Tag Archives: Food

Healthy Lunchboxes

bento box for lunch _ salad and veggie pattiesLunch boxes! Oh I know, they can be a bore! It’s easy to just throw some junk in there, anything your child will eat without complaining. But during term time, lunch box meals take up quite a chunk of your child’s overall food intake, so it’s best if they have healthy ones. And with some planning and creative shopping, you can put a balanced couple of snacks together.

Every child is different. Some kids will sit down and eat everything in one go, others tend to graze. By the time he starts school, you will know your child’s eating style and can produce a yummy lunchbox to suit him perfectly. (Though naturally, if you’ve got more than one child, they will like completely different things in their lunchbox. This is one of the sad facts of a parent’s life.)

In my … let me see … over NINE YEARS of packing lunchboxes, oh my goodness! I have pretty much become an expert. I know that sandwiches made the night before can become dry and yucky, but salads made the night before are fine. I know that sliced tomatoes in a sandwich get all soggy. I’ve learned that in hot weather, a frozen juice pack keeps everything cool and defrosts at exactly the right time for lunch in a lunchbox. And, I can pack a good one, fast.

Here are my family’s fave packed lunches:

*Sandwiches are still the hands-down, most convenient, most liked lunchbox food. Crusts on, crusts off, whole wheat, wrapped in a tortilla, stuffed in a pita, and a million different ingredients make these my personal saviours in the morning rush. Be sure that your sandwich contains some kind of protein, such as cheese or meat, or peanut butter if your school allows. Protein will keep a child going through the long afternoon, while carbohydrates on their own will fuel a crash-and-burn. I often use deli meats, which are high in unhealthy ingredients, but my youngest son Max loves them and his diet is generally healthy otherwise so I’ve decided it’s okay. If I roast a whole chicken, Max loves chicken sandwiches with mayonnaise and he’ll eat that for three days straight. Roast beef, which I cook in the slow-cooker, is also really popular in a cold sandwich the next day.

*Dips! Max loves the tiny packets of cream cheese, which turn a boring and not-very-nutritious pack of multigrain crisps into a treat. Many kids who shun vegetables will happily eat carrot sticks and cucumber with dip. You can make a simple nut-free hummus, using a blender and a can of chick peas with olive oil and added seasoning: a very healthy vegetarian alternative.

*Soup is a wonderfully warming treat when the weather gets colder. In a thermos, soup will stay hot all day. Again, blending the ingredients up will make a popular creamy feast. Use orange vegetables and yellow split peas to make a bright orange blended soup that will convince your kids that veggies are fun!

*Fruit is so convenient, and many kids love it. An apple, orange or container of grapes (or cherry tomatoes!) will fit easily into a lunchbox and there’s one of your important five-a-day!

*A handy snack: some schools allow kids to run outside at playtime with a snack in their hand. If your child is a grazer, make sure he’s got something that he can grab and go with. Easily eaten fruits like bananas are great, and cheeses such as string cheese. Your child will be more interested in playing than eating at this point, so it’s got to be quick and easy.

*One of my older kids loves hard-boiled eggs. I packed them with shells intact and he would peel them and eat them with gusto, sprinkling a pinch of salt from a tiny container. Now that he is out of primary school and he buys his lunch, he still likes to put a few hot hard-boiled eggs into his pockets, to warm his hands on the way to school on wintry mornings! Then he can eat them before class.

*Many kids love salads: ranging from the leafy variety to a simple pasta or potato mayo with tuna and sweetcorn, these can be made the night before and popped in the next morning. Don’t forget a spoon!

*Juice and/or water is vitally important. Even in cold weather, kids can be dehydrated by the end of the day. There may be water fountains at school, but if there’s a line many kids will not bother to drink there.

Some kids like to have the same things every day… others prefer variety. If you have been packing the same popular lunch for a while and suddenly it’s coming home uneaten, try changing things a little. And, while you are packing a healthy snack for your kids, why not make one for yourself too? If you’re working, you can take it with you, and if you’re at home you’ll have a healthy, quick and easy lunch ready to munch. Your kids will be thrilled that their snack is good enough for you… and, you’ll be setting a good, healthy-eating example. Win-win!

I bet you’ve got ideas too! Share what works for you in the ‘Comments’ section… we’re always happy for snack inspiration here!

by Nan Sheppard

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Photo graciously provided by aJ GAZMEN ツ GucciBeaR, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Toddler Food Battles

closeup of a dollar billTonight I offered my two-year-old one-hundred dollars if she would just eat one noodle.

She didn’t bite.

We’ve entered a battle of wit during meals.  There’s whining and firm exclamations of “DON’T WANT IT!”.  There’s begging and pleading and bribery I’m not proud of.  There’s kicking and head tossing and food throwing.  There’s crying.

And that’s typically in the first five minutes.

At first I thought perhaps we had missed the window of meal time.  Perhaps she was beyond hungry and just too miserable to eat.  I definitely get crabby when I’m hungry.  It runs in the family.  Why should she be any different?  I’m a very scheduled parent.  We have meals and naps and playtime at the same time each day with very little disruption, but even with such structure, lately meals are battles.  My kitchen, the war zone.

I thought perhaps she just wouldn’t eat something she didn’t recognize.  If I make macaroni and cheese with yellow cheddar instead of white cheddar or with elbows instead of mini-shells, she won’t eat it.  Could this be it?

Then there’s that person in me that remembers Psychology 101 and the human need for control.  Is this just her exercising that need?

