Author Archives: Wholesome Tummies

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New School Meals! The First Lady Welcomes Kids Back to School

What’s new with school meals this year?

The school day just got health­ier! This year, the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act will be imple­mented in schools across the coun­try to improve the meals that 32 mil­lion chil­dren eat each day. This is ground­break­ing leg­is­la­tion signed by the Pres­i­dent on Decem­ber 13, 2010, to improve the food we serve to our kids in school. This leg­is­la­tion pro­vides assur­ance to par­ents that our kids are get­ting the same kind of bal­ance and nutri­tion that they get at home. Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is a great win for our nation’s kids – and their parents.

Thanks to new school break­fast and lunch meal stan­dards, schools meals now do a bet­ter job of giv­ing chil­dren the healthy food they need. The new school meals have:

  • More whole grains, fruits, and veg­eta­bles; low-fat milk dairy prod­ucts; and less sodium and fat.
  • The right por­tion. Menus are planned for grades K-5, 6–8 and 9–12 and will demon­strate to your child the right size portions.
  • Addi­tional fund­ing will be made avail­able to schools that meet the new stan­dards. Schools will be reim­bursed an addi­tional 6 cents for each lunch they serve in accor­dance with the new standards.

To con­tinue read­ing this arti­cle or to find out more about the Let’s Move! ini­tia­tive, please click HERE

 

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WT Cafe Chefs with Fruit

Fresh Foods, New Faces, a New School Year Embraces

Whole­some Tum­mies has been busy across the coun­try this back to school season!

From meet the teacher nights to open houses, we love meet­ing new and return­ing par­ents at our part­ner schools in all Whole­some Tum­mies loca­tions! These pic­tures were taken by our North Atlanta owner, who proudly kicked off her back to school fes­tiv­i­ties in mid-August! Check out all the whole­some, mouth water­ing good­ness our Atlanta cus­tomers are able to enjoy! From wraps to sal­ads to our kid-favorite fruit bar, we rel­ish oppor­tu­ni­ties like these to show off the fresh­ness of our made from scratch meals!

Don’t have WT in your child’s school?  Click Here to get the ball rolling!

Inter­ested in bring­ing Whole­some Tum­mies to your town?  Click Here for more info!

corn-syrup

Top 6 Food Additives to Avoid

Kids need good food in order to grow. Their young, active bod­ies are hun­gry for nutri­ents. The prob­lem is that so many kid-friendly foods today con­tain harm­ful chem­i­cals that are toxic to their grow­ing bod­ies.  Which ones are key to steer away from?  Read on for our list of the Top 6 Food Addi­tives to Avoid.

INGREDIENT TO AVOID #1:  Arti­fi­cial Trans-Fats


In the early 1900’s the first hydro­genated short­en­ing, Crisco, began mass pro­duc­tion in the U.S.  This unsat­u­rated fat was touted as a “health­ier” and cheaper alter­na­tive to the sat­u­rated fats of but­ter.  Free cook­books accel­er­ated the pop­u­lar­ity of hydro­genated oils, as they replaced but­ter with Crisco pri­mar­ily in bak­ing recipes.


How­ever, there has yet to be a study that shows that trans-fats are good for human health in any way.  In 2002, the National Acad­emy of Sci­ences con­cluded there is no safe level of trans fat con­sump­tion yet they con­tinue to be a sig­nif­i­cant part of human diet for last 100 years as more processed foods are con­sumed. 


Why are Arti­fi­cial Trans-Fats Bad for Kids?

·       Trans fats do not pro­mote good health
·       Increases risk of coro­nary heart disease
·       Raises lev­els of bad LDL cholesterol
·       Low­ers lev­els of good HDL cholesterol

INGREDIENT TO AVOID #2:  High Fruc­tose Corn Syrup (HFCS)


HFCS is a com­mon sweet­ener and preser­v­a­tive made by chang­ing sugar (glu­cose) in corn­starch to fruc­tose.  It has become a pop­u­lar ingre­di­ent in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods and is dif­fi­cult to avoid unless you take time to read the ingre­di­ent label.  HFCS  is pop­u­lar in processed foods because it sig­nif­i­cantly extends shelf and is cheaper than sugar (Sugar costs about 40 per­cent more to use in a prod­uct than corn syrup).  This cost dif­fer­en­tial is largely because corn is a lav­ishly sub­si­dized crop here in the U.S.


Why is HFCS Bad for Kids?

·       Many stud­ies show increased link of sweet­ened bev­er­ages (many con­tain HFCS) and obesity
·       Not a nat­u­rally derived sugar
·       May be a source of mer­cury (a known neurotoxin)
·       Affects nor­mal appetite functions

INGREDIENT #3 TO AVOID:   Arti­fi­cial Nitrates


Nitrates are used to pre­serve, color, and fla­vor meat prod­ucts and is com­monly added to bacon, ham, hot dogs, deli meats, smoked fish, and corned beef to sta­bi­lize red color and add fla­vor.  Nitrates pre­vent the growth of bac­te­ria.


Why are Arti­fi­cial Nitrates Bad?

·       Stud­ies are mixed, but there have been many link­ing con­sump­tion to var­i­ous types of can­cer (Col­orec­tal can­cer, Stom­ach can­cer, Pan­cre­atic can­cer, Brain can­cer) as well as DNA mutations
·       It is a chemical 

INGREDIENT #4 TO AVOID: Arti­fi­cial Col­ors (a.k.a the “Poi­son Rain­bow”)


These are chem­i­cals added to foods to improve how they look and increase sales.  The lev­els of inges­tion have sky­rock­eted because they are ingre­di­ents in so many foods today.   Kids espe­cially are drawn to the bright col­ors of so many arti­fi­cially col­ored foods, so it is par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing to keep them out of our family’s diets alto­gether.  Focus on min­i­miz­ing their con­sump­tion in your fam­ily.


