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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Beating Lunchbox Boredom

Approximately 45% of school lunch gets thrown away, and that isn’t limited to cafeteria fare either.  If you’ve spent any time at all in a school cafeteria,  you know just how frustrating it is to see so many good, untouched, and often still wrapped up foods get tossed automatically in the trash.  When my sister was working in an elementary school cafeteria, she noticed one child that had his daily routine: open his lunch sack, take out his sandwich, walk over throw it away, then go back and eat the rest of his lunch.  This had become a habit and he’d chuck his sandwich everyday without fail.  It takes more than packing a healthy lunch, we need to keep our kids interested & involved in their school lunch.

  1. Have kids help plan out and pack their lunch.  Gives them a sense of control, responsibility and ownership.
  2. Incorporate some healthful, sweet treats in the lunch sack. California Raisins are one of my favorite foods to fit this bill because first of all – I love the refreshingly short ingredient list: raisins.  Secondly, they are so convenient – they are portable and you don’t have to worry about anything spoiling.  Third, not only are they naturally sweet, but they no added sugar, of course no fat, and provide fiber, potassium and iron.
  3. Mix up the make-up of the lunch box:

  • Trail mix – great way to get your kids involved by creating their own recipes.  Provide some whole grain cereals, pretzels, nuts, seeds, and raisins.  Put that in bag or container, then add a a cheese stick and an piece of fruit. 

  • Hands-on lunches -   
    • Buildable lunch - whole grain crackers, cheese slices (cut into cute shapes if your kiddo wants to help) some slices of Canadian bacon or turkey, and some fruit packed with a frozen water or juice bottle.

    • Ants on a log – celery sticks, nut or seed butter, raisins and toss in a bag of popcorn and some milk.

    •  Yogurt Parfait – favorite yogurt, some granola (recipe for this tasty raisin granola on my website) some berries or mandarin oranges  packed with a nice clear cup so they can layer it themselves.  Add some veggies and you’ve got a great lunch.
** Add some love: a note written on a napkin or for older “too-cool” kids, work out some small symbol to mark on their lunch that is your code for I love you helps remind kids that mealtime is about family.

A little more variety, possibly a cookie cutter, and giving kids more control will help keep their food and your food dollars out of the trash can.

Here are some fun, kid-friendly recipes.  For more check out:

Honey Nut Raisin Snack Mix
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Cool time: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons almond butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups brown crispy rice cereal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup rolled gluten-free oats
2 cups California raisins
1/2 cup California golden raisins

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add honey, almond butter and cinnamon and bring to a full boil. Let boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in cereal, almonds and oats. Spread 1-inch thick on a baking sheet then separate into 1-inch clusters. Let cool completely then stir in raisins. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 6 cups.

Recipe tip: For crunchy clusters, spread cooked mixture 1-inch thick on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned.  Stir to form clusters and let cool completely. Stir in raisins.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Raisin Snack Mix
Prep time: 5 minutes

1 1/2 cups peanut butter-filled pretzel sandwiches or nuggets
1 cup California raisins
1/2 cup California golden raisins
1/2 cup roasted, salted or cocoa peanuts

Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Store in an airtight container. Makes 3 1/2 cups.

Recipe tip: Stir in 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt covered raisins, if desired.

Cocoa Peanut Raisin Snack Mix
Prep time: 5 minutes

2 cups California raisins
1 cup miniature chocolate graham crackers
1 cup cocoa coated peanuts

Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Makes 4 cups.

Crunchy Cinnamon Mix
Prep time: 5 minutes

1 cup California raisins
1 cup cinnamon chex cereal
1 cup cinnamon sugar pretzel pieces
1/2 cup California golden raisins

Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Makes 3 1/2 cups.

Vanilla Nut
Prep time: 5 minutes

2 cups California raisins
1 cup cocoa & vanilla gluten free bunny cookies
3/4 cup honey roasted almonds

Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Makes about 4 cups.

Recipe tip: Stir in 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt covered raisins, if desired.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pizza: it doesn't have to be the enemy

On any given day, 1 in 8 Americans eats pizza.  In fact, the average American eats 46 slices of pizza per year.  And as a country, we consume 90 acres of pizza each year.  So apparently there's an elephant in the room - and he's eating pizza!
Pizza has become a convenience food goto and is part of our culinary culture.  This doesn't necessarily make it the enemy.  The main problem with excessive pizza consumption is that we end up eating pizzas that are very high in fat, sodium and calories, but very low in vegetables.
The two obvious solutions are:

  1. Portion control & meal balance.  Have one slice and then round out your meal with a nice salad and some fruit.
  2. Make your own.  Again, it's best to add a salad or some other fruit or veggie side as a nutritional compliment to your meal.  
I personally like making your own, since that way I can have one pizza that makes everyone happy.

And if you guessed there were 4 of us in our family - you are absolutely correct!