SalmonBerry

Posts Tagged ‘healthy’

Healthy Lunches for Kids

In Nutrition on October 21, 2015 at 4:20 am

“Time’s fun when you’re eating flies.” – Kermit the Frog

healthy lunches

Nobody likes packing school lunches. I used to put way too much pressure on myself to make it balanced even though my kids would rather run around during lunch time than eat (they consistently tell me they “don’t have enough time” to eat lunch). I am fine with this BUT kids do need nourishment to make it through the long school days that, honestly, seem pretty intense compared to what I experienced during my childhood. I wish they had more time for both playing AND dining. I find these two things to be most essential to life and wouldn’t it be nice if our schools could reinforce that? To that end, at my home, I’ve focused more on providing a solid, balanced breakfast than putting all my energy into lunch but that’s another post.

For some guidance in packing a healthy, balanced lunch that a kid might actually eat…see below:

  1. Three main elements to a healthy meal: protein, healthy (plant-based) fats, carbohydrates (mostly from fruit & vegetables). Proteins: tofu squares, hard-boiled eggs, lunch meat (nitrate-free), leftover meatballs, breakfast sausage, grilled chicken, hummus, edamame/other beans. Fats: olives, nuts, seeds, avocado, cheese, hummus. Carbs: whole fruits, raw or roasted veggies, whole wheat pasta spirals, mini whole wheat pitas, whole grain crackers, hummus, edamame/other beans.healthy snack
  2. Aim for fruits and vegetables making up 1/2 the meal.
  3. Evaluate the “healthy-ness” of the lunchbox, by noting the ratio of pre-packaged foods to whole foods that you have packaged yourself. Skip almost any food labeled “kids” or specially packaged for kids as they are usually loaded with sugar (think yogurt squeezers and fruit chews) and/or heavily manipulated to not resemble the whole food’s origin.
  4. Dip It! Besides ranch, try smashed avocado alone or mixed into mild salsa, nut butters with a drizzle of honey or mixed with fruit-sweetened jam, or hummus (do some taste-testing to find a hummus your kids will love!). Hummus covers all 3 healthy lunch elements so it’s worth finding a favorite brand.
  5. Easy on the candy bars masquerading as granola/energy bars. Good choices are salmonberry barLarabars, Kind Bars (without chocolate), and GoMacro Bars. These bars are both heavy on the nuts which provides plenty of protein and satisfying fats as well as fiber which is important for regulating blood sugar and energy. Kind and GoMacro have added sweeteners but sugar grams are reasonable and are balanced by the high fiber content.
  6. Facilitate the eating of less popular fruits & veggies by combining them with favorites that you know they will eat. Examples: pineapple & blackberries, carrots & apple slices, cucumber & orange slices, bell peppers & sliced grapes. The flavors mingle making veggies more palatable. Obviously, this strategy won’t work on the “separatist” children!
  7. WATER, WATER, WATER. A hydrated child is focused and calm within a healthy and cooperative body. There are no good reasons to give your child a juice box or even milk. If you must pack milk, give them whole, plain milk. Flavored, as well as low fat or 2%, milk, is piling on the carbs. Whole milk is more satiating and allows for a balanced metabolic response.
  8. Resist packing your child a dessert (at least not daily). Yes, sweet is one of the five flavors that, if included within a meal, will lead to palate satisfaction; however, this flavor can be addressed using fruit as opposed to a cookie. The habit of needing something sweet after every meal contributes to a life-long sweet addiction, potential future weight issues, or other health concerns such as an imbalance in the gut microbiome affecting mood, hormones, and nutrient uptake.

For accessible, evidence-based nutrition guidance that is current, check out The Nutrition Source by Harvard School of Public Health. Great resource website and they have a better version of the Healthy Plate (a graphic your kids may be familiar with…).

Perfect Parfait

In Nutrition, Recipe on July 10, 2013 at 11:00 pm
fruit, yogurt, go raw

Fruit, yogurt, Go Raw Original Granola

Please step away from the acai bowls! They are loaded with added sugars. Sugar is added to those little, frozen packets of smashed berries and to the nut milk that is blended with it and, finally, the granola that gets tossed on top. No wonder they are a big hit – you might as well be eating dessert!

