Aug 30, 2012
Summer is nearly over and the kids are heading back to school. Parents are gearing up for busy weeks filled with carpooling, soccer practice, music lessons, and homework. Even if there aren’t kids in the household, we are all shifting out of vacation mode and buckling down for the fall season. Juggling all of our responsibilities and commitments during the week leaves little spare time for cooking. But how we eat should not be sacrificed. In fact, fueling our bodies properly during the work or school day is vital in keeping us energized and focused. And this month’s Lunch Box will do the trick!
Sadly, as of recent, our nation overall has not maintained a healthy diet with the abundance of processed foods, sugary snacks, junk foods, and the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables incorporated into our daily diets. This pattern of poor nutrition has resulted in a crisis and a good portion of our country, specifically children, is overweight. Obesity among children has tripled over the last thirty years and nearly one in three kids in America are either obese or overweight. African American and Latino communities see even higher rates, with about 40% of children who are at least overweight. If we don’t address this problem, about a third of children born in this millennium will suffer from diabetes at some point during their lifetime and many others will be diagnosed with other obese-related illness including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.
How We Got Here
Just thirty years ago, our lives were drastically different. Families enjoyed home cooked meals together at the dinner table. It was common for children to walk to school and to be more physically active during recess and in the hours before dinner. Our lives today demand convenience and time saving options whenever possible. We depend more on fast food, we snack throughout the day, and eat independently on the road or in between activities. Entertainment revolves heavily around computers, phones, movies, and video games. Only a third of adolescents today get the recommended amount of physical activity.
The physical make up of our dinner plate has also evolved to represent fewer vegetables, bigger portion sizes, and more calories. Meats, proteins, and heavily processed foods dominate our dinner plates with few fresh fruits and vegetables. Portions have ballooned over 4 times what they were three decades ago. And our beverages are typically an artificially sweetened drink that can be as large as 20 ounces. On average, we consume over 30% more calories today than we did in 1970, including 56% more fats and oils and 14% more sugars and sweeteners. This means the average American enjoys 15 more pounds of sugar per year than 40 years ago. The evolution towards more junk food and less activity results in a grim outlook for the future of our children. Yet, it is uplifting to know that these are all lifestyle choices, which can all be changed.
Our Inspiration- Let’s Move!
In an effort to make it easy and convenient for families to eat healthy during lunch time, we found inspiration from the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign. Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010, dedicated to improving the health of our nations children. By educating and empowering our children, Let’s Move! is putting our younger generations on the path to a healthier future. Parents are given the information they need to lend support within the household and healthy, affordable foods are becoming more accessible. Schools are providing students healthier food options and are fostering a supportive environment to work towards a healthier country.
“The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nations is at stake.”
- First Lady Michelle Obama, at the launch of Let’s Move! In February 2010
How Can We All Help?
Everyone has a role to play in this cause. It’s with the help of parents, schools, and communities that our kids can begin to lead healthier lives. Here at Fresh Picks, we are doing our part by putting together a nutrient-rich assortment of lunch foods that can be used in many ways in our Lunch Box. As a parent, here’s how you can help:
- Talk to your kids about what they want for lunch each week: Discuss healthy options and always consider your child’s input.
- Shop with your kids: If they are active in selecting out their lunch items, they are more likely to enjoy their lunch.
- Keep meals and snacks nutritious and portioned appropriately
- Try the Fresh Picks Lunch Box and prepare meals together with your kids
- Discuss where the food items come from and how it are grown.
- Check in with your kids about what they liked and didn’t like in their lunch box every day.
A combination of bagged lunches and cafeteria meals can be refreshing for kids. If you decide to incorporate school meals into their weekly lunch routine, know that the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids (HHFK) Act is a plan to transform school meals into healthier options and to promote nutrition and well being among children as a means to decrease obesity. As part of Let’s Move!, this act will update the standards for all school meals, combat childhood hunger and obesity issues, and will make the eligibility process easier for families to apply for school meal programs.