Why are Arti­fi­cial Col­ors bad?

·       Has poten­tial to dam­age children
·       Neu­ro­log­i­cal issues
·       Aggra­vates ADD and ADHD symptoms
·       Causes can­cer­ous tumors
·       FDA report shows that the three most com­monly used dyes (Red 40, Yel­low 5, Yel­low 6) are tainted with low lev­els of can­cer caus­ing compounds

INGREDIENT #5 TO AVOID:  Arti­fi­cial Fla­vors


They are chem­i­cals added to our foods in enhance fla­vor.  The are cre­ated by dupli­cat­ing the chem­i­cals present nat­u­rally in the tar­get fla­vor.  They are not derived from a nat­ural sub­stance.  Did you know that only 10% of vanilla sold is real vanilla?


Why are Arti­fi­cial Fla­vors bad?

·       They are chemicals
·       They are not of nat­ural origin

INGREDIENT #6 TO AVOID:  Monosodium Glu­ta­mate (MSG)


MSG is used by food man­u­fac­tur­ers as a fla­vor enhancer because it bal­ances, blends, and rounds the total per­cep­tion of other tastes.   It is found in many processed foods includ­ing sauces, mari­nades, dress­ing, canned foods, chips, and fla­vor­ing pack­ets.  


Although the FDA has con­cluded that MSG is safe when “eaten at cus­tom­ary lev­els”, there are indi­vid­u­als who expe­ri­ence spe­cific side effects (headaches, flush­ing, sweat­ing, facial pres­sure, chest pain, nau­sea, numb­ness, and heart pal­pi­ta­tions) when even the small­est amount of MSG enters their blood stream and the use of MSG remains con­tro­ver­sial.  In our opin­ion, those kinds of side effects are cause enough for con­cern.


There are over 100 dif­fer­ent names for MSG used by the food indus­try to dis­guise its pres­ence in food.  From yeast extract to autolyzed yeast extract to hydrolyzed veg­etable pro­tein, and even nat­ural fla­vors.  For a com­plete list of hid­den names of MSG, click here (link to www.truthinlabeling.org). 


Why is MSG Bad?

·       It is a known neurotoxin.
·       It has been linked to tem­po­rary wors­en­ing of asth­matic symptoms
·       It triples the amount of insulin the pan­creas creates

By care­fully read­ing the labels on your family’s foods BEFORE you pur­chase, you can avoid these poten­tially toxic ingre­di­ents and min­i­mize their harm­ful effects on your fam­i­lies. At Whole­some Tum­mies, we know children’s devel­op­ing minds and mus­cles are fueled by fresh, whole­some ingre­di­ents.  We also know that harm­ful chem­i­cals don’t belong in our kids’ bod­ies.  

As con­sci­en­tious par­ents, you want to give your chil­dren the high­est qual­ify of life pos­si­ble.  That’s why when you order from us, you can trust that our foods include only organic and all-natural ingre­di­ents.  We promise our cus­tomers that our foods contain:
  • ·       No added trans-fats
  • ·       No high fruc­tose corn syrup
  • ·       No added nitrates
  • ·       No arti­fi­cial colors
  • ·       No arti­fi­cial flavors
  • ·       No MSG

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Healthy Habit #7: Read the Label

Most par­ents need a refresher on what spe­cific ingre­di­ents to look for and which to avoid when select­ing foods for your fam­ily.  To help you sharpen your skills, we present our 5-Step Guide to Read­ing Food Labels.

Step #1:  Count the Num­ber of Ingredients

  • Pure foods require only a select few key ingre­di­ents.  A good rule of thumb is to let the num­ber of ingre­di­ents be your guide.  Any­one who has ever pur­chased a Kraft Lunch­ables knows that the ingre­di­ent list cov­ers one (some­times two) entire sides of the pack­age.  Why are so many ingre­di­ents required in a sim­ple lunch?  
  • A long ingre­di­ent list is a red flag and evi­dence that chem­i­cals and addi­tives are being used to pre­serve, sta­bi­lize, and fla­vor the prod­uct.  Stay away from long ingre­di­ent lists!

Step #2:  Con­sider the Expi­ra­tion Date

  • Fresh food is per­ish­able.  Every­one who has ever opened a gal­lon of milk knows it spoils within the week.   Fresh breads grow stale after even 24 hours at room tem­per­a­ture.   Fresh fruit and veg­gies ripen quickly as well.   That’s why so many processed foods con­tain added sodium, chem­i­cals and preser­v­a­tives, as these addi­tives delay the spoilage process and allow prod­uct to stay on the gro­cery store shelves for weeks, months, and in some cases, even years.  
  • Look for expi­ra­tion dates as an indi­ca­tor of a product’s degree of pro­cess­ing.   Unlike fine wine….food does not get bet­ter with age!