You can do a much better job by BUILDING YOUR OWN breakfast bowl with fresh fruit that hasn’t been processed, packaged, and flown in from Brazil. I eat a lot of fruity, nutty, yogurt-y concoctions. Some might call them parfaits, others might call them fruit salad. Either way, the hot summer months, with their abundance of fruit, call for cool, juicy breakfasts with enough fat and protein to keep you satisfied and nourished. On the outset it appears that the parfait is ‘healthy’ but there is much variance as to the value of each ingredient so I think it merits a discussion.

papya parfait

Papaya, yogurt, hemp seeds, coconut, & sunflower seeds.

There are usually 3 components to a parfait: (1) yogurt (dairy or vegan), (2) the fruit, and (3) the ‘toppings’ (hopefully nuts & seeds). What I find is that most parfaits resemble dessert in that they are much too high in sugar and other carbohydrates. Let’s leave the job of providing sugar and fiber to the fruit (choose a colorful variety) and do our best to eliminate it from the other two components.

Begin by choosing a sugar-free – yes, that means PLAIN – version of yogurt, whether it be a Greek dairy yogurt or coconut milk kefir or soy yogurt. This is not always easy, especially with the diary substitutes, but it can be done. Also, choosing a FULL-FAT version is essential for 2 reasons: (1) the balance of protein/fat/carbs is more supportive of health (nonfat yogurt is heavy on carbs) and (2) the plain flavor is not as sour b/c the fat is still included (hence less sugar needed to make it palatable). Even if you are trying to lose weight, a full-fat version is more supportive of satiation, smaller portions, and weight control (I promise!).

go raw simple

Go Raw brand granola – unsweetened or sweetened with dates & raisins

End by choosing toppings that include healthy fats and no added sugars. Sorry, folks, but ‘granola’ is not going to do it here. Yes, it’s delicious but it’s usually very high in added sugars. Low sugar varieties are available, such as those from Go Raw that are sweetened with dates and raisins, and, yet, this healthy choice is still adding unnecessary carbs to the balance. It’s much healthier to take a deconstructionist view of granola as a topping. Say what? Sprinkle on sunflower seeds or almonds or walnuts or hemp seeds or coconut flakes or chia seeds or pepitas or sesame seeds…you get the idea. These toppings add healthy fats and protein as opposed to more carbs.

Finally, add a little shake of cinnamon or cocoa or fresh mint to up the flavor factor without adding more volume or calories.

Building your own breakfast bowl ensures you get ‘good’ carbs, a healthy amount of (the good) fat, and plenty of fiber and antioxidants. Have fun and get creative!

Pizza Muffins

In Nutrition, Recipe on May 22, 2013 at 10:57 pm

oven-readyMy son goes to the coolest preschool. The children basically romp barefoot in a vegetable garden building fairy houses and digging for dinosaur artifacts while collecting eggs and bundling herbs to sell at their “farmers market stand”. The school encourages parent involvement and, while I’m comfortable giving parent education talks, I freeze when I think of teaching nutrition to a bunch of 5-year-olds. I have zero experience in early childhood education and can be much too serious when it comes to healthy eating (ask my kids!). So as the year creeps to an end I’m feeling that I must do something to contribute my expertise and decide that I will make an easy, healthy recipe for pizza muffins with them.

pizza ingredientsTrader Joe’s makes homemade pizza-making a breeze, just pick your toppings and the rest is ready for you. Making pizzas as individual muffins allows the kids to top their “own” pizza and makes them very portable for lunchboxes and for taking to the beach. No one will notice the whole wheat crust and I prefer the sharp flavors of TJ’s Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese over bland, straight-up mozzarella. Leftover toppings can be used in a frittata the next day (where good cheese is once again appreciated).

I prep the veggies prior to heading to the school: chop the bell peppers, drain the olives, and de-stem the mushrooms. Once I see how much fun they are having acting like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while chopping mushrooms, I immediately regret buying pre-sliced olives.pizza toppings

At home, I usually handle the rolling, slicing, and draping of the dough into the muffin tins because if the dough gets over-handled it just curls up in a ball on the bottom of the tin. But I’m trying to be a relaxed, fun mom and I let the kids help with this part even though it might not “turn-out”. Inevitably, some of the pizza muffins fall apart in a goopey mess once removed from the tin, either from overfilling of sauce or because the crust ended up entirely on the bottom…oh well.

making pizzaThis being the free-spirited, do-what-you-feel, kind of preschool, some kids wander into and out of the activity while others are very invested in micro-managing the outcome. I think my son may have participated the whole time. Either because he wanted to hang out with me or because we have the same issues! The individual variation is impressive and, although it’s a creative mess, I’m impressed with the interpretive pizza that resulted.

