The Anatomy of a Healthy Salad

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How many times have you been in a restaurant with a friend and heard her  say, “Oh, I’ll just have a salad,” with a satisfied look on her face?  When looking for a healthy option,  it’s not uncommon for people to immediately rely on salad as their  go-to meal. Often associated with being low in calories and high in  nutrients, salads seem to make sense. The truth is, sometimes opting for  a salad can be one of your worst dieting downfalls. On the other hand,  salads don’t have to equate to a wider waistline. Research shows people  who eat salads are more likely to have higher levels of key nutrients  that prevent cancer and heart disease, and may consume 12 percent less  calories throughout the meal. It’s all about preparing them correctly  and knowing what to add in and what to take out. Below are my five top  tips on how to slim down your salad, without sacrificing flavor or  nutrition.

Throw Some Fat Into the Mix

Salads can fall on complete opposite ends of the spectrum if you’re not careful. Eating a bowl full of green leaves  and raw veggies with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar is one of the  biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight. Sure, it’s low  in calories, but in order for your body to effectively use the abundant  nutrients in the vegetables, some type of fat needs to be added. Choose  an unsaturated one, and remember, a little goes a long way. Your body  only requires a small amount of fat in a meal to absorb the nutrients.  Consider using two to three thin slices of avocado to not only add in  heart-healthy fats, but also potassium, fiber, and vitamin E. At 50  calories, you can’t go wrong!

Remember, It’s a Salad, Not a Sandwich

Often,  devoted salad eaters choose to add in items like bacon, chicken, or  steak to make their salads more fulfilling. While it may do just that,  it can potentially add too many calories. If you must, pick one meat or  poultry option, but make sure to skip the cheese to avoid calorie  overload. Another idea is to garnish your greens with two egg whites  instead. This adds approximately 8 grams of protein for less than 50  calories. Or choose a legume, such as navy or kidney beans, to pack in  protein as well as fiber. An optimal serving for navy beans is ¼ cup,  which contains about 4 grams of both protein and fiber for 65 calories.  Just because your sandwich comes with bread doesn’t mean your salad has  to. Skip the breadsticks or pita typically offered on the side. They only add empty calories.

Swap Croutons for Crunchy Snack Mix

Ever  notice that most croutons don’t even crunch when you bite into them?  That’s because they’re drenched in either oil or butter to make up for  their lack of flavor and freshness. Regardless, a small serving of  croutons can contain anywhere from 50 to 90 calories without adding much  satisfaction. Instead, sprinkle your salad with Sheffa Zesty Snack Mix.  Made with ground chickpeas, the noodles are a great source of vegetable  protein that fall low on the glycemic index, which allows for a slower  release of sugar in the bloodstream, stabilizing appetite. One serving  will give your salad added crunch, taste, fiber, and protein to keep you  satiated for a longer period of time. Or crumble a high-fiber cracker  like GG Scandinavian Bran Crispbreads on top for some crunchy flavor.

The Darker the Better

When  it comes to being savvy about your salad, use your eyes! Swap pale  greens such as iceberg lettuce for leaves like kale, arugula, and  romaine lettuce. Dark green leafy vegetables rank high on the  nutritional scale, and are packed with fiber, phytochemicals,  antioxidants, and vitamins. Most people think of dairy foods as the  ultimate way to ensure enough calcium in their diet.  But leafy veggies such as mustard greens, kale, and bok choy all  contain considerable amounts of this bone-building nutrient for fewer  calories than dairy products. For example, adding 1 cup of kale to your  mix can amp up your salad by providing well over 100 percent of your  daily value for nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K.

Opt for Homemade Dressings

Have  you ever looked at how many ingredients are in most store-bought salad  dressings? And can you even pronounce half of them? Homemade salad  dressings are pretty simple. Start with an oil base (I prefer olive  oil), which acts as the emulsifier. Then, add in your favorite type of  vinegar. Although balsamic is popular, it’s fun to play around with  other flavors such as pear, raspberry, or even pomegranate! Next, chop  up some fresh herbs, which add flavor but not sodium.  The best varieties for salad include basil, thyme, marjoram, and  chives. Fresh is always best, but dried herbs can suffice in a pinch.  Ground pepper is also a must. Lastly, add in a pinch of sea salt to  taste. You can also experiment by adding different types of mustard to  provide another depth of flavor. Varieties like Dijon, whole-grain, or  sweet mustards all pack in flavor without tons of calories.

Chia: Not Just for Pets

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Chi chi chi Chia! Most people hear the word chia and have flashbacks of cheesy ’90s infomercials and bad Christmas gifts. Yes, chia can be used in lieu of a pet, but there is so much more that you can do with this spectacular seed! Let’s start off with a little Chia 101. Typically seen in seed form, the plant originated from Mexico and Guatemala. The word chia is derived from the word chian, which translates to the word oily, and is one of the main reasons there are so many health benefits. This gluten-free wonder can be eaten in raw seed form, ground into a fine powder or pressed into oil.

Raw Chia Seeds

Change up your morning routine and turn breakfast into your most powerful meal of the day. Mix two tablespoons of raw chia seeds into a 0 percent Greek yogurt to add four grams of fiber to your meal. Read about the amazing benefits of fiber in my previous post. You’ll also up your protein intake by five grams. That’s approximately 15 grams in total!

Chia Seed Oil

Next time you’re craving some greens, switch up the olive oil for chia seed oil. It’s loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in the prevention of heart disease, hypertension, stroke and depression. For an innovative twist on your standard green salad, mix 1/2 cup cooked quinoa with some parsley, green onion, basil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Drizzle with a 1/2 tablespoon chia seed oil for a salad that’s sure to please inside and out! Another option is to use chia as a micro green and add the sprouts to a traditional salad. It’s an effortless way to boost your protein, fiber and calcium intake!

CocoChia Living Fuel Snack Mix

A satisfying blend of coconut and chia seeds, this snack mix is an ideal option when searching for a snack on the go. Filled with antioxidants, one single-serve packet contributes to 20 percent of your daily fiber intake yet comes in under 150 calories. Opt for a pack instead of conventional, high calorie trail mix, or try swirling it into your morning oatmeal.

Chia Seed Powder

Put a little pizazz into your next smoothie and switch out conventional protein powder for chia seed powder. Start with ice, 1 cup of almond milk and 1 cup of non-fat Greek yogurt. Add in 1/2 cup raspberries,1/2 banana and 1/2 cup blueberries. Blend well and toss in three tablespoons of chia seed powder. The result? A delish summer refresher that packs in a whopping 10 grams of protein and fiber! It’s the perfect treat to recharge after a workout.

Fight the BBQ Bulge: Your Guide to Summer Sauces

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Schools are out, beaches are open, and the sun is blazing! With all  this summery goodness comes one of my favorite events: Outdoor  barbecues! It just wouldn’t be summer without an outdoor gathering of  your closest friends and family.Ribs, steaks, and chicken kebabs … what  do all of these things have in common? Sauce! It’s usually slathered on  thick or used as a marinade before cooking protein or veggies. But  certain ones can wreak havoc on your carefully chiseled summer  waistline. Below is a guide to sauces that will get you through the season without the barbecue bulge!

Limit your sodium

Sodium  is the biggest offender when dealing with sauce, because it adds flavor  and is often used as a preservative to increase shelf life. Since  barbecue sauce is used in such plentiful amounts, adhere to strict  sodium guidelines when choosing one, or you’ll certainly feel the bloat  the next day. Aim for under 250 milligrams per 2-tablespoon serving.  This may be hard to find with many popular sauce brands, so look for  unique food companies that focus more on flavoring with spices instead  of loading on the salt. One of my favorites is Danielle’s Sauces, which  is built on the belief of “clean cooking,” so their products are free of  preservatives and additives. I love the company’s Smoke & Spice BBQ  Sauce, which contains only 240 milligrams of sodium per 2-tbsp. serving  but packs tons of flavor and kick. Or, infuse some Asian flavor into  your dish by using the brand’s Chiliyaki sauce, a spicy teriyaki that’s  one of the lowest-sodium sauces on the market.

