering the workforce each year, it is hopeful this ‘new’ criteria for college will parlay into the workforce as graduates are considering job opportunities. Thus, food quality may become an integral consideration in the cycle of education and job selections.
Beyond Corporate Wellness
Some employers promote healthy eating and lifestyles through corporate wellness programs that offer lectures, exercise, and dietary support. Many of these incentives often result in financial discounts in the form of insurance. In recent years, savvy employers have acknowledged that the impact of employee happiness and productivity are results of the food their employees consume white at work. As a result, gourmet kitchens are popping up in corporate America, luring prospective employees with offers of on-site, moderately-priced organic or non-GMO options. In many of these corporate kitchens are daily staple items such as egg white omelets, oatmeal, brown rice, black beans, salads, fish, vegan and vegetarian dishes, and vegetable soup.
Preparation and Storage
This recipe can be prepared in less than an hour and stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. (Note: if greens are added, they will begin to disintegrate; the color of the soup will change, but it will still be safe to eat). Organic, frozen vegetables are recommended due to their high nutrient retention during minimal processing. A full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and fiber are provided through the inclusion of carrots, baby lima and green beans, sweet peas, celery, onions, and crushed tomatoes.
Keep a big batch of vegetable soup on hand. Each day, put some in a thermal cup, and throw it in your bag before you head out the door. This will ensure you have an ample amount of nutrients at your fingertips. A cup of vegetable soup will discourage binge or over-eating and give the body and brain the nutritional power necessary to keep up with a busy lifestyle. Your body will thank you. Your waistline will thank you. Your blood pressure will thank you. It’s a win-win situation.
Additional Ingredients for Consideration
- Vegetables: mushrooms, water chestnuts, okra, bell peppers, or potatoes (waxy potatoes work best such as Yukon gold; russets will deteriorate and create mush)
- Legumes: frozen or canned; if canned, drain and rinse prior to incorporating into soup
- Grains: whole grain rice, barley (if you don’t have quick cooking grains or ‘instant’ rice, add more liquid, cook covered for additional 10-15 minutes
- Greens; spinach, kale (add at the very end of cooking time)
Classic Vegetable Soup (serves 6-8)
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup baby lima beans (frozen)
1 cup green beans (frozen)
1 cup sweet peas (frozen)
1 cup corn (frozen)
1/2 cup quick-cooking barley (optional)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups crushed tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
- Rinse frozen vegetables and set aside.
- In a Dutch oven on medium heat sauté onions, celery, and carrots till semi-tender.
- Add bay leaves and broth to Dutch oven and cook for 10 additional minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes and frozen vegetables.
- Bring to boil for 5 minutes; allow to simmer on low for 10 minutes.
- Add barley and continue to simmer until barley is done.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste; remove bay leaves, and serve.
- Use organic frozen vegetables for maximum nutrition benefit.
- The inclusion of carrots and corn provide a hint of natural sweetness; if you prefer a heartier, or more savory flavor, substitute them with sliced mushrooms.
- The addition of barley (or any grain) will result in the soup thickening; feel free to add more water, broth, or tomatoes.
Integrative Nutrition is the world’s largest nutrition school and Health Coach Training Program. Through our innovative, one-year online course, students learn the principles of health coaching, business skills, and over 100 different dietary theories with lectures by the world’s leading experts.