Tools for Success
Here are a few online resources to help us make healthier choices during mealtime:
Be smart about shopping for fruits and vegetables. Regardless of your food budget, it is essential and feasible to include a healthy amount of fresh produce into your daily diet, but there are some guidelines to do it right.
- Eating with the seasons is one way to enjoy food when it is most flavorful and affordable.
- Seasonal produce is less expensive and easier to find especially when it is coming from local farms.
- Seek out special offers and discounts to save money when you can. If your budget allows, take full advantage of sales by buying greater quantities of discounted items.
Make it easy to shop smart by following a list and sticking to it. Begin each shopping trip with a few meals in mind and shop according to a list based on those meals. That way, you are focused and buying what you need . Check out the full list of 10 tips on how to shop for produce without emptying your wallet.
Even if you don’t have a weekly or monthly budget for groceries, you can plan, purchase, and prepare your shopping trips to be economical and efficient. Here are a few tips you can follow or check out the full list here.
- Plan meals and snacks for the week on a set budget
- Incorporate meals that will stretch your food items, like casseroles, stews, and stir-fry dishes
- Find quick and easy recipes online
- Make a list and stick to it
- Stick to your list
- Select what is in season- summer tomatoes, peppers, eggplants; fall apples, pears, squash, and greens; winter root vegetables, hearty greens, and mushrooms; spring asparagus, Brussels sprouts, herbs, and salad greens.
- Check for sale items and buy those in bulk and freeze or can those items for later use
- Affordable, healthy staples to always have on hand include beans, carrots, greens, potatoes, apples, and bananas. These items fluctuate minimally in price and are versatile in many recipes.
- Cook in advance when you have time and save leftovers for week night meals
- Divide leftovers into small containers for multi-use as to-go lunches, family dinners or as part of another recipe
Use beans as the main ingredient for a meatless meal and incorporate vegetables for a “no-cook” salad night
From Pyramid to Plate
The USDA recently revamped the outdated food pyramid, calling the new diagram My Plate. There are 10 guidelines that follow My Plate which aim to balance calories, maximize nutrients, and minimize the junk.
1. Balance calories: Find out how many calories you need per day to stay fit. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to see your required calorie level.
2. Enjoy your food, but eat less: Having a relationship with your food is important- eat slowly and in the company of others, pay attention to physical cues that indicate your are hungry, thirsty, and full (sometimes when we think we are hungry, we’re really just thirsty), and enjoy the flavors and textures of your meal. Always keep portions in mind- we are often full before we know it.
3. Avoid oversized portions: Use a small plate or bowl or offer to share a dish when dining out with others.
4. Know which foods you should eat more often: Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat free dairy all qualify. The food groups have the necessary nutrients we need every day.
5. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Choose red, orange, and dark green veggies like tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes and incorporate a sweet fruit for dessert.
6. Switch to fat-free or 1% dairy : These options are just as nutrient rich but with fewer calories and fat.
7. Whole grains should be at least half of your grain intake: These substitutions can be as easy as swapping out a whole wheat bread or pasta for a refined one.
8. Cut back on the junk: Solids fats and added sugars, and food loaded with sodium should be omitted from your diet. Cakes, cookies, ice cream, soda, processed meals, bacon, hot dogs are some that fall in this category. The less you eat these food, the less you will crave them.
9. Compare sodium in food: Read the nutritional content of foods to select “low sodium”, “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” options.
10. Drink water instead of soda: Omitting sodas and other sugary beverages is an easy way to cut calories. These are a major source of calories and bad sugar.
This is our contribution- Fresh Picks wants to make it easier for families to eat nutritious meals throughout the day to keep children and adults healthy, focused, and active. Our Lunch Box includes nitrite and nitrate free deli meat, sliced deli cheese (if you’re vegan or vegetarian just let us know and we’ll send other goodies!), a loaf of fresh French sliced bread, apples, bananas, and oranges, crisp lettuce, sweet tomatoes, red pepper hummus, carrots, and crackers. And here are some recipes the whole family can prepare and enjoy together:
Turkey & Cheese Lettuce Wraps
Crisp lettuce leaves replace sliced bread in this fun recipe that kids will love, especially if they assist in rolling the wraps.