Beware of sugar

So  many sauces are flavored with molasses, brown sugar, or even corn syrup  to maintain a smoky sweetness, but sugar can cause your calories to add  up faster than you think. As a rule, try to look for sauces that are  less than 50 calories per 2-tbsp. serving. Chris’ and Pitt’s Bar-B-Q  Sauce is perfect to spread on ribs or chicken and has just 30 calories  in 2 tablespoons. If you opt for a sauce that’s higher in calories, try  to keep the sauce on the side to use as a dip. You’ll most likely use  less if it’s not slathered on beforehand.

Hot  sauce is another great option because it’s low in calories, and you only  need a dash or two to make things interesting. Among the numerous  varieties of hot sauces available, Shiracha hot sauce is my go-to summer  barbecue staple. It provides a spicy flavor, not a five-alarm fire. A  teaspoon or two is all you need and adds just 10 calories and 200  milligrams of sodium to your dish.

Swap sauce for salsa

There’s  something to be said for barbecue sauce, but you may find that topping  your freshly grilled salmon or scallops with a heap of homemade salsa  can add a refreshing aspect to your dish.  Dice an avocado, and combine with half a cup of quartered grape  tomatoes, a three-quarter cup of fresh corn and 1 tablespoon of fresh  cilantro. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of salt, and you’re  ready to go. The unsaturated fat from the avocado, combined with the  citrus flavoring will create such a bold flavor, you’ll never miss the  sauce! If you’re pressed for time, consider a jarred salsa. The Brooklyn  Salsa Company creates unique blends from local, sustainable  ingredients. Enjoy The Green flavor, which combines cumin, ginger, and  heirloom tomatoes for about 100 milligrams of sodium and only 10  calories per serving.

Make it homemade

Creating your own sauce at home can ignite your creative side and inspire you to add unique spices and fresh flavorings. Keeping it homemade  also gives you control over the nutritional content of the sauce. Start  with a tomato base of either no-salt-added ketchup or no-salt-added  tomato sauce which you can find in the condiment aisle of any large  supermarket. Add 2 tablespoons of molasses, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and  a sprinkle of brown sugar. Season with freshly ground pepper and  one-half teaspoon of garlic powder. You can stop right here, and the  sauce will be delicious, or consider experimenting with spices such as  curry or ginger powder. For a different flavor, try apple cider or red  wine vinegar.

Summer is not a time to be a wallflower! So enjoy the beach, the sun, and the barbecues, knowing that you don’t need to sacrifice flavor when watching your calories.

Gluten For Dummies: Real Tips From a Nutritionist

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“Gluten Free” is everywhere: supermarkets, magazines, and celebrity diets. Is it good for you? Does it have real health advantages? Can it help you lose weight and stay healthy? As a nutritionist to celebrities and professionals alike, I get these questions constantly. With all the hype, it’s easy to forget that there is an actual medical reason for cutting out the gluten.

What is gluten, anyway?

Gluten is a protein found in certain types of grain — wheat, rye, barley — that can cause an autoimmune reaction in in the small intestine, resulting in symptoms ranging from stomach pain to nutrient malabsorption. People that suffer from this are often diagnosed with celiac disease, which affects more than 3 million Americans nationwide. The most effective solution is a strict, gluten-free diet.

Just how many people can’t tolerate gluten?

A much wider audience is suffering from milder symptoms of gluten intolerance than previously realized — nearly 18 million Americans. Those with even the slightest bit of intolerance are turning their focus to gluten-free foods to alleviate these uncomfortable side effects.

Should I go gluten-free?

Stocking up on every food item that touts the “gluten-free” label seems like a no-brainer — but that’s not always the best-case scenario. Gluten binds foods like pretzels and cake together. Without it, food companies are forced to add extra fat and sugar to make up for the lack of texture and flavor. Hello, extra calories! Gluten-free foods can be quite expensive, too (bread at $6?). These products may be the remedy to your GI issues but could be causing a thickening waistline and a thinning wallet. My advice: Seek out foods that are naturally gluten-free, instead of trying to eat something that’s trying to be something it’s not.