I’m running out of patience and energy.  I’ve heard to just leave her be and she’ll eat when she’s hungry, but do I really let her go to bed without dinner?  Or do I let her eat goldfish crackers and cheese and call it a successful meal?  What does that say about me as a parent?

I open this up to you, fantastic, helpful, kind, positive parents!  What do you think?  What worked for you?

by Pocklock

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Summer Recipes For Healthy Kids

slices of bananas and strawberries falling into a smoothieIt’s summertime here. Aahhhhh. Living as we do in a Northern climate, we get the benefit of 4 distinct seasons. This makes for great variety, but also means that different kinds of produce are not always available at reasonable prices.

For example, we just finished up strawberry season. The boys are mighty fond of strawberries, so we try to use them as much as possible when the prices are low. Cherries were limited quite a bit due to the rains, and we’re moving on to blueberries and peaches coming ripe soon. Squash are starting to show up on the grocery store shelves, and peppers and cucumbers are going to be plentiful shortly as well.

Variety can be fun, but keeping up with the changes can be a challenge. Just when I have a good recipe the ingredients go out of season. Also, finding new recipes when the seasons are so short can get frustrating; there’s a point at which the kids get tired of my experiments, you know?

One easy standby is the fruit smoothie that everyone enjoys. I’m fond of cherry-banana; TechnoBoy loves to make his with pineapple instead of the cherry. We use the Magic Bullet blenders so everyone can make their own. It’s been really handy.

We can’t eat smoothies all day every day – that would be mighty boring. I was thinking it might be helpful to swap some ideas and inspire each other a little bit. (Heaven knows I could use some inspiration around here.) What fun things do you make to get healthy seasonal foods into your kids?

I’ll put down my smoothie recipe. Will you share a fun seasonal recipe in the comments? You may just cut down on some of the more frightening experiments coming out of my kitchen. Thanks!!

    Fruit Smoothie for One

    1 banana
    4 or 5 small ice cubes
    5-6 sweet cherries (frozen works great)
    3 large spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt (about a quarter cup)
    A bit of apple or other fruit juice (1/8 to 1/4 cup)

    Put in blender and blend. Enjoy!

by AmyL

Photo graciously provided by echo0101, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Reading Food Labels

closeup of a strawberryWhen my son was a little over one year old, we discovered he had a peanut allergy. He ate a piece of chocolate over at my mother’s house, and immediately broke out in a head to toe rash. Over the course of that year, we found out he was allergic to several foods (milk, strawberries, peanuts, oranges). It was then that I started to read the labels on my food in earnest.

I’ve gotten pretty good at getting to know what to look for and being able to pick out foods that are safe and foods to avoid. He’s also excellent at watching what he eats in any new situation and always brings foods he’s been offered over to me so I can read the labels.

My family has a harder time. My son is the first person who’s had food allergies on my side of the family. Reading labels for anything other than calorie count isn’t something we’ve ever done before. Unfortunately, the labels aren’t always about quantifying the contents of the food, but sometimes about hiding behind loopholes. The “processed in a plant that handles peanuts” label tripped up my mother this past weekend as she bought Easter candy for the grandkids.

Mom thought she’d bought chocolate that my son could eat. She read the ingredients and saw no peanuts. I read the same label and saw the dreaded “processing” footnote (written in tiny itallics font) and had to turn down the candy. Everyone was sad. My son bounced back quickly. This isn’t the first time he couldn’t eat what his cousins could because of his allergies, and he’s more than willing to sacrifice the sweets if they are going to make him feel sick (or worse).

But this whole loophole labeling really angers me. As a parent, I am counting on the label to tell me that there are or are not peanuts in something. To say that it’s been processed in a place where peanut dust may or may not have drifted into the packaging isn’t helpful.

I expect the labels to tell me, in a measured way, what the makeup is of the food in the package. That information should be there for me and my family as we make choices in what we can and cannot eat. Avoiding lawsuits with nebulous language should have no place on my food labels.

Until the FDA has straightened things out, I will continue to err on the side of caution and avoid foods which have even the slightest chance of containing things my son is allergic to.

For those of you with children who have food allergies, here are some resources I found on the web:

Allergic Child
About.com: Food allergies
Peanut Allergy.com
How To Read Food Labels.

If any of you have your own food allergy experiences or advice, head on down below and share.

by Rocket Science Mom

Photo graciously provided by *Micky, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved

Not So Foodie

peeled carrotsConfession: I’m a terrible cook. A TERRIBLE cook. I have been known to screw up things as easy as hard-boiled eggs. And toast. I wish I were joking.

(Things I learned from those two experiences; 1) eggs don’t need to boil for over an hour to become hard-boiled and 2) make sure the toaster oven is on ‘toast’ and not ‘broil’ when you put the bread inside.)

However, I was able to successfully make homemade, organic baby food for my daughter without screwing it up too terribly and she lived through the experience.

I had to use pretty advanced technological tools to make this work for me, but I managed. I did it alone and it felt good to do.


    Ziploc Steam Bags
    Cuisinart Food Processor
    Potato peeler

I would peel and cut the fruit or veggies first and then steam it per the instructions on the bag or until it felt soft. I’d then empty the bag into the food processor, add some water, and mix. It was super easy and everything looked and tasted so fantastic. I was insanely jealous of her applesauce.

by Pocklock

Photo graciously provided by Emily Barney, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved