7 Steps to a Perfect Packed Lunch

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...

Summer vacation is winding down, fall is approaching and the kids are going back to school.

It’s time to examine the art of packing the perfect lunch.

While it is easy to rely on the school cafeteria for the kids and fast food meals for you, this method will quickly result in unwanted pounds.

The only way to ensure that you and your kids are eating a nutritionally balanced, health promoting lunch is to pack it yourself.

According to Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes in their book, Lunch Lessons, “When it comes to nutrition, children are not just miniature adults. Because they’re growing, they have different dietary needs.” (Their daily serving recommendations are in boxes below.)

Use the following 7 steps as your guide for packing healthy lunches that cover the spectrum of nutrients that your growing kids needs.

Don’t have kids? Keep reading. You’ll need these steps when packing your own nutrient-dense, fitness lunches.

Step 1: Hydration

Every function of the human body requires water, so it’s a no-brainer that water should be included in your packed lunch. Eight glasses a day is a minimum.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of giving kids juice or soda pop, and once your kids are accustomed to drinking these sugary treats expect a battle when you switch to water. This is one fight that is worth winning.

Remind yourself that the sugary drinks are filled with empty calories, which quickly lead to weight gain. Sugar also robs the body of vital nutrients and minerals.

Step 2: Protein

  • 2 – 3 servings daily
  • 1 serving equals: 2 – 3oz meat, 1/2 cup cooked beans, 1/3 cup nuts or one egg

Protein is an essential part of lunch, both for you and your kids. Kids need protein to support their growing body, and you need plenty of protein in order to grow and maintain lean muscle tissue.

Here’s a list of healthy protein sources: fish, beans, tofu, nuts, eggs, chicken, turkey, lean pork and lamb.

Limit the amount of high-saturated-fat protein that your kids eat to no more than 3 servings per week. These include cheese, hot dogs, salami, bacon and sausage.

Step 3: Whole Grains

  • Kids 6-9 yrs: 4 – 7 servings daily
  • Kids 10-14 yrs: 5 – 8 servings daily
  • Teens: 6 – 9 servings daily
  • 1 serving equals: 1 slice of bread, 1/2 bagel, 1/2 cup cooked rice, 1/2 cup pasta, 1 cup of whole grains

Whole grains are one of the major building blocks of a healthy meal. The key word here is “whole” meaning not refined.

White bread, bagels, pasta and rice have been stripped of the nutrients and minerals. As a result these items convert quickly into sugar, leaving your child drained after an initial quick burst of energy. Always avoid refined white grain products.

Here’s a list of healthy whole grains: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur, whole-wheat or sprouted grain bread, barley, whole grain cereal and whole wheat pasta.

Step 4: Veggies

  • 4 – 9 servings daily
  • 1 serving equals: 1 cup raw of 1/2 cup cooked vegetables

When it comes to veggies, variety is key. Choose a array of colors like orange, red, purple, green, blue, white and yellow to make sure that your kids are getting all of the necessary vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

Don’t save vegetables for dinnertime. Pack each lunch with lots of colorful vegetables.

Try these veggie-packing ideas: Put a small container of hummus with cut veggies for dipping. Fill your sandwiches with baby arugula, roasted peppers and slices of tomato. Pack a container of veggie and whole wheat pasta instead of a sandwich. Invest in a small thermos and fill it with vegetable soup.

Step 5: Fruit

  • 3 – 5 servings daily
  • 1 serving equals: 1/2 cup cut fruit, whole fruit size of tennis ball, half a banana, 1/2 cup 100% fruit juice

Fresh fruit is filled with vitamins, nutrients and minerals. As with your veggies, choose a variety of colors to ensure that your kids are getting a range of nutrients.

Stay away from fruits that are canned and coated in syrup, and also from fruit snacks and chews that contain added sugars. If fresh fruit is not readily available then go for plain dried fruit, with no added sugar.