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins):

Trader Joe’s Pizza Sauce

Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Trader Giotto’s Quattro Formaggio (shredded blend of parmesan, asiago, fontina, and mild provolone)

Topping ideas:pizza eat

Bell peppers, yellow, orange, red, diced

Black olives, sliced (buy whole olives, let kids chop)

Cremini mushrooms, chopped (trim stems then let kids chop)

Trader Joe’s chicken breakfast sausage, cooked and sliced (another kid-friendly chopping task)

Leftover roasted or steamed veggies, chopped (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, green beans)

Raw spinach, chopped

pizza mealDirections:

Pre-heat oven to 450. Let dough sit for 20 mins on a flour-ed surface before rolling out. Cut into 12 squares and drape squares in greased, regular-sized muffin tin. Let the kids go nuts with the toppings. Bake for 10-12 mins at 450. Enjoy!

Salmonberry Bars

In Nutrition, Recipe on May 16, 2013 at 6:40 am

salmonberry barI never liked PowerBars. I didn’t like the taffy-like texture or artificial flavor. Trail mix wasn’t hip enough and was way too ubiquitous during my childhood in the 70s. So I was really excited when the ClifBar was invented. In the 90s, I did a lot of backpacking and ate a lot of ClifBars. Then I realized, maybe I should be eating LunaBars, they’re for women, right? Those quickly became sickeningly sweet and aren’t even remotely healthy so I gave up on bars altogether until…the Larabar. Just dates, nuts, dried fruit, and maybe some spices. Simple and healthy and my kids loved them too. Recently, I discovered that Larabar was bought by General Mills who is against GMO labeling and just generally has some crappy products they try to sell as “food” (2 thumbs up for Cheerios, though!).

I prefer to buy from local companies with whom I agree on issues that are important to me (you may not care about GMOs or the consolidation of food production/manufacturing). Anyway, I’ve found two locally-made bars that get the ‘healthy’ nod when my kids ask to eat them: Perfect Foods Bar and Earnest Eats. in processorNow I’ve attempted to make my own bar based on my taste preferences and maniacal need to make everything healthier. Introducing the Salmonberry Bar!

Things got a bit sketchy and I was skeptical about my ability to pull these off. But I totally surprised myself with this one. Not too sweet and with some subtle, sophisticated flavors…watch out KindBars, I’m taking over the local Starbucks – ha!

Process until smooth:

1/2 cup pitted dates

1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened, sunflower seed butter, almond butter, or peanut butter

1/2 cup honey

Add: ~3/4 cups hot water, to thin mixture

bar ingredientsAdd in the following:

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp finely ground espresso

1 tsp allspice

2 TBSP chia seeds

2 TBSP finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

Add and process lightly:

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup cashews

Remove mixture from processor and into mixing bowl with:

2 cups rolled oats or buckwheat groats

Mix well with wooden spoon and spread mixture on greased, baking sheet. Press down with greased spatula so mixture is about 1/4-inch high.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

After baking, sprinkle with sesame seeds and press them into mixture with the back of a greased spatula. Let cool completely and cut into 1-inch-squares. Makes ~30 bars.

1 bar = 167 kcals, 4g protein, 9g fat, 2g fiber, 13g total carbs, 8g sugars

I would’ve have preferred this bar to be higher in fiber but I feel good about the sugars (from honey & dates). The texture is perfect and it is only mildly sweet and very filling. However, the clean-up was a pain (goopy dates and nut butter stuck to my processor blade!). I honestly don’t know if it was worth the effort in the kitchen because I spotted these in the bulk bins at Whole Foods for only $7.99/pound: Carob Energee Nuggets. They are almost exactly the same nutritionally and look eerily similar to my bars…has someone been spying on the Salmonberry kitchen??

carob energeen nuggets nutrition

Same calories, fat, carbs, protein, & fiber.

carob energee bars

Looks – and tastes – delicious!

Curried Sweet Potato & Kale Stew

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 10, 2013 at 3:52 am
Curried Sweet Potato & Kale Stew

Curried Sweet Potato & Kale Stew

This stew debuted at SoupAsana and was a hit (even with the picky eaters!). The combo of hearty veggies in a light, deliciously-spiced broth was a perfect post-yoga meal. Prep is minimal and the slow cooker does all the work for you!

