It’s that time of year again- back to school time! Sure, it may seem like having the kids in school all day will give you a bit for free time to devote to planning and preparing nutritious meals, but that isn’t always the case. Before I had my son, I had this idea in my head that when I went back to work and he headed off to daycare, that you basically just drop your child off, kiss and hug them, and then spend the rest of the day working. I didn’t really give thought to the time needed to plan out lunches and snacks for the day, clean out the lunch boxes from the night before, prep healthy breakfasts we could eat before we head out in the morning, and find time to prepare a healthy dinner as well. Honestly, those first few weeks of adjusting to a new schedule stressed me out more than I could have ever expected. And I think many parents feel the same way.
Whenever you and your family are adjusting to a new schedule, such as the one at the start of the school year, it’s normal to feel a bit stressed and overwhelmed. I see this in so many of my client. That first week or two of the new school year is pretty much a whirlwind filled with grabbing meals and snacks mindlessly on the run. If this sounds like you, I wanted to help take away some of that stress. That’s why I teamed up with my friends over at Chobani to develop my top five quick-fix lunches for all of you busy moms out there. These simple lunches can be pulled together in minutes and are packed full of the healthy nutrients that your little ones needs. Feel free to mix and match these options up for a well-balanced, stress-free start to the school day.
Some kids are more snackers than meal eaters. I get this since I am more likely to graze on food throughout the day than to sit down to a big meal. For snack lovers, try using a compartmentalized bento box to offer a variety of bite sized options. The small portions and increased variety are a great way to prevent your child from feeling ‘overwhelmed’ at mealtime. This is also a great way to introduce new foods in kid-friendly portions. For a balanced lunch, pair together a whole grain muffin, carrot sticks with hummus for a dip, turkey breast, strawberries, and almonds. To save time, spend one day per week washing and slicing variety of fruits and vegetable so you can just grab and go when packing a lunch. For mini muffins, I usually make these in batches of 24 and freeze them. If you pop one in the lunchbox in the morning, it will typically thaw by lunchtime. Round out the lunch with an adorable Doc McStuffins squeezable pouch of Chobani Kids, which contains two times as much protein than the leading kid’s yogurt and 25% less sugar. With a varied lunch such as this one, even if your child does not finish all the foods offered, you can still feel reassured that she consumed a variety of essential nutrients.
If you are packing meals for daycare, it can be easy to run out of ideas for soft food options that provide your little one with the nutrition that he needs. For toddlers, adequate protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for development and growth. That’s why I love this combination of applesauce, diced butternut squash, whole grain tortellini, and a broccoli & carrot quiche for a mix of antioxidants, protein, and fiber. To round out the lunchbox, I add in a squeezable Chobani yogurt, which is made with only natural, non-GMO ingredients, real fruit, and provides 12mg of DHA omega-3 fatty acids to help promote healthy brain development.
Picky Eater Perfection
If you have a picky eater at home, you are probably no stranger to having your child’s lunchbox return home after the school day completely untouched. To make lunch more appealing to even the pickiest child, liven it up by adding a mix of fun shapes and colors. It doesn’t have to take long to make a ‘fun’ lunchbox. I use a combination of colorful silicone shapes to hold bite-sized snacks along with cookie cutters to decorate sandwiches, fruits, vegetables, and even cheese slices. For the best results, look for the cookie cutters that have a spring-loaded punch. These can cut through more challenging foods like bread and vegetables much more quickly than the standard cutters. Sometimes all it takes is a touch of food art to turn the pickiest eater into an adventurous eater.
The goal of your child’s lunch should be to fuel both her body and her mind. One way to accomplish this is to make sure to include at least one or two “brain foods” into even lunchbox. Foods rich is omega 3 fatty acids such as fish, walnuts, edamame, and Chobani Tots which contains 12 mg of DHA Omega 3 per serving, can make great additions to any meal. Round these brain foods out with antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables and you have a delicious recipe for academic success. For a quick and easy lunchbox, pack together a tuna sandwich on whole grain bread along with a handful of walnuts, blueberries, and edamame. Toss in a Chobani Tots squeezable yogurt for an added boost of DHA.
The Chocolate Lover
Do you have a chocolate lover? I do and sometimes it can be a challenge to get him to eat a meal without the constant begging for “dark treats” as he likes to call chocolate chips. So why not give him what he wants? Of course I don’t mean feed your child chocolate every lunch, but you can incorporate it in a healthy way to make both mom and child happy (and in our house this makes my junk-food loving husband quite happy as well).
