Friday, June 4, 2010

School lunch Thursday 6/3: Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The menu reads as follows: Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Macaroni Salad, Cucumber Slices, Fruit

What they got: Half-baked cheese sandwich, macaroni salad, cucumber slices, an orange and lowfat milk

Grilled cheese....yummm! What kid doesn't like a grilled cheese? Well surprisingly some but not all!

I was very curious to see what the grilled cheese sandwiches looked like or how they were made only because I could not imagine the kitchens grilling hundreds of sandwiches- and they didn't! From what it looks like they warmed or baked the sandwiches for a little time in a convection oven, probably just enough to melt the cheese, but not enough for it to look like its actually been grilled.  The one below is made from the heel of the bread so  it looks toasted/grilled but is not.

The issue with this grilled cheese is that its made with processed american cheese and as we know as soon as anything is processed there is a good chance that its high in sodium AND saturated fat. A typical brand like Kraft American cheese has 250mg of sodium per slice and weighs in at 2.5g of saturated fat. Now, times that by 2 (because it looks like they used at least 2 slices per sandwich), and you have 500mg of sodium or 20% RDA (recommended daily allowance), and 5g of saturated fats or 26% RDA for a diet based on 2000 calories - ALL this in just the cheese!
(These values are based on a 2000 calorie diet)

At this age kids should be eating anything between 1,200 and 1,600 calories a day- depending on how active they are. As you can see the above nutritional information raises a red flag. Too much sodium and too much fat.

Here is a quick comparison of American vs. cheddar:

Nutrition Facts for Slice of American
Serving Size 1 serving (19.0 g)

Calories 60

Calories from fat 40

Total Fat                    4.5g              7%
Saturated Fat            2.5g              13%
Cholesterol               15mg             5%
Sodium                      250mg          10%
Total Carbohydrates  1.0g               0%
Sugars                       1.0g
Protein                       3.0g 
Vitamin A 4%  •   Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 20%  • Iron 0%


Nutrition Facts For Cheddar Cheese
Serving Size 1 Cubic inch -  17.0 g

Calories 69
Calories from fat 51

Total Fat                       5.6g         9%
Saturated Fat               3.6g        18%
Polyunsaturated Fat      0.2g
Monounsaturated Fat    1.6g
Cholesterol                  18mg        6%
Sodium                      106mg        4%
Total Carbohydrates      0.2g        0%
Sugars                           0.1g
Protein                           4.2g

Vitamin A 3%        •   Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 12%        • Iron 1%

We can safely say that cheddar contains much less sodium and a little more fat than american. Also, nutritionally is more beneficial because it contains more protein, however, american does contain more calcium.

Given the choice though, I'd opt for the unprocessed cheddar cheese.


  1. I am more concerned about the mayonnaise-slathered white pasta than the processed cheese. I am glad to see the sliced cucumber, though, since we all know those had to be fresh (cucumber tends to get slimy as it ages, so it can't be pre-packaged).

  2. I'm not saying the food is fantastic but I gotta say, it's much better than the stuff at Mrs. Q's school! There seem to be a lot of fresh veggies and fruit. Did that happen since you started rocking the boat?

  3. @Shannon- Basically, yes things have gotten much better since i started blogging about it and I totally appreciate the food service providers responsiveness. In fact they are at least trying new things and including fresh veg and fruit with almost every meal...a far cry from what it was a few months ago! And, yes I do think Mrs Q's food seems worse. The fact is though that it's all processed food stuffs. Ours just comes in bulk whereas Mrs Q gets served individually heated portions. But yes those TV style frozen meals look pretty meager and unappetizing.

  4. This does look better than Mrs. Q's lunches. No little foam boxes of food. I wish the pasta salad looked better.
    I Have to tell you that I do love a good grilled cheese sandwich. I remember being so excited when i got to college and the grill would make a to order grilled sandwich and I could get a pumpernickle with swiss grilled cheese!
    Most kids don't seem to like strong flavored cheeses..or at least that is what the powers that be tell us.(who are they anyway) My youngest used to eat sharp cheddar as a toddler. The oldest wanted velveeta because the kids downt he street ate it, but I wouldn't buy it.
    Processed cheese melts quicker.
    When I was in grade school they used to put a layer of white bread slices down on the huge cookie sheets and one slice of cheese on top and stick it in the oven until they melted and bubbled and then served it to us in the lunch line...I can't remember what they served it with.
    Maybe that Chili with the noodles in it.

  5. I went through your archives and the earlier pictures do seem worse. Good going!

    With Mrs. Q, it's not just the little containers. She seems to get a lot less in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables. Has she ever had a fresh salad? Fresh sliced cucumbers makes me think your school has a lot more hope.

    Mrs. Q made a comment about oranges once that I agree with. I know it's time consuming, but if they would peel the oranges for the kids, or cut them into wedges (faster than peeling) it would be better for little hands and more likely to get eaten.