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Lunch is a battlefield. Are you winning, or are your kids?

In the ongoing contest of wills between parent and child, the most pitched battles take place over lunch – a healthy school lunch, to be exact. We make 'em; they toss 'em. But parents south of the border have a new ally in the fight to make kids eat broccoli instead of burgers, spurred on by American first lady Michelle Obama. Yesterday, the United States Department of Agriculture released updated guidelines for what can be served by school nutrition programs.

Much of what is stipulated in the revised Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is already a given in Canada: reducing saturated fat, trans fats and sodium; increasing the daily servings of fruits and vegetables; and switching to low-fat milk and whole grains. That said, it's not like Jamie Oliver can declare victory just yet — Congress stepped in to ensure that French fries and pizza would still be considered vegetable servings (no word as to whether similar special status applies to ketchup).

We all know the drill – no preservatives, no additives, no empty carbs, no sugar. And so we lovingly send our little darlings off in the morning with one of the lunches suggested by EatRight Ontario: marinated cooked tofu in a whole-wheat tortilla wrap with shredded lettuce and grated carrot, and a fruit yogurt on the side. Sure, we might throw in a treat from the Halloween bag, but all in all, we've assembled a feast guaranteed to pass muster with nutrition hardliners, whose kids always eat their vegetables.

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And then comes the moment of truth, when we unpack the lunch box to discover nothing has been touched, although the empty wrapper demonstrates that kids can survive on chocolate alone. You can lead a kid to quinoa, but you can't make him think it's better than chicken fingers.

Speaking of which, here's a cautionary tale for your kids. English teenager Stacey Irvine claims she has eaten almost nothing except McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, fries and a soft drink since she was 2. Echoing documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's decline on an all-Mickey D's diet, Irvine recently collapsed and was rushed to hospital. "It breaks my heart to see her eating those damn nuggets," her mother Evonne told The Sun. "She's been told in no uncertain terms that she'll die if she carries on like this."

Is getting your child to eat a healthy lunch a battle in your house?

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About the Author

Shelley Youngblut is the Western Editor of The Globe and Mail (and the mother of identical twins). The former editor of Calgary’s award-winning Swerve magazine, she is a veteran of ESPN the Magazine, and has commented on pop culture on ABC, CTV and CBC Radio. More

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