I take Chobani Vanilla Greek Yogurt, which contains no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, or flavors, and top it with a small sprinkling of mini dark chocolate chips. This makes the perfect ‘dessert’ for any meal while providing a good source of protein and calcium. You can even try mixing one teaspoon of 100% cocoa powder into one cup of Chobani for a delicious chocolate ‘mousse.’
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Chobani. All opinions are my own.
As May comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of this being National Salad Month. As the whether heats up, it’s normal to want to cool down with your food choices. Salads offer a nutrient-packed way to cool down while helping you pack in your daily fiber and vitamin needs. One of the reasons I love salads so much is that they offer constant variety. By changing the vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and protein options you incorporate, you can have an entirely new meal option each and every day.
All salads are not created equal, however. Some restaurant salads can pack in a full days worth of calories and sodium if you aren’t careful! Additives such as crunchy salad noodles, creamy dressings, cheese, and sugar coated nuts and fruit can drive the calorie content of your salad up while reducing the nutritional content. To gain all of the benefits of salads without unnecessary amounts of added sodium, sugar, or saturated fats, follow a few simple tips:
Top Tips for a Nutritious Salad
- Make the focus of your salad vegetables and fruits
- Choose to have your dressing on the side to control your portions
- Select a plant-based oil for your dressing, such as vinegar and olive oil, over a creamy variety
- Watch your toppings! Crunchy noodles, cheese, and candied nuts can add large amounts of calories, sugar, and fat. Opt instead of dry roasted nuts, seeds, and no-sugar-added dried fruit for a crunchy topping.
- Add protein. A veggie only salad will leave you hungry after a short period of time. By incorporating a protein choice such as grilled chicken or fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, or edamame, you can ensure you salad will keep you full for hours to come
Salads can include a variety of ingredients such as meat, nuts, vegetables and fruit and can be served as a lunch/dinner snack. Eating a salad is a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet while also enjoying some of your favorite foods in one bowl. It can also increase your vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein intake as well as satisfying your appetite with a light and flavorful meal. So in honor of National Salad month, here’s three salad recipes that are simple, delicious and packed full of nutrients!
Strawberry Feta Salad
- 12-ounce package of Spring Mix (or your favorite leafy greens)
- 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
- 2-ounces crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped
- ¼ cup Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- Wash spring mix and place in large bowl.
- Add strawberries, dried cranberries and walnuts. Mix well.
- Sprinkle feta cheese and dressing over salad and toss until evenly coated. Serve and enjoy!
Tropical Fruit Salad
- 1 cup pineapple, diced
- 1 medium apple, diced
- 1 papaya, seeds and scooped
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- shredded coconut
- Cut fruit ingredients into bite sized pieces.
- Add cut fruit to large bowl and pour honey and shredded coconut on top.
- Mix well and enjoy!
Grape, Celery and Walnut Salad
- 2 cups seedless red grapes
- 3 celery stalks, washed and thinly sliced
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup nonfat plain or vanilla yogurt
- In large mixing bowl combine red grapes, sliced celery, walnuts and yogurt. Mix until grapes and celery are evenly coated with yogurt. Add walnuts to the mix and stir until evenly coated or enjoy walnuts on top of salad.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, you may feel overwhelmed when it comes to meal planning. From the moment you learned of your diagnosis, friends, family members, and even healthcare professionals have probably been telling you what foods to avoid. But with all those restrictions in place, you may be left wondering what, if anything, you can actually eat. Well, as a diabetes educator and registered dietitian that has been working with individuals in this same situation for over a decade, I have a secret to share with you. You can actually eat anything with diabetes! That’s right- there’s really no such thing as ‘off-limit’ foods. You just have to know how to eat them!
There’s a secret weapon I use for meal planning that almost instantly insures blood sugar will stay balanced after a meal. What is it? A bento box! A compartmentalized lunch box, such as a Yumbox lunchbox, makes the ideal tool when it managing carbohydrate servings, overall portions, and balance. Research has found that when individuals were educated on the portion size for various foods over the course of a few weeks, these same individuals were more likely to be able to successfully replicate correct portions on their own than those who did not receive any guidance. A bento box serves as a portion control tool, allowing you to visually see the appropriate serving size of each food you add into your lunchbox. When you see these servings size repeatedly over time you become quite familiar with what is and is not an appropriate serving size. This skill then translates into improved portion control at all meals, whether you are eating out in a restaurant or at the office from your lunchbox, which can help you to stay within your daily calorie goals promoting a healthy body weight.
A bento box not only helps you to better understand portion control, but it also is a great tool to help promote a balanced meal. With diabetes, having too many carbohydrates at one sitting can lead to unhealthy increases in blood sugar levels. With a standard food contain that is not compartmentalized, it’s easy to pack a few cups of leftover pasta for lunch without much thought. However, having this much pasta at one sitting is a surefire way to spike your blood sugar. Instead, a bento box, with it’s varying compartments, allows you to fill one portion-controlled slot with pasta, leaving room to add in lean protein and non-starchy vegetables in the remaining slots. This balance helps you to consume a satisfying meal without exceeding your per-meal carbohydrate goals.