5 gluten-free carbs that won’t break the bank or widen your waistline:

Oatmeal — I get this question all the time: “Is oatmeal gluten-free?” The answer is yes, naturally it is. That being said, oats are usually processed in food facilities that also contain wheat products so the chance of cross contamination is high.  However, there are companies that have isolated, specialized farms that produce gluten-free grains without this concern. Bob’s Red Mill has an entire line of oat products ranging from quick rolled or steel cut oats to GF oat flour. Pick your pleasure!

Polenta — This freshly-ground corn product actually yields a lot of options. Trader Joe’s offers an organic variety that works great as a substitute for pasta or used as a pie crust in an egg white and spinach quiche. Since polenta is gluten-free to start with, you won’t find any extra sugar or fat. A 1/4 tube serving is only 70 calories and provides two grams of protein.

Buckwheat — People usually group buckwheat into the cereal grain category, but it’s actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and is packed with magnesium and phosphorous. Replace rice side dishes with buckwheat or add to soups instead of using noodles. Besides its hearty flavor, buckwheat satisfies hunger with six grams of protein and five grams of fiber per one cooked cup serving.

Wheat free tortillas — Going Gluten-free can make sandwiches and wraps difficult. Using a low calorie, wheat free tortilla makes an excellent substitution. French Meadow bakery uses tapioca starch and rice flour to make a delicious wrap at only 120 calories.

Amaranth — One of the lesser-known grains, amaranth contains more protein than wheat in a form that is more readily available to the body. When compared to other grains, it’s also the front runner in calcium, iron and an important amino acid called lysine.  You can find amaranth in one of my favorite fiber bars by Oskri.

Try all of these alternatives and see how gluten-free works for you. It might make you feel fuller, healthier, and refreshed. But don’t let it rule your life.

DIY Greek Yogurt Desserts: Delicious and Nutritious

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As a nutritionist I want to give you delicious, healthy recipes that won’t break your calorie bank. As I tell you in my book, Bread is the Devil, it’s crucial to live your life, not your diet. So yes, dessert is allowed! Greek yogurt has seen a recent popularity in every facet of the food world — even Ben & Jerry’s has created a frozen swirl. What’s not to love? Greek yogurt is high in protein, low in sugar and is one of the most versatile ingredients around. When it comes to sweet treats, Greek yogurt is the way to go. Here are three ways to knock out your sweet tooth while whittling your waistline.

Frozen Yogurt

Mainstream ice cream brands are pumping out their Greek yogurt lines faster than dietitians are comfortable with. It’s tempting to toss a few pints into your shopping basket and call it a day, but buyers beware! Some of these brands contain over 400 calories per half-pint, which is the same amount as regular ice cream. And let’s face it, who really eats just a half-pint anyway? I could put an entire one away before you say “30 Rock.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t partake in an icy indulgence. My best advice is to try making your own fro-yo at home. You’ll need an ice cream maker, but it’s well worth it.

To make:

Combine 2 cups of 2% plain Greek yogurt, ¼ cup honey and a ½ teaspoon of vanilla into an ice cream maker to yield one pint. If you’d like to add fresh pureed fruit, this is the time to do it. Be sure to blend well! The amount of time the yogurt will need to mix will vary by manufacturer. The key to a great consistency is the second freeze. After the yogurt is done “pre-freezing” in the machine, place the mixture in your regular freezer for at least four hours. The result will be a smooth, creamy delight!

Parfaits

One of the simplest things to make at home, store-bought parfaits can clock in at about 40 grams of sugar and 350 calories per serving. That’s one way NOT to start off your day. By switching to this homemade approach you can avoid extra calories and sugar while still getting over 15 grams of protein and six grams of fiber.  They are also a dinner host’s dream, as they can be made ahead of time and placed in the fridge to set.

To make:

Choose your favorite individual sized 0% or 2% Greek yogurt and mix well. Scoop half of the container into a parfait glass. Instead of using high-fat loose granola, crumble one half of a Kashi TLC Crunchy Granola Bar on top of the yogurt. Sprinkle a handful of berries over the granola. Repeat, and enjoy!

Creamy Popsicles

Fruit and cream is a delicious combination, and can be done in a healthy way that will still satisfy even the strongest sweet tooth. Store-bought brands are loaded with added sugar and lack fresh fruit, that’s why I prefer to make these pops at home. They take about 10 minutes of prep and then you’re done! To make six pops, puree 1 cup each of plain 0% Greek yogurt and fresh berries with 2 tablespoons of honey in a food processor. Fill 3-oz. paper cups with mixture, insert Popsicle sticks and place in the freezer for at least six hours. These are great to make in bulk and keep in your fridge for guests, kids or a simple craving!

Under the Sea(weed)

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You’ve seen it around your sushi, most likely. Not the soy sauce or the little green mound of wasabi, but the seaweed that holds everyone’s favorite food together. It makes sushi rolls delicious and portable, but it’s a lot more than wrapping paper. Did you know that seaweed has virtually no fat and large amounts of iodine? There are three main groups of seaweed: red algae, green algae and brown algae. It’s time to incorporate such a healthy food into your diet, and not just in sushi. It’s a wrap-up, if you will:

Nori

Part of the red algae family, this type of seaweed is commonly used to wrap sushi, but also sliced into strips, toasted and used as a garnish on soups and salads.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Department touts this as the most nutritious variety of seaweed, because it’s loaded with B vitamins and iodine. Originally harvested from the ocean, it’s now produced on specialized farms to meet increasing demands.  This salty snack is typically eaten by the sheet (thin and flaky), which only contain 5 to 10 calories, yet pack a gram of fiber each. It even has more vitamin C than an orange!

Wakame

Vegan alert! It’s the leathery, green substance that’s found floating around in your miso soup. Delicious! This popular brown seaweed variety contains a plethora of nutrients that are typically lacking in the vegan diet. Not only does wakame have calcium, but it’s also full of vitamin D, which aids in the calcium absorption process. In addition, it’s loaded with folate and vitamin C, a proven dynamic duo that aids the body in soaking up iron. Ancient medicine associates this green goodness with alleviating constipation and preventing colon cancer. Beware of the sodium content though. A 50 gram serving can have over 400 mg of sodium, which may not be ideal for those prone to high blood pressure.

Ulva

Also referred to as sea lettuce or “dead man’s fingers” (yum!) this is the most common variety of green algae seaweed that resembles fresh cabbage. Ulva is the ideal substitute for regular romaine or iceberg leaves. Simply soak in cold water to remove the salty flavor, towel-dry and then use the same way you would use lettuce. Pair with Asian components such as ginger, daikon and wasabi for a refreshing salad that packs protein, vitamins and minerals. Seaweed is one of the healthiest vegetables around, and a simple addition to your menu. Toss the chips and start crunching on SeaSnax instead. They have a Grab & Go pack that’s only 16 calories! Or crumble Annie Chun’s seaweed snacks in roasted sesame flavor into your soup or salad instead of croutons. They add a hint of flavor without increasing the calories.  Mix fresh red and green seaweed with sliced carrots, rice wine vinegar and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for a low-cal side that packs fiber and fullness.

The bottom (of the ocean) line is this – you can’t go wrong with seaweed. So pick your color, and eat up.

The Anatomy of a Healthy Sandwich

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Warm breeze, longer days, a calendar full of picnics and BBQs — it’s officially springtime! With all these obligations, it can be nerve-wracking to try to stick to your diet. These events can be filled with creamy potato salad, pies, mile-high sandwiches, you name it. There is still room for the almighty sandwich in your life (and your stomach). You just have to be smart about it. So get out your checkered tablecloth, find your best basket and strap on your sundress. Here are some guidelines to making the most out of this classic picnic staple.

The bread:

Before you quiver in fear and run for the solace of the salad bar, let me explain. Following a healthy eating plan doesn’t mean that you can’t eat bread. Although my book is called Bread is the Devil, I’ll be this first to say that not all bread is bad.

