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Posts Tagged ‘lunch’

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…).

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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!

Pot O’Beans

In Nutrition, Recipe on April 1, 2013 at 3:17 am
beans3

Kidney beans, black beans, chili powder, cumin seeds, and cilantro.

How to make a decent pot o’ beans that are digestible and ingestible! First, prep the beans and then decide on herbs and spices (dried & ground) depending on the bean type selected. Here are some ideas for spicing up your beans…

Pinto: lemon rind, parsley or oregano, cumin, & mild chili powder. Black: ginger & fennel seeds or sage & thyme. Lentils & Garbanzos: lemon rind & garlic with dill, basil, or mint.

  1. Soak dried beans for at least 12 hrs* and change water once or twice.
  2. When ready to cook, add a strip of Kombu to bottom of crock pot (aids digestibility, adds nutrients, and shortens cook times). Add beans and fill with water so the beans are just covered.
  3. On high, bring beans to a boil, scoop off foam, and continue to boil (w/o lid) for 20 mins.
  4. Add spices. Consider whole garlic cloves – they turn to a garlickly mush – yum! Adding fennel seeds or cumin seeds helps with digestion. Any other spice or herb helps with ingestion – also important.
  5. Cover crock pot, reduce to low, and let beans cook all day long (~6-8 hrs depending on soak time)
  6. Season with salt at the end. Adding sea salt, miso, or tamari too early hinders full cooking.
  7. ENJOY for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

*Food Safety Alert! Soak in a cool place away from direct light. If soaking longer than 12hrs or its a hot, humid day, please soak in refrigerator.