Step #3:  Read All Ingre­di­ents and Just Say No to Chemicals

  • In an ideal world, a processed food is sim­ply con­vert from a whole food (i.e. whole wheat) into a dif­fer­ent for­mat (i.e. whole wheat spaghetti) so that we can enjoy it in a form that we oth­er­wise would not be able to do.  How­ever, the def­i­n­i­tion of processed has changed over the years.  Rather than just chang­ing the for­mat of the food, foods today are pre­served with sodium, chem­i­cals, and other addi­tives so that they sit on a gro­cery store shelf for years and the man­u­fac­turer can max­i­mize their profit.  
  • At Whole­some Tum­mies, we strive for prod­ucts with as few ingre­di­ents as pos­si­ble.  For exam­ple, our Chobani 0% Fat Greek Yogurt has only one ingre­di­ent:  fat-free milk.  Com­pare that to a Smucker’s Uncrusta­bles and we think you’ll clearly see the differences!

Step #4:  Look at the Daily Value Per­cent­ages 

  • This tip is one of our per­sonal favorites.  Although it doesn’t tell you about the spe­cific ingre­di­ents in the food, it pro­vides a visual indi­ca­tion of the nutri­tional level of the food.   You want to look for high per­cent­ages on just about every cat­e­gory with the excep­tion of sat­u­rated and trans fats, sug­ars, and sodium.   Key cat­e­gories to spot check for high per­cent­ages include:  fiber, pro­tein, and all vit­a­mins and minerals.   

Step #5:  Avoid Mis­lead­ing Health Claims

  • Made with Whole Grains.  Just because it says whole grains are used to make the prod­uct doesn’t mean the prod­uct is rich with whole grains, or con­tains more whole grains than the aver­age prod­uct.  A key indi­ca­tor is where on the label those whole grain ingre­di­ents are listed – if they are at the top of the ingre­di­ent list that’s a good sign as ingre­di­ents are listed in order of the amount used in that prod­uct.  If they are at the bot­tom or hid­den some­where in the mid­dle, then you are bet­ter off leav­ing that prod­uct on the shelf.
  • All Nat­ural.  The FDA does not reg­u­late this ter­mi­nol­ogy what­so­ever.  That means that unless a man­u­fac­turer dis­closes their def­i­n­i­tion of this term, an “all nat­ural” claim is com­pletely mean­ing­less.  Unfor­tu­nately many man­u­fac­tur­ers do not bother to define their use of the words “all nat­ural”, so mak­ing a pur­chas­ing deci­sion based solely on this ter­mi­nol­ogy is not a good idea.
  • 0 Grams Trans Fats.  We all know trans-fats are bad, bad, bad.  They are unable to be processed by our bod­ies and there­fore build up inside our veins, lead­ing to increased risk of heart dis­ease.  Unless oth­er­wise noted, most fried prod­ucts are fried in par­tially hydro­genated oils, or trans fats.  Cur­rent reg­u­la­tions allow man­u­fac­tur­ers to dis­play the term “0 Grams Trans-Fats” even if the prod­uct con­tains up to less than 7% trans-fat per weight.  Funny and mis­lead­ing def­i­n­i­tion of “zero”, don’t you think?  I won­der what would hap­pen to our coun­try if we taught our chil­dren that kind of math…
  • Healthy Choice.  The big ques­tion here is…relative to what?  Any­one can make the claim healthy choice but again, this term is also not reg­u­lated and there­fore can be used to describe just about any­thing.  Many man­u­fac­tur­ers know that a “healthy” claim is good for mar­ket­ing, and will make the claim with­out defin­ing what they really mean.  When you see this label, it’s a trig­ger that you need to fully inves­ti­gate the ingre­di­ent list and the nutri­tional label before pur­chas­ing.  Buyer beware.

Select­ing pure, whole­some foods for your fam­ily is not easy in today’s world of false health claims and mis­lead­ing labels.  By fol­low­ing the above steps, you will be closer to select­ing healthy choices for your fam­ily.  Read our next post about the top chem­i­cals to avoid so you can be sure to min­i­mize the harm­ful effects these addi­tives can have on your grow­ing children.