Unlike veggies, it is possible to eat too much fruit. Though the natural sugars within fruit are much healthier than refined sugar, too much of it will have a negative impact on your blood sugar levels and the extra calories will be stored as fat. Stick with 3 – 5 servings per day.

Step 6: Calcium

  • 2 – 6 servings daily
  • Serving size based on the amount of calcium in the food. Examples of 1 serving: 1 cup cooked beans, 1/2 cup almonds, 1/2 cup dried figs, 1/2 cup dark leafy green vegetables, 1/2 cup tofu, 1 cup low-fat milk, 1 cup low-fat yogurt

Your kids need calcium in order to build strong, healthy bones. It is important to incorporate calcium into each meal.

Calcium isn’t just found in dairy products. There are many plant sources that contain calcium that is more readily absorbed by the body than the calcium found in dairy.

Try these sources of calcium: nuts, dark leafy greens, salmon, broccoli, tofu, soy milk, sardines, beans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt.

Step 7: Healthy Fat

  • 3 – 4 servings daily
  • Serving size based on the amount of healthy fat in the food. Examples of 1 serving: 1 teaspoon of olive, safflower, sesame, flax or canola oil, 1/2 cup nuts, 1 tablespoon peanut, almond or cashew butter, 1 cup cooked beans, peas or lentils.

You may think of all dietary fat as being bad, but fat from plant sources are very important to the growth and development of a child’s body.

Limit animal fats, which are filled with saturated fat and cholesterol, and eliminate trans-fatty acids contained in foods that are labeled as hydrogenated.

There you have it, 7 steps to the perfect packed lunch. See the recipe below to get you started on your first perfect packed lunch.

Remember that eating right is only half of the equation. Exercise is just as important when it comes to fitness and weight loss.

Are you ready to get started on a personalized fitness program? Call or email today to set up a consultation.

Building a Healthy Smoothie

Smoothies are supposed to be healthy. Here’s how to make sure they stay that way.

Ever since you first heard of smoothies, your mouth has been watering. When you’re sipping on a smoothie, your mouth is in taste heaven. When there’s no smoothie in your hand, all you can think of are strawberries, bananas, and blueberries. But if you’re not careful, your smoothies can turn into nothing more than an average dessert.

To make sure your smoothie is as healthy as it is cold and delicious, you’ve got to have more than a good blender. You’ve got to have the right building blocks as well.

Building Block: Fruit

In a healthy smoothie, the most basic building block is fruit. Ideally, you want to go with fresh fruits that aren’t sitting in sugar water or have been made unhealthy in some other way. Rather, you want fruit straight off the vine or tree. Raw fruit that hasn’t been tampered with will ensure you the most powerful smoothie punch.

Some of the most common fruits found in smoothies include bananas, strawberries, and blueberries. But don’t let this keep you from getting creative. No matter what your favorite fruit is, you can toss it in the blender for a delightful, flavorful smoothie. From cantaloupe and mango to pineapple, raspberry, and melon, you can include any fruit you can find in your smoothie concoction.

Want the thickest, most delicious smoothie possible? Toss the fruits you plan to use for a smoothie in the freezer before you go to bed. In the morning, toss them in the blender. It’s a simple, yet effective way to get the thick smoothie you want.

Building Block: Juice

Once you’ve got your fruits picked out, you’ll need to find a complementary juice. As with the fruit choices, there is one juice that is picked much more often than the others: orange juice. However, you can toss in whatever type of juice you want to spice up your smoothie.

For variations on your favorite smoothie, give apple juice, grape juice, or cranberry juice a shot. Each different juice will affect the consistency, thickness, and flavor of your smoothie, so keep trying out juices until you find the perfect flavor for your pallet.

Building Block: Yogurt

When you have lots of different fruits and flavors, you’ll probably want something to pull them all together into one cohesive whole. Enter stage left: yogurt. Low-fat or fat-free is the best choice, and since most yogurt falls into one of these categories, it is also an easy choice to find.

