5 Foods Guaranteed to Get Your Heart Racing (While Keeping Your Waistline in Check)

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Love is in the air! Okay, so maybe not literally, but around this time of year my mind goes back to grammar school days of inking sweet nothings and hoping to receive a bounty of confectioneries on February 14th. We’ve all come a long way since then, but Valentine’s Day is still a great opportunity to pack some amazing nutrition into your diet.  I can’t guarantee you a date on the 14th but I can certainly help you stock up on foods of love!

5 Foods Guaranteed to get your heart racing

Chocolate

Yes, we’ve all been bombarded with the whole chocolate thing but did you know that it was considered the “Nourishment of Gods” by early Aztec cultures? Chocolate contains two properties, caffeine and theobromine, that act as natural stimulants in the body.  Besides revving you up for a hot date, it also contains more antioxidant properties than a glass of red wine! Don’t go overboard! This doesn’t mean you can eat a two tier box of truffles. Brands like Bissinger’s and sweetriot keep it simple with 45 cal squares and 100 calorie bars of dark chocolate decadence. sweetriot also has tins of flavored cacao nibs that are ideal for an on the go fix.  Or get a dose of calcium and sweetness with Adora chocolate discs; they satisfy a sweet tooth AND provide your daily calcium requirements.

Asparagus

These sexy spears have tons of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamine. They also contain a healthy dose of folic acid, boosting histamine production, a hormone that regulates other “feel good” chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine. Try a quick steam by placing in microwave with a damp paper towel over them. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and a pear vinaigrette for great flavor. Delicious served chilled as a salad course!

Sweet Basil

Said to increase fertility in women, sweet basil has an intoxicating smell and taste. Simmer tomato sauce with a few leaves and pair with a serving of whole wheat pasta. Sweet basil is also delicious in salads or simply as a topping on a freshly sliced tomato.

Garlic

You should probably keep a tin of Altoids on hand if you plan on indulging, but the health benefits are well worth it! Packed with the chemical allicin, garlic increases overall blood flow in the body. Skip the capsules and get this V-day staple directly from food for a full effect.

Red Wine

In moderation, we all know that wine can be beneficial to our body.  Even my 21 day Bread is the Devil Blueprint plan allows you to have a glass.  Red wine contains polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants associated with increased heart health. A healthy ticker equals a healthier you! Enjoy, but keep in mind any more than 2 glasses will have the exact opposite effects on the body.

Whether you’re single or attached at the hip, it doesn’t matter! Enjoy these foods regardless of your relationship status and you’ll feel a warm glow of love from within!

Thinner on Monday: Keep Off Weekend Weight

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You’re only human if, halfway through a workweek, you’ve already  begun a countdown to the weekend. What’s not to love? There’s extra time  to spend with the kids, dining out with friends, and sleeping in. But  if you’re not careful with your choices, the weekend can really wreak  havoc on a waistline. Between Friday happy hours and Sunday brunches,  the weekend is jam-packed with opportunities to eat tempting food. Some  people use it as the perfect excuse to let their diet slip away. You’ve  worked hard all week to keep your weight in check. From Friday night to Monday morning, keep these 10 tips in mind so you don’t end up with more weight than when you started!

1. Don’t be a weekend warrior. Putting pressure on yourself to lose weight while trying to enjoy your downtime can potentially stress you out and lead to emotional eating.  Take a more realistic approach, and aim to maintain your weight instead  of losing it. If you wake up on Monday at the same weight you were when  you left the office on Friday, consider yourself a success!

2. Start strong. The first few hours of your weekend  can set the tone for its entire duration. For instance, if you start  off your Friday night with happy hour and a couple slices of pizza for  dinner, you’ll probably continue this behavior all the way to Monday  morning. It ruins the effort you put in all week, and makes you less  likely to reset your good habits when the workweek begins. Kick off your  weekend the right way with a flavorful yet reasonable dinner option.  Try a lean cut of red meat, such as filet mignon, to ensure satisfaction  without tons of calories. Or if you’re craving Chinese food, allow  yourself to enjoy some Moo Shu chicken; just skip the pancakes and opt  for lettuce wraps instead. It’s perfectly fine to rewardyourself after a  week well done, so long as you choose something that will keep you on  the right track!

3. Get in some “you” time.  Lazy weekends are great every once in a while, but allot some time into  your morning to work up a sweat. Putting it off until later in the day  gives you the chance to get too busy and just not go. Simply get up a  half-hour earlier, and hit the gym. Even twenty minutes will help!

4. Take advantage of breakfast.  It really can be the most important meal of the day. I recommend  clients take a few moments of their downtime to enjoy some morning fare.  There are so many healthy, smart options readily available. Nix the  pancakes and calorie-laden waffles, and order an omelette instead. An  egg-white omelette with spinach, mushrooms, and peppers only has about  250 calories, but tons of satiating protein. Switch it up and choose hot  sauce over ketchup since it contains less sugar. Avoid starting your  morning with any type of simple carb such as bagels, Danishes or  muffins. These types of foods will only lead to additional carbohydrate  cravings throughout the day.

5. You snooze, you lose. If  you do decide to sleep in, don’t feel as though you have to make up for  the meal you may have missed. Move on to whatever meal is next, and go  from there. You may need to add a second snack later in the afternoon,  but it’s much more ideal than doubling up your meals.

6. Think ahead, and be prepared.  Planning meals ahead of time and packing a few healthy food items can  be your best defense against fast food and mindless weekend snacking.  Why waste the calories on the drive-thru when you can enjoy something  scrumptious at dinner with friends instead? Save your indulgence for a  time that is really worth it. Keep a fiber bar and a piece of fruit with  you at all times. You’d be surprised how this pairing can fill you up  and ward off future cravings.

7. Embrace finite foods.  Extra free time can mean extra pantry time. There’s less structure on  the weekend, which increases your chance of going on a random pretzel  binge. Keep finite foods on hand, so you know exactly where your snack  begins and ends. Stick to items like a Greek yogurt with a pack of  almonds or a high-fiber nutrition bar. Avoid snacks that aren’t  pre-portioned or, next thing you know, you’ll have seven servings of  trail mix under your belt!

8. Enjoy one extravagance.  Dining out is one of the most enjoyable ways to relax after a hard  week. It can seem virtually impossible to stick to a boring grilled  protein and a side of steamed vegetables when everyone around you is  partaking in a decadent meal. Whether it’s a second cocktail, a shared  dessert, or a reasonable portion of starch, allow yourself to enjoy one  extravagance. Be sure to plan it at a time when you’re around loved  ones. It automatically makes the treat that much more enjoyable.

9. Stay hydrated.  Daily hydration routines usually fall by the wayside on the weekend.  People tend to weigh heavier on Monday because they’ve dined out for the  past few days and consumed considerably less water. Aim for at least a  liter by lunch to ensure proper hydration.

10. Recover on Sunday.  Unwind after a busy weekend, and opt for a low-calorie frozen entrée  for dinner. Choose one that’s under 300 calories and has at least 3 to 4  grams of fiber. It’s a controlled, finite meal that will give you a  head start on your week. Or, partake in a “veggie night” dinner to  recover from a particularly rough weekend. Choose 2 cups of your  favorite non-starchy vegetable, and pair with one baked white or sweet  potato. Simple yet slimming!

Your Mom Was Right

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Mothers and food are like love and marriage. It’s almost impossible to have one without the other. Some of the fondest memories we carry are centered around food, childhood and our mothers. They play an integral role in our nutrition habits because their beliefs are ingrained  into us at an early age. To this day, I use the essential nutrition advice that my mom bestowed upon me. Growing up, I was always the kid who wolfed  down my food, finishing before anyone else. At the rate I ate, you’d think I came from a family of 12! I can still hear my mother’s voice urging me to slow down and enjoy my meal. She simply wanted me to practice mindful eating. As a mother and nutritionist, it’s a value that I instill in my own children and clients.  Practicing this core value can help your diet in three essential ways:

1. You become less  likely to overeat because your brain has a chance to send a signal to your stomach that you’re full. Don’t be shocked: You may find food left behind on your plate!

2. Food becomes enjoyable again, and you actually taste what you are eating. Often, we sit down and polish off our plate without even tasting the meal. Eating should be a source of enjoyment, not just mechanism to fuel our bodies.  Just relax, take small bites, and chew! I promise, the food on the plate isn’t going anywhere.

3. You can gain control of your diet again. The pickable, poppable, unstoppable foods suddenly become manageable to integrate back into your regimen. When you actually take the time to evaluate what you are eating and the quantity, binges becomes less desirable.

Choosing the Right Breakfast Cereal

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The cereal aisle in a supermarket can be as intimidating as walking into a room of complete strangers. There are literally hundreds of varieties of cereal on the market in the United States, and the number continues to increase. Not to mention that food companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars marketing cereal towards consumers, specifically children. These marketing tactics often make it difficult for the average consumer to determine which brands are beneficial and which ones they should pass on. Think of this as your cereal code book. Following the criteria below will help you make better choices when it comes to your cereal bowl.

Sugar Content
One serving of cereal should contain less than 10 grams of sugar.  Trader Joe’s makes a tasty fruit and nut medley that only contains 8 grams of sugar, providing just the right amount of sweetness. It’s also sweetened with dried cane syrup instead of high fructose corn syrup, which is an added bonus.

Whole Grain
Plenty of food companies will claim that their cereal provides a serving of whole grain but unless it’s one of the first ingredients, it’s not the case. Single grain cereals like shredded wheat, puffed wheat or rolled oats are safe bets if you’re not sure. If the cereal contains milled corn, corn meal, or rice than you’re getting a mixture of whole and refined grains.

Fiber
Cereal gets a bad wrap due to it’s high carbohydrate content but as long as a portion of those carbs are coming from fiber, you’re in the clear. Most good-for-you cereals will contain anywhere from 7 to 12 grams of protein per serving. I love to take a 1/2 cup of Nature’s Path Smart Bran cereal and mix it into a flavored Greek yogurt. A half cup contains over 20% of your daily requirement. I featured Nature’s Path in my May Bestowed box, because they are a socially responsible company, and their products are free of preservatives, chemicals and additives. Remember, the fiber in a cereal is what’s going to keep you full until your next meal.

Protein
This is the missing component it most of the leading cereal brands. Some of the most popular cereals claim to contain whole grain and be great for your health but only contain a measly 1 to 2 grams of protein. Besides fiber, protein ensures that your breakfast choice will go a long way in satiating you through the morning. Brands such as Kashi Go Lean contain a whopping 9 grams of protein. That’s more than you’ll find in one large egg! Aim for brands that have at least 3 grams per serving.

When looking at nutrition labels keep in mind that all cereal companies use different serving sizes. An ideal amount of cereal is about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup. It’s tempting to fill the bowl to the brim but it’s simply too much! Implement these criteria into your cereal purchasing decision and you’ll feel satisfied with the suggested serving size.

Nutrition Labels Deciphered

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For most, deciphering nutrition labels can be like reading hieroglyphics. It can be time consuming and thankless.  I’m committed to providing my readers as much accurate nutrition information as possible. My belief is that healthful, wholesome products belong in your kitchen cabinets as much as they belong in mine. That’s why I created Bestowed , a monthly membership service designed to introduce you to the best, most healthy products on the market. Each month, my team and I select five products that we love and send them to you by mail. Find out more on bestowed.com.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that less than 10% of participants looked at the calorie content of a nutrition label. Understandably so. There are so many confusing terms who can be expected to keep up? In this article, I’ve provided you with a dictionary of the top 7 common nutrition terms and exactly what they mean. Print this out and take it with you next time you’re out shopping. You’ll never second guess your choices again!

High- In order for a food label to claim that their product is high in a nutrient (ex. High in fiber) one serving must provide 20% of the Daily Value.  If the food contains 10-19%, then it’s considered a good source of.

Low Carb- Surprisingly, there are no set guidelines for this claim. FDA?? This leaves a lot of room for misleading labeling and frivolous purchasing.  Often when a high carbohydrate food is modified to become a low-carb food, the fat and calorie content goes up. It’s better to choose foods that are naturally low in carbohydrates such as nuts (in moderation), tofu and of course, vegetables.

Low Sodium- Foods that claim to be low sodium must contain 140 milligrams or less per serving. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2300 mg of sodium a day to prevent hypertension and risk for stroke. Needless to say this is an important label to pay attention to!

BPA free- BPA free products have become a hot topic right now. BPA stands for bisphenol A. which is an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics, particularly those used in the food industry. The American Chemistry Council stands by their claim that products that contain BPA pose no risk to consumers, yet other associations feel differently. There are various products that are BPA free including cans, baby products and beverage containers. I’m addicted to my Bobble, which is a completely green self-filtering water bottle free of BPA! You’ll need to replace the filter from time to time, but one filter is equal to 300 single-serve bottles.

Non-GMO- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are crops that have been modified in a lab to remain resistant to herbicides and increase nutritional content. Often referred to as Franken-food, this experimental farming practice represents 80% of the North American crops, yet 53% of consumers claim they wouldn’t buy something that’s been genetically modified. To be absolutely certain about the status of your favorite food, check out the Non-GMO Project which provides a complete list of foods that have gone through their rigorous verification process.  Large food companies are also taking the guesswork out of GMO’s. Recently, Kashi released a promise that by 2014 all of their existing cereal products will be non-GMO verified if they are not already.

Enriched- Not to be confused with fortified, enriched means that the nutrients have been added BACK into a food that may have lost them during the refining process. People often think that this means the food has additional vitamins and minerals, but that’s not the case. Food companies simply put back what was once there. The most common example of this is enriched flour. During the refining process, essential B vitamins and iron are lost, therefore they are added back in.

Fortified- The fortification process means that an item has added vitamins and minerals in ADDITION to the ones that are naturally occurring. Plenty of foods are fortified to ensure adequate nutrition for the general population. For instance, milk is fortified with Vitamin A and D and pasta and bread with folic acid, an essential nutrient in preventing neural tube defects in infants.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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If you’re anything like me, there is a unique feeling that comes with giving to the ones you love. I can’t help but browse aisles and websites thinking “ooohhh that would be perfect for…” As a dietitian, friends and family often look to me to bestow the latest and greatest in fashionable food-related finds. Well let me assure you, at the Bauer household we don’t disappoint.  So even if you’ve been a bit devilish this season, gifting these items will bestow an angelic aura upon you!

Great gift all around

1.       The Bobble- Dole this out to everyone you know this season.  These reusable water bottles with built-in water filters are BPA-free, which will leave you feeling guilt-free! With 8 different colors and 4 various sizes you can afford to be indecisive.

For the conscious chef in your life

2.      Healthy Steps Portion Control Tool Set- Ensuring perfect serving sizes can leave you in portion-controlled purgatory. Once you’ve used these in your kitchen you’ll think of dinner in a whole new light!

A new home for your kicks

3.       Thursday Friday bags- Roomy enough for sneakers, workout gear (and a new water bottle), these totes are giving ladies all around town new reasons to get in the gym. Who couldn’t resist tossing one of these over a treadmill? Yep, they’re way too fashionable to be stuffed in a gym locker. You may want to get one for yourself too…

For the Bread Lover in your life

4. For anyone in your life that holds bread near and dear to their heart.New books are always an exciting indulgence. Pre-order “Bread Is the Devil” (St Martin’s Press) for you and a friend and start 2012 feeling saintly.

I Ain’t Afraid of Food Fads

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When there’s something strange in the nutrition news… who you gonna call? Nu-Train!

Nutrition myths spread like cream cheese on a bagel, they’re all over your email inbox, splashed across magazine and paper articles and even discussed on the nightly news. Well, the time has come to debunk some of these common nutrition myths.

 

Myth #1: Eating eggs raises your blood cholesterol levels.

Contrary to popular belief, the dietary cholesterol found in eggs actually does not have a tremendous impact on your blood cholesterol levels. It’s a simple mis-”semantic”-communication; unlike the toe-may-toe vs toh-mah-toh conundrum, these two cholesterols, dietary and blood cholesterol, are not created equal. Dietary cholesterol, which is the fat-like molecules in animal-based foods like eggs, actually has little to do with the amount of cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream. Since your body is capable of producing its own cholesterol, it doesn’t need you to get any from food sources so the cholesterol you ingest has little influence over the amount in your blood. However, the actual thing that may increase your body’s blood cholesterol production is specific saturated and trans fats and adversely, soluble fiber may lower blood cholesterol by inhibiting its absorption in the small intestine. One large egg contains only 1.5 g of saturated fat (such a miniscule amount compared to the butter you use to cook your egg), which means they are not a big contributor to blood cholesterol levels. Keep them on your grocery list because they’re a rich source of 13 vitamins and minerals!

 

Myth #2: The more fiber you eat, the better.

Ladies and Gentlemen: the Fiber Fad has arrived! This is a little trickier than some of the other myths because there is a lot of truth to it. Fiber does keep you full, meaning you’ll ingest fewer calories but not all fiber are created equal. The naturally occurring fiber-rich whole foods satisfy hunger, such as the fiber found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes. However, the yogurt found in your grocery aisle that contain fiber-supplements, “faux-fiber foods”, may not be equally beneficial. Manufacturers are isolating specific types of fiber and adding them to packaged foods in order to increase sales. There are so many components of fiber and they each have their own jobs- wheat bran keeps things moving, oat bran lowers cholesterol and inulin supports a healthy gut, so it’s best to get the benefits of fiber from whole foods rather than isolate aspects of fiber from “faux-fiber foods” boasting unnatural added fiber!

 

Myth #3: Organic foods are more nutritious than conventional ones.

We all do it, I am a victim of buying the 30 cent more per pound fruit just because it’s organic but truth is a good mango by any other name is still a mango. Manufacturers began promoting organics as being inherently more nutritious but this is a fallacy, there is no significant nutritional difference existing between conventional and organic crops. Of course there is the issue of pesticides and herbicides that can be found in conventional produce. Also if you opt for organic because the sustainable farming support the health of the soil, the work of small farmers, or he well-being of livestock- then you’re good in my book.

 

Myth #4: Skipping meals helps you lose weight

This is a dietitians’ biggest nightmare! Did you know that people who skip meals, particularly breakfast, and eat fewer times during the day actually tend to be heavier… yes I said heavier. When you skip a meal you slow down your metabolism and you frequently eat more at other meals to compensate, both of which work against your body trying to lose weight. Actually eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day can help you control your appetite and keep your calories burning.

 

Myth #5: You have to drink 8 glasses of water everyday.

Water, water- it’s everywhere; water bottles have become the fashion accessory and it’s for good reason too. Drinking your necessary daily water requirements is absolutely crucial but you don’t need to go crazy trying to satisfy the eight 8-oz glasses a day rule. Insider’s secret: no one is really sure where this so-called “8-by-8” mantra originated. You know the saying- “everyone’s different”? well this is where it actually applies; the amount of water you should drink daily is dependent on your diet, size and body chemistry.

 

Eat Your Illnesses Away

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Before you pick your poison, albeit Advil, Excedrin or TUMS, you may want to take a trip to your refrigerator, pantry or spice rack before you pop a pill. There are certain items in there that can treat your everyday ailments. They may not work for everyone but these easy home remedies often work better than over the counter drugs with way fewer chemicals and potential side effects. It should ‘t come as a surprise that food has the power to heal because what you eat and drink dictates your long-term wellness, so it only makes sense for it to be medicine too. Read up on these easy Secret Kitchen Cures from Whole Living and find out why you should reach for the sesame oil instead of sleepy time for your insomnia and so much more!

The Big C

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We hear and talk about the big, bad C word all the time. It unfortunately affects millions of people all over the world; we now live in a world where having or knowing someone who has been diagnosed with cancer is as common as catching a cold. So why be the rule, when you can be the exception? All over the world, studies are being conducted on possible prevention methods and the most convincing and astonishing evidence is stemming from nutrition and physical activity. While they may not be cure alls, they definitely don’t hurt.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am going to focus primarily on decreased risk factors specific to breast cancer, especially those who have a heightened risk due to genetic factors (having a first degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer or having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation). Thankfully, however, these are also many of the prevention tips for other cancers as well as a general healthy living guideline for any and everyone.

Did You Know…?

  • About 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • In 2010, there were more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.
  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer besides lung cancer.
  • Postmenopausal women who decreased their weight 4 to 11 pounds, decrease their risk by 20%.
  • For postmenopausal women, every 11 pounds gained, you increase your risk by 3%.
  • Just being overweight postmenopausal, increases your risk by 30-60%.

So now that you know, it’s time to do something about it. Since just being a woman and aging are the two biggest risk factors and completely unavoidable (unless you’ve found the fountain of youth, and if you have… do you mind sharing?), I think it only appropriate to start with something that is controllable: weight. Being as lean as possible without becoming underweight is one of the preventative measures you can take to decrease your risk. Avoiding weight and waist gain, especially through adulthood, may decrease your risk up 20% and in order to do so, you must adopt a healthful diet. A study following 86,000 nurses over 26 years was just published in the American Journal or Epidemiology in August showing a correlation between a diet high in plant foods, and decreased red meat, sodium and processed carbohydrate intake decreased their risk of developing estrogen-receptor negative invasive breast cancer by 20% (estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer is responsible for 25% of all malignancies and is a type of cancer that currently has no effective treatment). Start by cutting out red meat little by little and replacing it with tons of vegetables, fruits and legumes to reduce your risk too. Are you nuts for nuts? Another study published in the August/September issue of Cancer and Nutrition indicates that there may be a correlation between walnuts and decreased breast cancer risk as well, but you need to eat 2oz of walnuts daily to see benefits.

What else can you do? Take Action. Studies have showed that being physically active for at least 30 minutes every day can reduce your risk as well. Increasing your physical activity decreases your body fat, decreases insulin and IG-1 levels, reduces inflammation as well as reducing free estrogen levels, which are all potential body fat mechanisms for cancer. And that’s not all because it’s not only for weight control. Physical activity, even if it’s just walking 10-15 minutes around the block, limits sedentary and TV time, can relieve stress and help sleep, all of which are relative risk factors for developing cancer.

Now for the take home messages…

  • Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes (at least 5 servings of non-starchy vegetables and fruits daily)
  • Increase your dietary fiber, foods high in antioxidants (vitamin C, lycopene, beta-carotene, flavonoids, magnesium, folate, allium) and cruciferious vegetables
  • Avoid sugary drinks, high fat foods, salty and processed foods, red meat and alcohol

Avoid long term use of estrogen replacement therapy at menopause

 

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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