The key to long-term success with diabetes is education. Increasing your nutrition knowledge and understanding the impact individual foods have on blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to manage diabetes and prevent complications. This is one of the main reasons why I love to recommend Yumbox lunchboxes to my clients with diabetes. Not only are these lunchboxes compartmentalized, but they go one step further. They offer food trays with 4 or 6 compartments that include fun graphics and texts, instructing you on how to fill each compartment, helping to promote a balanced meal that is not excessive in carbohydrates. There’s even a small slot for ‘treats,’ which is the perfect way to incorporate those ‘off-limits’ foods in small portions to satisfy cravings without sacrificing your health. These lunch boxes make fun learning tools for the whole family. For children with diabetes, they can gain independence in selecting their own meal choices while adults will enjoy the visual reminder to incorporate a variety of food groups into each meal.
If you are looking for a simple and fun way to effectively manage blood sugar levels and body weight, a bento box is a must-have essential. Learn to eat what you love without the guilt while still meeting your blood sugar goals – it’s as easy as packing your lunchbox!
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Yumbox. All opinions are my own.
Food battles can often been a source of great stress for parents, especially if you have a picky eater on your hands. It may seem like your child lives on just one or two food choices. You may worry that your child will never grow with such minimalistic eating habits. But before you stress too much, know that picky eating behaviors can be overcome. Even the pickiest child will eventually come around to sampling new tastes and textures with a little creativity and patience. Before long, you may find your picky eater actually looks forward to trying new foods- imagine that!
Research suggests that it can take as many as fifteen to twenty exposures to a food before a child is willing to accept it. And ‘acceptance’ can have a broad meaning. A food may be ‘accepted’ by a child if they allow it to be placed on their plate, if they touch it, or if they take a small bite. That means your child may need to be exposed to a carrot 15-20 times before they even allow a small portion to share space on their plate. Although this can sound tedious, an exposure can be as simple as your child seeing you enjoy the food.
Being a role model of varied eating is one of the best ways to help your child overcome picky habits. Allow your child to see you eating the foods you hope they will eat, have the food available during meals, and place a small portion on your child’s plate if they allow it. But remember not to stress over the food or even call attention to it. If your child eats it, that’s great. If they don’t touch it, that’s okay as well. It still counts as exposure. Fighting with your child to eat a new food or bribing them to eat it can be stressful for a child. If your child starts to associate stress with new foods, they may become more resistance to eating a variety of foods- which is exactly what you are trying to avoid!
Get them in on the action
Some studies suggest that when children are involved in the food preparation process, they are more willing to consume the food. Depending on the age of your child, you can involve them in food selection and preparation in a number of ways. Start by taking your child with you to the store and allow him to select a new food to try. Or you could even flip through a cookbook and let your children select a recipe they would like to sample. Older children can help in the kitchen a well. Let them try their hand at washing and chopping produce, assembling ingredients, and assisting in the actual meal preparation when appropriate. You can take it one step further and start a garden where your children can watch their fruit and vegetable selections grown right before their own eyes. However you chose to do it, the more involved your child can be in the food selection and preparation, the more likely she will be to actually eat it.
Keep it fun
Trying new foods and eating a well balanced diet shouldn’t be stressful. The more fun you make it, the more willing your child will be to try it. One easy way to make meal preparation fun is to give your child his own colorful compartmentalized lunchbox, such as a Yumbox lunchbox. There’s something magical about opening a brightly colored box and discovering what’s inside. This is how your child will feel every time he sits down to a meal with his own special lunchbox. Opening it up to discover a box filled with his favorite foods, and a small sampling of new foods scattered within, can be a simple way to get him excited to eat.
One of the easiest ways to get your child to accept a new food is to make sure it is combined with familiar favorites. Fill the majority of the compartments in your child’s Yumbox lunchbox with foods you know they will eat and enjoy. Then, offer just one new food in small compartment. And remember, when it comes to kids, presentation is everything. The more appealing, colorful, and fun a new food looks, the more apt they are to give it a try. Get creative with your child’s meals by using food stamps on sandwich bread, placing foods in fun-shaped silicon cups, or trying your had at simple food art creations. With the compartmentalized Yumbox lunchboxes, the lunch creation options are endless. You can even allow your child to help fill his own lunchbox for an even greater chance of acceptance and variety at mealtime.
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Yumbox. All opinions are my own.