With the right amount of yogurt in the mix, your smoothie will go from a yummy treat to a must-have each and every day. While you’ll probably rely on vanilla yogurt for most of your smoothies, using strawberry, strawberry banana, blueberry, or other flavors will enhance your smoothie instantly!

Wake Up and Smell the Smoothie

Need a better way to get your day started? Get your morning off right with this easy-to-make Wake-Up Smoothie recipe.

3 servings, 1 cup each
Preparation Time: 5 minutes


  • 1 1/4 cups orange juice (go for calcium-fortified for added benefit)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen berries of your choice (good options include raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and/or strawberries)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat silken tofu or low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or Splenda Granular (optional way to add flavor that causes the smoothie to be a tiny bit less healthy)


  • Combine all ingredients and put in a blender. Cover and blend until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Serve immediately. Smile.

Nutritional Information Per Serving: 139 calories; 2 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams monosaturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 28 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams protein, 4 grams fiber, 19 milligrams sodium, 421 milligrams potassium.

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Good Health Starts Young

Good nutrition in the early years is vital to a healthy life. So what are you feeding your kids?

DietYour children are the most precious gifts you’ll ever receive, so you should handle them with care. While you worked hard to give them the best breast milk or formula when they were tiny, you may be at a loss once they begin eating solid foods – especially if you have a picky eater on your hands.

To help your little ones have the best jumpstart on a healthy and happy life, it’s important that they get the same well-balanced diet that you’re getting – with some slight modifications. Here are a few things to keep in mind when feeding your young and hungry little ones.

1. Know the Basics

You know your child needs a solid foundation of healthy foods. What does that mean? It means plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein products. Childhood is the best time to develop a taste for whole and raw foods. With that in mind, give your child plenty of apple slices, carrots, and grapes. When your little one is in her littlest stages, go for applesauce and other baby foods that don’t have sugar or other flavor-changing additives. This way, your child learns to develop a taste for food the way nature intended, which just happens to be healthiest.

2. Believe in Your Child

One mistake when feeding your child is expecting him to have the same food preferences as you. So if you didn’t like broccoli or pinto beans as a child, you’re not going to feed your child those foods, because you don’t expect him to like them. However, while your son might have your dimples and sense of humor, he didn’t come with your taste buds. Encourage him to try a variety of healthy foods – including the ones you didn’t like as a child. Who knows? You may be pleasantly surprised to find out your finicky son likes asparagus.

3. Prepare the Options

Dinnertime should not be a battle zone. If your child simply won’t swallow her cherry tomatoes, don’t give up. Instead, be ready with another option. Swap a piece of whole grain toast for a cup of yogurt, or offer the choice of a green salad or a carrot salad. And avoid the temptation to force your child to eat every bite of every bit of food on her plate – especially if you know she hates a certain food. On the other hand, if your daughter is resisting a new food she’s never tried, it’s a good idea to require her to take a bite or two on occasion. And remember – taste buds change over time, so it’s okay to have your child taste something she’s not eaten in a while.

4. Train with Tricker

Sometimes, your son isn’t going to want to eat anything except cookies, butter popcorn, popsicles, and ice cream. You may want to throw your hands up in the air and give up on any hopes you had of having a healthy child. Don’t. Just be smarter than your child. How? By taking healthy foods and burying them in what he thinks is unhealthy. Make banana-nut muffin to feed his need for cupcakes, strawberry smoothies to answer his begging for a milkshake, and whole-grain pancakes – minus the whipped cream and chocolate syrup on top.

Helping your children turn into healthy adults starts today, so don’t waste any time giving your children the healthy start they deserve!

Resourceful Cooking

You’ve been cooking whole-wheat pancakes every morning and have made so many batches of ants on a log* that you’re starting to feel them crawling up your leg. Now your children are begging for something else to eat and you’ve run out of ideas. Fortunately, KidsHealth.org is here to save the day!