Blueberry

Top 10 Super Foods for Kids

What is a “Super Food”?  Super Foods are lower-calorie foods with higher than aver­age nutri­ent or phy­to­chem­i­cal con­tent.  They are ideal for min­i­miz­ing the risk of obe­sity, can­cer, heart dis­ease, and high cho­les­terol.  Just like Super Heroes pro­tect the pub­lic, Super Foods pro­tect our bodies.
We have care­fully selected a list of Top 10 Super Foods for Kids that we believe pro­vide the max­i­mum amount of nutri­tion per serv­ing for your grow­ing child.  Eat­ing Super Foods makes it easy to eat healthy.  The best part about Super Foods is that they are foods in their purest state, min­i­mally processed if at all.   No French fries, fruit roll-ups, or ranch fla­vored chips on this list!
Our Top 10 Super Foods for Kids are:
1.  Beans and legumes
Black beans, kid­ney beans, soy­beans (in the form of edamame, soy milk, or tofu), and lentils are best.  Easy to throw beans in your next batch of home made soup or puree as a dip to be served with whole grain pitas or tor­tilla chips!
2. Dark choco­late
Yes, dark choco­late and cocoa nibs made the list.  We love it melted and dipped in straw­ber­ries.  Choco­late does have caf­feine, so time its con­sump­tion carefully!
3.   Fruits
In-season cit­rus espe­cially oranges, apples, cher­ries, red grapes, apri­cots, pome­gran­ate, kiwi, papaya, can­taloupe, man­goes, pump­kins, bananas, and lots of berries — espe­cially blue­ber­ries are best!  Always keep a fresh, sea­sonal fruit bowl on the kitchen counter within arms-reach.
4.  Tea
All tea, but espe­cially green.  Make sure it’s decaf­feinated for kids.  Com­bine with pome­gran­ate juice and honey for a 1–2 punch and leave it in a pitcher for easy frig access!
5.  Low-fat dairy, yogurt, and eggs
Use 0% fat Greek yogurt for smooth­ies and to replace sour cream.  Kids love smooth­ies, so keep a big batch of fruit and yogurt smooth­ies handy – and don’t be sur­prised if it’s gone by Tues­day!  Hard-boiled, cage-free eggs also make for a quick and fill­ing snack on the go.
6.  Nuts
Although we keep a nut-free menu at all of our schools, nuts are widely con­sid­ered a super food.  Wal­nuts, almonds, and pecans are heart-healthy nuts with lots of fiber and antiox­i­dants.  Their small, hard shape make them unsafe for small chil­dren, but try replac­ing peanut but­ter with almond but­ter for your child’s next PB&J or grind­ing up wal­nuts in your next batch of blue­berry muffins.
7.  Salmon, tuna, other fatty fish
Salmon may very well be the per­fect food, as their omega 3 fats have a long list of health ben­e­fits.  Make sure it’s wild, not farm raised.  Tuna fish sand­wiches are another kid favorite, as long as you limit their fre­quency due to high lev­els of nat­u­rally occur­ring mer­cury. 
8.  Seeds
Ground flax, pump­kin seeds, sun­flower seeds, etc.  Try ground flax in your next smoothie for a nutri­tional boost, or sprin­kling some sun­flower seeds in tonight’s pre-dinner salad.  Fun, tasty, and easy to eat!
9.  Veg­eta­bles
In-season car­rots, spinach and kale, broc­coli, cab­bage, sweet potato, avo­cado, red bell pep­pers, aspara­gus, squash, brus­sel sprouts, egg­plant, gar­lic and onions, and toma­toes are best! 
10.  Whole grains
Whole wheat and whole grain pas­tas, breads, crack­ers, brown rice, oats, quinoa, corn.  Try white whole wheat if your kids com­plain about the hearti­ness of pure whole wheat.  Pop­corn and corn tor­tilla chips make a great whole-grain snack!



When it comes to kids, the best thing about Super Foods is that they match children’s expec­ta­tions of how food should look.  As a gen­er­a­tion raised on Gummy Bears, M&Ms, Gatorade and Froot Loops, kids today equate bright col­ors with taste.  Most Super Foods have high phy­to­chem­i­cal con­tent, mak­ing them nat­u­rally brightly col­ored. Kids love to see a food rain­bow on their plates, and Super Foods make this visual easy to achieve.

To intro­duce the great­est vari­ety of color on your child’s plate as well as max­i­mize the nutri­tional ben­e­fit, we rec­om­mend com­bin­ing Super Foods in cre­ative ways.  Exam­ples include: 


·       0% fat Greek yogurt with berries and granola
·       Iced decaf green or black tea with all-natural 100% fruit juice
·       Tuna fish salad on whole grain crackers
·       Mashed black beans and salsa with tor­tilla chips
·       Apple and banana slices with almond but­ter dip



How­ever you choose to pre­pare them, Super Foods are a deli­cious way to fos­ter healthy eat­ing habits with your kids.    So stock your kitchen with Super Foods today! 

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HEALTHY HABIT #6: MAKING THE FOOD : BODY CONNECTION

Children’s grow­ing bod­ies crave an abun­dance of nutri­ents, vit­a­mins, pro­teins, and healthy fats to develop prop­erly.  Absent proper nutri­tion, many chil­dren never reach their full poten­tial.  The good thing is that their nutri­tion is under our con­trol. 
The food choices we make on behalf of our chil­dren have sig­nif­i­cant long-term con­se­quences.  Did you know the brain devel­ops faster dur­ing the child­hood years than any other period of life?  Com­pared to healthy and prop­erly fed chil­dren, stud­ies show that mal­nour­ished chil­dren suf­fer from:
  • ·       Impaired intel­lec­tual growth
  • ·       Loss of cog­ni­tive skills
  • ·       Mus­cle atrophy
  • ·       Weak­ened immune systems
  • ·       Increased risk of death

Later in life, these chil­dren expe­ri­ence higher med­ical bills and require more sup­port from their par­ents to find and keep a job.  Not how you envi­sion spend­ing your golden years?  Nei­ther do we.
The effects of bad nutri­tion are espe­cially appar­ent in our schools.  Ask any teacher, and they will tell you the dif­fer­ence between a child who has had a fill­ing and nour­ish­ing lunch and one who has not.  The under­nour­ished kids are easy to iden­tify:  they tire eas­ily and yawn through the after­noons; they retain only some of what they should; they are eas­ily dis­tracted and find it dif­fi­cult to orga­nize.  Unhealthy diets have a direct impact on aca­d­e­mic per­for­mance, school atten­dance, and class­room behavior.
How does this com­pare with kids who receive proper nutri­tion? 
Stud­ies show the link between children’s health and aca­d­e­mic suc­cess man­i­fests in test scores, absen­teeism, con­cen­tra­tion, and atti­tude.  In fact, kids with bal­anced and healthy diets receive dis­tinct ben­e­fits over their less healthy peers. 
We at Whole­some Tum­mies and WT Café have iden­ti­fied 5 Key Ben­e­fits expe­ri­enced by kids with healthy eat­ing habits.  These ben­e­fits have a pow­er­ful effect on their well-being and self-esteem, both inside the class­room and out.  The 5 Key Ben­e­fits of Healthy Eat­ing for Kids are:

1.     Energy Boost
Higher energy lev­els, more sta­mina, increased productivity
2.     Feel Great
Bet­ter night’s sleep, more reg­u­lated moods, higher self-esteem
3.     Good Health
Sick less often, longer lifes­pan, less stress, lower obe­sity rates
4.     Look Great 
Shinier and fuller hair, more elas­tic and health­ier skin, stronger nails and teeth
5.     Good Grades 
Faster mem­ory, greater con­cen­tra­tion, bet­ter retention
Now that you know the ben­e­fits of healthy eat­ing for your child, how can you help her under­stand it?  Not just pay lip ser­vice to it, but really under­stand it.  How can you help her draw the direct con­nec­tion between the food she eats and the way she feels?  After all, knowl­edge is mean­ing­less with­out motivation.
The After School Snack Experiment
Our rec­om­men­da­tion is to start with the After School Snack Exper­i­ment.  Imme­di­ately after school for one (1) week, allow your child to pick her own snacks from a vari­ety of choices (make sure you have healthy and unhealthy options avail­able for this exper­i­ment).  Ask her to write down in a jour­nal how she feels after con­sum­ing each one.  Did she feel like tak­ing a nap or going on a bike ride?  Did she want to walk the dog or watch tv?  Was study­ing for her test eas­ier or more dif­fi­cult after she snacked?  It shoudn’t take long before she notices how active she feels with a bal­anced snack and how she doesn’t get hun­gry again until din­ner when her snack is healthy.  It won’t take long before she real­izes junk food brings her down, makes her moody, and fuels her appetite instead of sat­is­fy­ing it.  As soon as the light bulb goes off and she makes the con­nec­tion between the food she eats and the way her body feels, a healthy eater will be born.
Open­ing your child’s eyes to the Food : Body Con­nec­tion is only the begin­ning.  Once your child under­stands the impact food has on her body, she must be edu­cated on which spe­cific foods will get her the results she desires.  Read on to our sec­ond blog post – the Top 10 Super Foods for Kids – to learn more about which foods pro­vide the max­i­mum nutri­tion for your child. 
The end goal is to help your child make good food deci­sions when she’s with you and more impor­tantly, when she’s not.   

Top 10 Lunchbox Tips

TOP 10 LUNCHBOX TIPS
It’s not easy pack­ing school lunch.  In fact, it gets old and bor­ing r-e-a-l fast!   After a while, think­ing up orig­i­nal lunch­box ideas (that don’t break the bank) can feel impossible. 
From the very begin­ning, our mis­sion at Whole­some Tum­mies has been to make kids’ foods that are fresh, nutri­tious, and excit­ing.  In our quest to achieve this tri­fecta, we have come up with hun­dreds of ideas to cajole even the pick­i­est eater along the path to healthy eat­ing.  After all, it’s not nutri­tion unless they eat it.
With those goals in mind, here are our Top 10 Lunch­box Tips to help you pack fun and nutri­tious lunches for your child.   Happy packing!
1.     Get Cre­ative With Leftovers
Use left­over chicken to make a Chicken Cae­sar Wrap or a Chicken Soft Taco, or a Naked Chicken Parme­san.  Left­over din­ner veg­gies could make the base of a Pasta Pri­mav­era or even a Teriyaki Stir Fry.  Always try to repack­age them as a new dish so your child doesn’t get bored.  Don’t let left­overs go to waste!
2.     Make a Bento Box
What is a Bento Box?  A Bento Box is a multi-compartment box used to con­tain the dif­fer­ent courses of a meal.  Instead of pack­ing the tra­di­tional entrée and two sides, make a lunch out of a vari­ety of small snacks.  Think Tapas for kids!   Hard­boiled eggs, box of raisins, apple or other fresh fruit, hand­ful of crack­ers, tuna fish or chicken salad, pasta salad, veg­gies, dips, and more!  With a Bento, any­thing goes.
3.     Pack Home­made Soup
This is always a big hit with kids.  Kids love soup, espe­cially with some­thing crunchy like crou­tons of Asian noo­dles on the side that they can add when they are good and ready.  A whole wheat bread­stick or whole grain crack­ers go per­fectly on the side!  Visit our Feb­ru­ary blog post for some easy kid favorite soup ideas
4.     Pack a Hot Entrée
Kids tire of the same old – same old Turkey Sand­wich every day (not to men­tion most deli meats are loaded with nitrates, which we need to min­i­mize in our children’s devel­op­ing bod­ies).  Even Peanut But­ter & Jelly can get old day after day!  Keep lunch excit­ing by pack­ing a hot entrée — pasta, stir-fry, meat­balls, hot left­overs, even scram­bled eggs, French toast, or oat­meal in your child’s ther­mos for lunch.  If you have trou­ble keep­ing the food inside the ther­mos hot, make sure to pour with boil­ing water first and cover for at least 10 min­utes before fill­ing with hot food.
5.     Make Fresh Sides
Use a vari­ety of cre­ative, in-season choices every day so your child looks for­ward to the fresh sides.  Exam­ples include:  car­rots and cel­ery with ranch, red pep­per and hum­mus, apples and peanut but­ter, side gar­den salad, pears and vanilla yogurt, edamame, cucum­ber slices and herb cream cheese.  Keep them guess­ing!  You may want to invest in small Tup­per­ware con­tain­ers so you can keep sides sep­a­rate and eas­ily serve dips with fruits and veg­gies.  A prod­uct like Rubbermaid’s BPA-free Lunch Blox works great.
6.     Don’t Get Stale
Mix it up! Get cre­ative!  Don’t fall into a rut with lunch mak­ing.  The worst thing you can do for your child is give in to her demands to eat the same lunch menu every sin­gle day – doing so will guar­an­tee a picky eater.  Make a promise to your­self never to pack the same lunch within a sin­gle cal­en­dar week, and you’ll be well on your way to rais­ing an open-minded and adven­tur­ous eater.
7.     Sub­sti­tute Sandwiches
Instead of two slices of bread, try a wrap, a salad, or a hard taco shell.  Do slid­ers, crack­ers, or just roll-ups (no bread) to mix things up a bit.  Don’t let your child get too com­fort­able with what goes in the lunch­box – keep­ing them on their toes keeps lunchtime excit­ing, fun, and always a surprise!
8.     Go Around the World
Pick a day each week and go with an inter­na­tional theme – Mex­i­can, Asian, Cuban, Ital­ian, Indian, French, etc. – theme all ele­ments of the lunch­box that day and even include a note about the ori­gin of each.  Make it edu­ca­tional so your child learns some­thing new.
9.     Include a Surprise
Kids love sur­prises!  Even more so when it’s a spe­cial note from home, a favorite photo, a sticker, a reminder about an upcom­ing event, a spe­cial toy, or even a spe­cial treat.  Insert­ing just one sur­prise item inside the lunch box can help make your child’s day extra spe­cial.  After all, isn’t that what this is all about?
10.  Get Cre­ative with Drinks
This is one area of the lunch­box that often goes unmen­tioned.  Drinks can take a child’s lunch from mediocre to awe­some so make sure to stock your pantry with some spe­cial all-natural choices, includ­ing fla­vored seltzer waters, fil­tered juices, fruit smooth­ies, or spe­cial water bot­tles.  A spe­cial drink takes lunchtime to another level!
Feed­ing chil­dren well at lunchtime and at every meal offers a unique oppor­tu­nity to teach val­ues such as:  adven­ture, risk-taking, sus­tain­abil­ity, and com­pas­sion.  Expos­ing kids to these qual­i­ties at an early age instills con­fi­dence to try new expe­ri­ences in life, which in turn builds self-esteem — one of the great­est gifts we can give to our children.  
Chil­dren who care about the foods they eat are also role mod­els for their peers.  They are lead­ers at school and proud to take a stand for health­ful eat­ing and mak­ing good food choices.  These lead­er­ship qual­i­ties often carry over to other aspects of life as well. 
Make Lunch Mat­ter, and your child will make it mat­ter, too!