Ingredients (Serves 6):

2 cups onions – diced

2 large celery ribs – finely chopped

2 14oz cans of garbanzo beans – drained & rinsed

1 14oz can of fire-roasted tomatoes

1 can coconut milk

4 cups vegetable broth

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp cayenne (if you like heat!)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chili powder

1 large sweet potato – peeled and diced

1 bunch kale – chopped

Place all ingredients except kale and sweet potato in slow cooker on high for 2-3hrs. Add kale and sweet potato and cook for another 1-2hrs (until sweet potato is soft). Season to taste with tamari. Serve over short-grain, brown rice.

Love It or Leave It

In Mindfulness, Nutrition on April 10, 2013 at 3:43 am
greens

Swiss chard, parsley, and kale

Life’s too short to eat kale…if you don’t actually like it! Yes, it’s really good for you but if you’ve tried it every which way (raw, sautéed, baked as chips, blended in a smoothie) and you still hate it, then simply eat a different leafy green – swiss chard, collards, beet greens, mustard greens, etc.

I don’t like quinoa. There’s nothing particular ‘wrong’ with quinoa, it’s just that this itty-bitty, fluffy seed appears really wimpy to me – like it should be a garnish instead of the main event. So I rarely eat it. I like short-grain brown rice instead (sometimes w quinoa mixed in). I also eat pinto beans way more than black or garbanzo or kidney or adzuki (who eats those anyway?).

Do the healthy eating thing YOUR WAY while still holding yourself to a high standard. As long as you are eating something from each major plant group (beans, greens, nuts/seeds, oils, etc.) then don’t stress if you dislike the one deemed MOST NUTRITIOUS. The most nutritious food is the food you will actually eat! Find the leafy greens and grains you like, eat those, and ban the kale and quinoa from your repertoire. Be open to trying those banned foods in new variations or preparations – you might be surprised.

So, I REALLY like kale; therefore, it’s featured in Curried Sweet Potato & Kale Stew. You’ve got 2 choices: substitute another leafy green or give kale a try…loosen up and get creatively experimental with your food preferences.

Chia Pudding

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 3, 2013 at 10:29 pm
chia pudding

Chia pudding with blueberries

Why all the chia and coconut, you say? Well, both chia and coconut contain healthy fatty acid profiles. Chia’s omega-3s are more accessible than flaxseed because the seed can be consumed whole as opposed to flaxseed which must first be ground. I have found that adding unsweetened coconut and vanilla to recipes enhances the sweetness without any additional sweetener! It’s the aroma, perhaps. There are a lot of versions of chia pudding on the internet. This one from yourbuddhi.com is my favorite. This is NOT super sweet but resist the urge to pile on the honey and instead top with mango, pineapple, or another sweet fruit.

Ingredients:

1 can of lite coconut milk

5 TBSP chia seeds

3 TBSP honey

1 tsp vanilla and/or 1 tsp cocoa powder

Swirl honey into coconut milk until fully dissolved. Stir in chia seed, vanilla, and cocoa (if using). Wait 10 mins, stir again, then place in fridge for another 10 mins. Done! Top with fruit, coconut flakes, nuts, or cacao nibs.

Makes 4 – 4oz servings.

1 serving = 159 kcals + 9g fat + 4g fiber + 2g protein.

Choco-Chia Nut Spheres

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 3, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I just couldn’t use the word ‘balls’. Again, more chia and coconut (easy, affordable, healthy fats, high fiber). Almonds add healthy fats, protein, and more fiber. All these ingredients can be found in the bulk aisle. If you are shopping at a market that does not have a bulk aisle, perhaps you should find your way to one that does as these markets tend to have healthier food options. Yes, these are a kind-of glorified trail mix but are healthier than a highly-processed energy bar and serve the same purpose. Use as a tea-time dessert or as a great post-workout snack.

nut spheresIngredients:

1.5 cups dates – pitted

1/2 cup water

3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2.5 TBSP chia seeds

2 cups almonds (if you use raw almonds, chop a bit first or it’s gonna be hell on your processor. If you don’t care about the recipe being raw then use tiny roasted & salted ones)

Coconut flakes (unsweetened)

Dash of cinnamon and/or cayenne

In a food processor, purée pitted dates and water until a sticky paste forms. Add cocoa powder. Add chia seeds and almonds in batches to create solid dough. Shape mixture into TBSP-sized balls and roll in coconut or cocoa powder. Refrigerate for 30mins. Makes ~25 spheres.

1 sphere = 88 kcals + 6g fat + 3g protein + 2g fiber