Loaded with fantastic, kid-friendly recipes, KidsHealth.org is a great place to turn when your cooking energies are depleted. On top of tips for you, there are recipes that your son or daughter can help with.

To get straight to the recipes, visit http://kidshealth.org/kid/recipes/index.html and get ready for some great cooking!

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4 Steps to Safe Summer Picnics

Did you know that foodborne illnesses increase in the summer months? Read on to find out why and how you can prevent it from affecting you and your family.

The Unites States Department of Agriculture suggests that there may be two reasons why foodborne illness (also called food poisoning) increases in the warmer months. First, bacteria grow faster in warmer weather. Second, as people spend more time cooking outdoors, they often forgo the safety controls of an indoor kitchen such as thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities.

Fortunately, in just four simple steps you can reduce your risk of getting a summer time foodborne illness.

Step 1: Wash your hands and cooking surfaces often. You can never do these things too much when it comes to handling food and cooking. If you’re eating away from home, find out if the site has potable water. If not, bring your own and pack disposable washcloths or moist towelettes and paper towels to clean your hands and cooking surfaces.

Step 2: Don’t cross-contaminate. Wrap raw meats securely before packing them in your cooler and avoid letting raw meat juices come in contact with ready-to-eat food. Thoroughly wash all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that come in contact with raw meat.

Step 3: Cook all foods to their proper temperatures. Heating food to their proper temperatures can kill harmful bacteria that contribute to foodborne illness. Use your meat thermometer to determine if your food is heated through. Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts, and chops should have an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. All cuts of pork should reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Ground beef, veal, and lamb should achieve an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and all poultry should reach a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 4: Refrigerate as soon as possible. Perishable items, such as lunch meat and potato or pasta salad, should be kept in an insulated cooler under several inches of ice. Keep your cooler in the coolest part of your car and leave your cooler in the shade whenever possible. Maintain a cool temperature in your cooler by replacing ice as soon as it begins to melt. Do not leave perishable foods out of the cooler for more than two hours. Try to pack drinks in a different cooler than perishable foods since you’ll probably open the drink cooler frequently, which lets in warm air that can raise the temperatures in some foods and make them unsafe.

Following these steps can help you keep your food fresh and prevent you from getting sick, but there is one more thing you should always remember: when in doubt, throw it out.

Cook Safely, Grill Master

Whether you’re an apprentice or the heralded and respected Grill Master of old, here are a few safety tips you should know.

  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator rather than the counter or outdoors.
  • Keep your grill away from brush, foliage, and trees that can easily catch fire.
  • Grill at least four feet away from any structure.
  • Keep a spray or squirt bottle full of water nearby to extinguish flare-ups from dripping fat.
  • Use utensils designed for grilling, which often have longer reaches and heat-safe handles.
  • Wear an apron to protect your clothing from grease spatters. An apron also adds another layer of protection against burns.
  • Use oven mitts with caution. The newer design of high-heat silicon mitts are a better option than cloth mitts, which are more likely to catch fire if a stray flame shoots up.
  • Make sure children and pets stay a safe distance away from a hot grill.
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Green Weight Loss?

Need more convincing that greens should be a regular part of your diet?

People who consume green smoothies report fewer cravings for unhealthy food and tend to snack far less than when they aren’t getting their greens.

So sip your green smoothie with a big smile, knowing that you’re turbo charging your health and expediting your weight loss.

Green Smoothie
Green smoothies consist of 3 basic ingredients: greens, fruit and water. Have fun experimenting with a wide range of varieties of both the greens and the fruit in order to reap the most benefit. You may be surprised to find that the simple combination of greens and fruit is quite delicious.
Servings: 1

Here’s what you need…

  • 1 bunch (2 cups) red dandelion greens (feel free to use spinach or any other dark greens)
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1-2 cups filtered water
  1. In a high speed blender mix the ingredients until smooth.

Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 199 calories, 1g fat, 47g carbohydrate, 10g fiber, and 6g protein.

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