Ciabatta, pumpernickel, rye… The possibilities are endless! No matter how you slice it: Whole wheat or rye is the best option. You’ll also have to forgo anything bigger than a typical piece of bread. There is no reason a sandwich should be named after a submerged sea vessel. Don’t be fooled by the enticing allure of wraps. Most are nutritional wannabes, racking up 300-500 calories full of refined grains and oil. Choose La Tortilla fiber and flax corn tortillas. They clock in at a measly 45 calories, yet have five grams of fiber.

Sandwich spreads:

Aioli, chipotle mayo, and pesto are not your friends. Despite these condiments being offered on every sandwich menu known to man, they equal major calories — as much as 200-400! I love a tasty schmear as much as the next girl, but there are smarter choices than these sinful spreads. Opt for items such as mustard, relish, pickles, hot sauce or a lite soy sauce. If you’re still craving a creamy addition to your sandwich, use a Laughing Cow Light cheese wedge instead. They come in varieties such as queso fresco chipotle and sundried tomato basil, which give your sandwich instant flavor for only 35 calories.

In between the bread:

Most would say this is the part that really matters. There are so many things that you can make a sandwich out of, it’s easy to get deterred. Grilled chicken and turkey are typical healthy options, though it doesn’t have to stop at that. Try roasted vegetables (such as eggplant and zucchini) that have been marinated overnight in balsamic vinegar topped with one slice of Alpine Lace Swiss cheese.

Or change it up with mixing canned salmon (Did you know it’s always wild Alaskan?) with low-fat mayo, celery seed and chopped onions. It’s a top-notch alternative to typical tuna or chicken. And who can resist a classic PB&J? When spread on GG Bran crackers with Justin’s Nut Butter, you have a healthy alternative to a lunchroom standard.

Bottom line:

Sandwiches can still be a part of your life and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. At my new website Bestowed, you have an opportunity to sample some of the products I’ve mentioned. Nutrition advice is available in boatloads, and if you bought everything that was recommended you’d be broke. Think of this as a monthly “fit-kit” full of snacks and treats that have been carefully selected by me for you to try.

Can’t wait to get your feedback!

Totally Snackable- Kale Chips

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When it comes to dark, leafy greens, Kale is like spinach on steroids. You can get more vitamins and minerals from this vegetable than most of the big time produce players like broccoli, brussels sprouts or swiss chard. The problem usually lies less with your willingness to eat such a healthful vegetables and more with the fact that you really just don’t like its taste. I have two words for you: kale chips.  When baked, kale crisps up and with just a touch of seasoning you can have your favorite chip variety in your very own home. This article, Kale-icious Chips!, from FitSugar gives you great recipes as well as the best packaged kale chips you can buy. If Dan Barber is doing it, then it has to be good. Enjoy!

 

Eat Mor Chikin

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I tire easily of my same chicken routine. While chicken literally pairs with any flavor combination, I find myself sticking to the same recipe over and over, and to be honest it’s getting boring. At this point in the season, we are knee-deep in zucchini and I am struggling with new recipes to use with this versatile vegetable as well. That’s’ why this recipe, Chicken Breasts with Zucchini Pappardelle is absolutely perfect. It kills two birds with one stone and is delicious. Using skinless chicken breasts will definitely cut down on calories and fat too! Enjoy!

 

 

Leaders of the Packed

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The first day of school represents more than just the embarkation of your child’s academic journey. Yes, there are new things to learn, skills to master and goals to achieve but it’s also important to remember your child’s mind is not the only thing getting bigger… they are too! No one wants their child to merely survive, you want them to thrive, and that starts with adequate nutrition. You may be able to prepare them for almost everything: freshly sharpened pencils, an endless supplies of neon highlighters, Lightening McQueen folders, Star Wars notebooks, Cinderella backpacks and anything else you can buy in the back to school section at Staples, but unless they are prepared to stay energized throughout the day they are merely objects, not the tools that will help them excel.