Healthy Habit #5 — Make Lunch Matter

Many of us eat together with our chil­dren (and there­fore, con­trol the menu!) for two meals a day — break­fast and din­ner.  When it comes to school lunch, every­thing is dif­fer­ent. 
At the din­ner table it is easy to encour­age kids to try dif­fer­ent foods, to eat their veg­eta­bles, or to place their nap­kins in their laps. By eat­ing together as a fam­ily, you can shape your children’s eat­ing habits accord­ing to your pri­or­i­ties and prin­ci­ples.  You can also role model these behav­iors so your chil­dren see you doing the very acts you expect of them. 
School lunch is dif­fer­ent. 
For starters, you are not there.  Chil­dren sit with friends — not fam­ily – and the voice of parental guid­ance is muted by chides of peer pres­sure. Few lunch­room con­ver­sa­tions involve how deli­cious the food is, where the food came from, how it was pre­pared, or what fruits are in sea­son this month (unless you visit a WT Café lunch­room!). 
Instead, com­ments and requests for lunch “trades” involve jokes about how cer­tain foods look or what bod­ily flu­ids they resem­ble.  Unin­formed chil­dren often place mis­guided empha­sis on pack­aged treats and desserts, chips and fried foods, col­ored and fla­vored drinks, or clev­erly mar­keted prod­ucts they see on TV (like the rain­bow “fruit” roll up with the printed say­ings).   
Peer pres­sure in the lunch­room rears its ugly head as early as first grade.
Of course, you can teach your kids how to effec­tively man­age neg­a­tive peer influ­ences – that’s not the big prob­lem here.  If that were the only con­tribut­ing fac­tor to the toxic food envi­ron­ment in many schools today, this issue would have been solved years ago with good par­ent­ing alone.
The real prob­lem with the school food envi­ron­ment is that it’s not just kids that con­done unhealthy food choices – it’s also par­ents, teach­ers, and schools them­selves.  All three con­stituents take dif­fer­ent actions that together fos­ter a neg­a­tive food cli­mate in many schools today:
·      Par­ents con­tinue to pack unhealthy and high fat, high sodium foods for their child’s lunch or class snacks and bring in sug­ary, store-bought desserts for birth­day cel­e­bra­tions. (In fact, some schools now insist on store-bought birth­day good­ies rather than home­made, which lim­its many of the more nutri­tious choices).
·      Teach­ers con­tinue to use candy and treats as reward for good class­room behav­ior. (Research on child eat­ing habits has shown that foods used as “rewards” become more desir­able to chil­dren than if they had not been used as rewards.  So, when candy is used as a reward, chil­dren come to like it more and want it more than they would otherwise.)
·      Schools con­tinue to sell highly processed snack foods and sodas in vend­ing machines or school stores because the prof­its are too sig­nif­i­cant to ignore ($2.3 bil­lion worth of snack foods and bev­er­ages are sold annu­ally in schools nation­wide accord­ing to the National Acad­emy of Sci­ences, and many school dis­tricts make mil­lions each year from the proceeds).
It’s a shame that so many high calo­rie, highly processed, and unhealthy foods are still eas­ily acces­si­ble in schools.  It’s also a shame that so many author­ity fig­ures are allow­ing (if not encour­ag­ing) this sit­u­a­tion to con­tinue.  These envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences neg­a­tively affect children’s rela­tion­ship with food. 
The food chil­dren have access to is the food chil­dren eat.
When a school wel­comes unhealthy foods on its cam­pus, it sends mixed mes­sages to kids about what they should and shouldn’t eat.  It’s a down­ward spiral….you set parental expec­ta­tions for your chil­dren at home, but those are con­tra­dicted by what your kids are told is socially desir­able from their friends, what they are rewarded with by their teach­ers, or what is eas­ily acces­si­ble to them on the school cam­pus.   No won­der so many kids today have picky eat­ing habits, despite par­ents’ best efforts to teach oth­er­wise!  What can you do to change the food envi­ron­ment in your children’s schools?  
Make Lunch Mat­ter. 
That means tak­ing mat­ters into your own hands, using your local school rela­tion­ships or social media as a forum for change, and demand­ing that your schools and school dis­tricts hold them­selves to higher stan­dards. 
Texas Mom, Bet­tina Siegel, recently did just that.  Bet­tina (mom of an 8 and 12 year old) started an online peti­tion on March 6, 2012 over the use of “pink slime” in the National School Lunch Pro­gram.  “Pink slime” is a low-cost beef filler (made from parts of the cow not oth­er­wise con­sumed by humans and then treated with ammo­nium hydrox­ide gas to kill bac­te­ria).  In just 20 short days, three of the four plants where this filler is made were forced to shut down due to pub­lic out­cry over use of the ingre­di­ent. 
If one Mom forced this kind of sweep­ing change in less than a month’s time, imag­ine what the rest of us can do!
We need more lead­ers for the fresh and healthy food move­ment, so our col­lec­tive voices carry loud and strong in schools across this coun­try and help drive the school lunch reform we so des­per­ately need.  Read more about this recent peti­tion and what you can do to lead change in your local school lunch pro­grams by click­ing here.
It’s funny about change – it can start any­time, any­where, by any­one.  The impor­tant thing is that it starts at all.