Serving size 3 pieces
3 sliced of deli meat, turkey or ham both work well here
3 slices of sliced deli cheese, cheddar or Monterey work well
3 lettuce leaves, Boston or green leaf lettuce work well
3 thin slices of tomato
Place your lettuce leaves on a flat surface. Top first with meat, then cheese, then tomato. Add a little mayo or mustard in the center if you wish. Roll your lettuce wraps, folding in the sides as you go. Pack in a sealable container and keep them rolled by sticking a toothpick on each side of each roll.
Sweet Fruit Salad
Colorful and fun to make! Add a scoop of granola or cereal for a crunch.
Serving size 2
2 bananas, diced
1 orange, peel removed, and slices separated
1 apple, diced
1 pear, diced
1/4 cup grapes
1 lemon or lime, juiced
1 teaspoon mint leaves, chopped finely
Mix the fruit pieces together, splash with citrus juice and sprinkle with mint leaves. The citrus will keep the fruit looking and tasting fresh. Toss into a sealable container, cover with a lid and take a fork to it at lunch time! You can make a bigger batch of this salad, store in small, individually portioned containers for several lunches throughout the week.
Serving size 1 (but double up the recipe for easy make-ahead lunches)
large burrito size tortilla or wrap
1/2 cup lettuce, spinach, or arugula (any soft leafy green will work)
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
2 slices deli cheese
2 slices deli meat OR 1/2 cup cooked black or pinto beans
3-4 slices red pepper
1/4 cup of diced or shredded carrots
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Lay your tortilla or wrap on a flat surface. Smear it with yogurt. Layer on the cheese, meat or beans, greens, tomatoes, red pepper and carrots. Roll the wrap together while folding in the sides as you go.
Let’s Move! held a recipe contest for kid chefs across the country. The winners were invited to The White House for a formal State Dinner with the First Lady. Here are some of the winning recipes from the Kid’s State Dinner Recipe Contest:
Stuffed Tomatoes by Jourdann Latney of Delaware
In a blender, combine 1 can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a pinch of dried red pepper. Blend until thoroughly incorporated and gradually add a little water if the hummus is too think and needs to be thinned out. Season with salt to taste. Cut your tomatoes in half and scoop the the hummus into each half and top with fresh, chopped mint leaves.
Apple Oat Balls by Avery McNew of Michigan
In a big bowl stir together 6 cups old fashioned rolled oats, 1 peeled and shredded carrot, 1/2 cup of toasted and chopped pecans, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Cut two apples in half and remove the cores. Chop them and toss in a bowl with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, coating them well. Add the apples to the oats and stir to combine. Add 3/4 cup water to wet the ingredients. Add 1/2 cup peanut butter and stir well. Using damp hands, form the mixture into 1-inch balls. Add more peanut butter if the mixture isn’t sticky enough to form the balls. Press 2 raisins and 1 cranberry into each one forming a face. Store them in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator.
Backyard Garden Salsa Tortillas by Laura Printon of Vermont
In a food processor or blender, combine 4 beefsteak tomatoes, 2 Roma tomatoes, and 2 plum tomatoes with 1 green bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, 1 medium onion, 1/2 cup cilantro, and 2 tablespoons of lime juice. Blend until combined but still chunky. For the tortillas, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange 6 whole wheat flour tortillas on a serving platter and top each one with equal amounts of diced chicken (you’ll need about 3 cooked chicken breasts total). Divide 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans among the tortillas and top each one with shredded cheese (you’ll need about 1 cup total). Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Add shredded lettuce, 1 julienned apple, and sliced avocado on each tortilla. Serve with the fresh salsa.
Do you have a favorite lunch recipe? Send over to us either here on our blog or via our email at firstname.lastname@example.org.