By now, we are aware of how preservative-, trans-fat-, sodium- and high-fructose corn syrup- laden all of the processed foods once infiltrating lunch boxes are, but kids still want these familiar tasting foods and we want the simplicity and ease of simply tossing items into a lunchbox. One thing is for certain: they definitely don’t want to be different than their peers who are still eating these chemically processed foods. We now know that these foods will only slow down your child, physically and academically, as well as contribute to the rising childhood obesity epidemic unfortunately sweeping the nation. At the end of the day, kids want what other kids are having, but whether its food allergies or adequate nutrition on your mind, you know you can’t send your kid off to school with those foods in their packed lunches. There are so many factors to keep in mind when you’re packing your child’s lunch- it needs to be fun and engaging, delicious, and healthful.  There are a few things we need to tackle, so let’s start with food allergies.

As I mentioned in Allergies: A to Z, the number of children suffering from food allergies is on the rise- eight percent of children until age 18 have a food allergy (that’s one in 12!). The most common food allergies include peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat and tree nuts, and they the peanut allergy has become so severe that some schools have started banning peanuts all together. It may take an excel sheet with pivot tables and pie charts to keep track of which friend can’t eat what at the lunch table or the classroom food policies, so why not be proactive and pack a school lunch that won’t land you in allergy detention?

Passing on Peanuts:

Does your child love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Try a peanut-free alternative like SunButter, which is made from sunflower seeds. Healthy homemade trail mixes can always been a tough one to tackle but are great snacks, try pumpkin and sunflower seeds mixed with dried fruit and flaked coconut instead of store bought trail mixes which not only have peanuts but tons of sugary chocolate. Here are some of my favorite peanut free packaged foods:

-        Snackers crackers- seedlander (free of peanuts and tree nuts)

-        Enjoy Life soft baked cookies (nut and gluten free)

-        Trader Joe’s Soft-baked Snickerdoodles (free of all of the 8 common allergies)

Peanuts may be the most dangerous and common food allergy but one of the trickier food sensitivities is excluding eggs especially since mayonnaise is a popular condiment, try switching to hummus or honey mustard in your turkey cucumber wraps (whole wheat of course) or sandwiches (have you seen this adorable whole wheat goldfish shaped bread by Pepperidge Farms?). Also these Kidekals water-restistant, washable, personalized labels are great for informing others of your kids allergies.

Aside from allergies, our biggest concern is providing healthful lunches and snacks that will give your kids the energy they need to make it through the day. Studies show that if you equip your children with healthy food to eat at school, they will be better prepared to study and learn. And it’s not all serious- lunch making can be a fun activity as well as a great way for kids to feel independent. Before we get into some specifics, some general suggestions to healthfully spice up your kids lunch box are swapping whole grains for refined, simple carbohydrates and trying flavored drinks or waters without added sugars in place of sodas and sugary juices.

Pack Pass
GoGo sqeeZ applesauce: individual sized, mess free, 100% real fruit and no sugar added. And its fun! Motts Apple Sauce or any apple sauce with added sugar and tons of preservatives
Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunnies: the perfect fun snack that are baked with no artificial ingredients. Comes in a variety of flavors, whole wheat and pretzels! Cheez-It Crackers and Teddy Grahams (they have partially hydrogenated oils eventhough they claim to have 0 g of trans fats)
Pirates Booty, Lentil Chips, Hummus Chips, 365 Soy Crispettes or Pop Chips: all of these come in a ton of flavor combinations and are never friend. They have more fiber, are all-natural and have less fat than regular potato chips. Any potato chip!
Stretch Island Fruit Company and Annie’s fruit bites are great ways for your kids to enjoy anywhere from ½ to 1 whole serving a fruit naturally and with no sugar added. Fruit by the foot or fruit roll ups (they all have tons of high fructose corn syrup or heaps of added sugar).
Horizon Organic low moisture, part skim string cheese. Polly-O string cheeses (or any non organic, part skim string cheeses) because they contain food coloring and preservatives.

And all the while, your kid has to have the coolest lunch box in class; Parenting brings us the 12 best kids lunch boxes that are too adorable (and environmentally friendly) for words!

 

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