HOME COOKING MADE SIMPLE

Sit­ting down together for a home-cooked meal is an impor­tant and mem­o­rable child­hood expe­ri­ence. But when our lives are already so busy, how do we find the time?  
There are proven strate­gies to make home cook­ing more effi­cient– and they all start with a plan.  The #1 action you can take to sim­plify home cook­ing is to plan ahead.  The first thing to plan is the WHATWHAT is on your family’s menu tonight, this week, this month?  Write the menu up on a Fam­ily Menu Board for every­one to see.  You will be amazed at how excited the kids get about meal­time with the sim­ple act of post­ing the menu.  Antic­i­pa­tion of a home-cooked meal can be contagious.
THE WHAT — There are a few dif­fer­ent ways you can plan WHAT is on your menu:
Plan by Recipe
You can menu plan from recipes – iden­tify the recipes you want to serve your fam­ily this week and shop specif­i­cally for those ingre­di­ents.  Kids love being part of plan­ning the fam­ily menu, and this approach allows them to con­tribute.  Around the fam­ily din­ner table is a great time to talk about what meals they want to see in the week ahead.  The more oppor­tu­ni­ties your chil­dren have to choose from a vari­ety of foods you’ve already approved, the more likely it is that they will hap­pily eat them. 
Plan by Inventory
You can also plan your weekly menu from inven­tory – look at food you already have and devise meals that use those ingre­di­ents.  You can involve your chil­dren with this strat­egy, too, although it may be more chal­leng­ing for them based on age.  Rather than think­ing of recipes and meals they like, they will need to think cre­atively about how to use the ingre­di­ents you have on-hand.  If you use our Top 100 Fam­ily Kitchen Sta­ples List  you will find cook­ing from inven­tory to be sim­ple because you are already main­tain­ing an ideal food inventory!
Plan by Costs
Finally, you can shop by sale – find your gro­cery store’s cir­cu­lar and plan your family’s meals based on key ingre­di­ents you find on sale that week.  Or, select only recipes that include low-cost ingre­di­ents and get as cre­ative as pos­si­ble.  This strat­egy is a pop­u­lar one for today’s eco­nomic times. 
THE HOW – Now that you’ve planned the menu, HOW will the food be prepared? 
Once A Month Cook­ing (OAMC)
OAMC requires dou­bling, tripling, or even qua­dru­pling your favorite recipes instead of mak­ing just the sin­gle recipe, then freez­ing the remain­ing food until you are ready to eat it.  After just 3 rounds of OAMC, you will have up to 12 meals in your freezer ready to go.  It may take you a few days to bulk up, but once you do you will reap the rewards.  One big ben­e­fit to OAMC is that you can pur­chase foods on sale and bulk cook those foods. It’s not only a time saver, but a cost saver too! 
When plan­ning your recipes, remem­ber that cer­tain dishes are not ideal for freez­ing.  Any­thing with may­on­naise, sour cream, or eggs will not freeze well.   If you are inter­ested in learn­ing more about OAMC, visit the many web­sites on the topic.  Here’s one to get you started: http://onceamonthmom.com/
Chain Cook­ing
Another strat­egy is called chain cook­ing, a.k.a. strate­gic left­overs.  This tech­nique involves mak­ing a dou­ble batch of some­thing one night to be used in some­thing else the sub­se­quent night.  For exam­ple, sautéed chicken one night to be used as a main course tonight and in a pasta dish the next night.  Or, steam up some gar­lic spinach as a side dish one night and use it the next morn­ing for spinach and mush­room omelets.  Mashed pota­toes work great as a side dish one night, and shepherd’s pie the next.  Ground turkey has count­less left­over ideas from tacos to chili to lasagna to cheeseburgers!
Plan by the Day
This strat­egy is born out of neces­sity.  It involves blend­ing a cup of last minute plan­ning with a splash of spon­tane­ity.  Essen­tially this plan is about daily menu plan­ning and just-in-time shop­ping excur­sions for miss­ing key ingre­di­ents.  It’s not for the faint of heart – as it requires seri­ous multi-tasking and a bit of cram­ming, too.
As you can see, there’s a home cook­ing strat­egy for every per­son­al­ity.  The most impor­tant thing is that you cook at home as often as your time and life per­mits. Meals eaten together in the home ben­e­fit chil­dren in many ways, from improved self-esteem to increased sense of belong­ing and adher­ence to fam­ily val­ues.   Cook­ing at home has count­less ben­e­fits for you, too — it’s often less expen­sive than eat­ing out, you know all the ingre­di­ents in your food and where they came from, and you know exactly how each food was prepared.
So make time for meal plan­ning – your fam­ily will thank you.

