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Tips for Packing School Lunches

With back to school season in full swing, packing school lunches is on the brains of many parents. With all of the debate and discussions surrounding school lunches, more and more parents are taking on the responsibility of packing their child’s lunch rather than purchasing through the school lunch program. Although many school lunch programs have made great strides recently to provide healthier options to students, the reality is that many still fall short due to factors like a lack of funding or inappropriate standards set for the lunch program. By packing a student’s lunch, parents can rest assured about what their child is eating each day while they are at school. But, is this really beneficial? Many parents don’t always know how to choose the right foods that will fuel their child through the entire school day. Look at what many adults choose to eat on a daily basis; it’s not hard to see where parents may not always be equipped to make the best choices for school lunches. That’s where it’s our role as dietitians to educate parents on making healthy food choices; both for the parents and for their children.

As many of us already know, packing school lunches on a daily basis is a huge commitment. If you take the time to make sure that your children are getting the right amount of foods from each food group, changing up meal options enough to keep them excited and keeping the pantry stocked with all the right foods to make it happen, you quickly find that it’s much easier to just have your child purchase a school lunch. But, we’ve got a couple of tips to ease the burden and make this important task a seamless part of your everyday schedule. As a dietitian, these are great tips to share with clients.

  1. Create a Plan: If you’re the type of person who thrives on a schedule, make a meal plan a week or two in advance. If you have a list of common meals that your family enjoys, you can just pull from that list to fill your meal plan. Be sure that you have slots for each food group under every meal. Fill these slots with MyPlate in mind to create a balanced plate for every meal. Then, use your meal plan to create a grocery list. You’ll be amazed at how simple it is to look at your meal plan and make what it says. There’s no guessing or thinking involved. You just read it and do it!
  2. Pack Meals in Advance: Depending on the lunches you’ve chosen, you can prepare the meals ahead of time. Many times you can take some time on Sunday afternoon and get all your lunches for the week packed and ready to go. If you’ve chosen fresher options, it may be a little more difficult. But, always plan to pack lunches in the evening so you can simply ‘grab n go’ in the morning.
  3. Always Remember MyPlate: Sometimes it’s hard to look at a blank slate and start filling in a meal plan or packing a school lunch. But, if you keep a copy of MyPlate hanging in your kitchen, just begin going around the plate choosing foods that fit in each food group. For example, as I go around the plate, I can easily fill it with 1 slice of whole wheat toast, peanut butter, green beans and grapes. Top it off with a glass of milk or yogurt and voila, we have a full meal that is packed with everything a student needs to stay energized throughout their day at school.

Like I said before, packing school lunches for your family is a commitment. But, once you get in the swing of it, it will become second nature! Be sure to utilize all the different resources available online that make packing school lunches easier. In fact, some of them will even create balanced meal plans for you if you don’t have the time or energy to create your own. Until next time, here’s to healthy lunches and happy families!

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“The Summer of ‘69”

The thought of homemade ice cream brings back a flood of childhood memories, running around with friends from sunup to sundown during summer break. Plus, as the weather heats up outside, these refreshing evening treats sound more and more appealing! Since June is National Dairy Month, we decided there is no better way to show our appreciation than to whip up a batch of cold, refreshing homemade ice cream.

The question is, how do you mix up a batch of ice cream that is smooth and creamy without loading it with sugar and extra calories? Well, we’ve got the answer for you with this healthy twist on traditional homemade vanilla ice cream.

Low-Calorie Vanilla Ice Cream

1 tbsp. water

1 1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin

3 cups 1% low-fat milk

2 tsp. vanilla

3 egg yolks

1 14-ounce can non-fat sweetened condensed milk

  • Put water in a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin; let stand, stirring once, while you make the ice cream mixture.
  • Pour 1 1/2 cups milk into a large saucepan. Add vanilla
  • Heat the milk and vanilla mixture over medium heat until steaming.
  • Whisk egg yolks and condensed milk in a medium bowl. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking until blended. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not boil or the custard mixture will curdle.
  • Strain the custard through a soft clean tea towel into a bowl. Add the gelatin and water mixture and whisk until dissolved. Whisk in the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
  • Stir until blended well, churn in your ice cream freezer.
  • Makes approximately 2 quarts

The key for loading this recipe with flavor is fresh fruit. If you want all of the ice cream to have the same flavors infused throughout, grind your favorite fruit lightly and mix in before churning in the ice cream freezer.  To provide a number of flavors for everyone to choose from, add some whole fruit pieces to the top after you’ve already dished up your ice cream.

It’s always important to remember that eating healthy doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of all your favorite foods. By choosing lower-fat options you can still fit the foods you love into your diet and enjoy them in moderation.

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Low Carbon is the New Low Carb (“7 Nutrition Trends of 2010”)

Looking back at our post on “7 Nutrition Trends of 2010” we can see that carbon footprints are being improved in the health and nutrition education areas. Going green isn’t just for homes and cars anymore.
When something goes from garden to grocery store these days, it tends to travel a little farther than we realize. Take, for example, that can of corn sitting in your cupboard. If we were to track how much fuel and energy it took to get there, you might reconsider going straight for the canned goods aisle next time.
First of all, before it’s even grown, fuel is spent to fertilize and plant all of the corn seeds in large farms. When it’s harvested, more fuel is spent to gather all of it up. Immediately after, the corn is stored and either heated or cooled to optimum temperature, yet another use of some energy.
Then, it’s taken, by a fuel-powered truck, to a processing plant, where the machinery uses its vast energy resources to process and pack all of the corn into those cans that fit so nicely into the cabinet. The corn then flies by plane, and then is moved again, by truck, and finally arrives at the store. While it sits in storage for you to buy it, more energy is used.
It’s a bit excessive on an example, but the truth is, buying local can make a bigger impact on our world than you think. If a local farmer goes out and plants something by hand, then grabs the ear off the stalk, washes it, and brings it to the local farmer’s market, you have a product that took a lot less fuel and energy to make. And, it probably tastes a lot better too!
This story is summed up in a pretty fun illustration in the book “Go Green Get Lean,” which talks a lot about how eating more ‘green’ foods can improve your waistline, and preserve our world. Check out “Go Green Get Lean” in our catalog or online at www.ncescatalog.com.