Healthy Habit #4: Cook at Home

Con­ve­nience.  When it comes to food for our fam­i­lies, it can be a four-letter word. Eat­ing out has become an Amer­i­can fam­ily tra­di­tion, and it’s trend­ing up.
We already know that restau­rant food is often higher in sat­u­rated fat, sodium, and calo­ries than a home­made meal.  That’s why many of us will inten­tion­ally choose “health­ier”, full-service restau­rants over fast food when we need a break from home cook­ing. How­ever, did you know that full-service meals are often nutri­tion­ally infe­rior to fast food?  
A sur­pris­ing study con­ducted by the USDA uncov­ered that con­trary to com­mon per­cep­tion, meals and snacks con­sumed at full-service restau­rants are not nutri­tion­ally supe­rior to fast food.  In fact, full-service meals tend to be higher in fat, cho­les­terol, and sodium on aver­age than their fast food coun­ter­parts.  That means even when you think you are choos­ing a health­ier restau­rant for your fam­ily, you may be sadly mistaken.
It’s a shame that so many restau­rants lack the fresh, nutri­tious menu items that we serve in our own home kitchens.  As busy par­ents, we all have days where we need a break from our kitchen oblig­a­tions.  Why does the restau­rant indus­try fail to pro­vide us with the solu­tions we des­per­ately seek?
One word – cost. 
Costs of Pro­vid­ing Fresh Food
It costs pen­nies for restau­rants to serve up a plate of fries, and quar­ters for them to serve up a side salad.  Pic­ture the sim­plic­ity in this sys­tem:  1.  Remove bag from freezer.  2.  Open bag.  3.  Place con­tents in fryer.  4.  Put timer on.  5. Take con­tents out of fryer.  6.  Salt food.  7. Por­tion.  8. Serve.  That’s under 5 min­utes from start to fin­ish.  That’s why you’re hit with a $.75 charge when you ask to sub your child’s side of french fries for a fresh fruit salad!
Per­haps instead it’s a pre-bagged entrée or soup that the restau­rant re-heats, cuts opens, and serves…. I saw this exact activ­ity last week at one of my absolute favorite “healthy”, nat­ural and organic family-friendly restau­rants.   My son pointed it out – we were both shocked.  This restau­rant was microwav­ing pre-bagged veg­eta­bles until hot and then served them on top of pasta.  Voila!  Pasta Pri­mav­era!  A seem­ingly fresh and “healthy” meal pre­pared in an unfresh, unhealthy (but light­en­ing quick!) way.
At another one of my family’s favorite, “healthy” restau­rants, I’ve seen an indi­vid­ual bag of mac­a­roni and cheese microwaved for each child that orders it off the Kids Menu.  Those of you already well-informed about the dan­gers of microwav­ing in plas­tic bags know that it’s not such a great idea (espe­cially for kids).  I won­der how much BPA was ingested by kids eat­ing mac and cheese that day?
All these are rea­sons why we at the Whole­some Tum­mies (WT) Café are ded­i­cated to feed­ing fresh foods to your chil­dren.  We do not use microwaves.  We do not use fry­ers.  We don’t cut cor­ners.  Our meals are made from scratch every day, not poured from a bag.  We cut our fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles daily.  Doing all this extra work takes time (which costs money).  When we mix our salad dress­ings from scratch, pre­pare batches of house-made soup, or make your child’s lunch from scratch in our local kitchens — 5 min­utes becomes 30 min­utes.   
Why do we take the extra time?  We do it because we are intensely dri­ven by our mis­sion to pro­vide fresh, nutri­tious, and excit­ing foods to every child, every­where.  Our mis­sion moti­vates us to earn your trust so that we may have the priv­i­lege of feed­ing your chil­dren through­out their school-aged years.  It’s an impor­tant call­ing, and we take it very seriously.
Unfor­tu­nately for all the tired par­ents out there who need a break from the monot­ony of home cook­ing, few restau­rants feel as strongly as we do about fresh, from-scratch cook­ing.  So…if you want to feed your fam­ily pure, nutri­tious food at an afford­able price your best bet is to dust that apron off and put on your chef’s hat.  If you want some­thing done right, some­times you just have to do it yourself.