<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=424649934352787&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Pump Up the Produce Power in Winter Meals

GettyImages-485131020-1We’ve all been here before: When it seems the long, gray winter will never end and you make one more pot of hearty vegetable soup or another casserole; or when the lackluster tomatoes and almost pinkish-white strawberries just aren’t cutting it. It’s time to get creative!

As a Hoosier native myself, I long for the tastes of summer more often than not, especially this time of year. What are some ways to get more variety into your diet in late winter? Look no further: we’ve got some ideas to tide you over until you can get your hands on some summertime Indiana-grown treasures!

Breakfast

It’s smoothie time! Smoothies are fantastic because they are nutritional powerhouses, can disguise fruits and vegetables that you might be on the fence about, and never require a recipe. To keep it simple, use frozen-fruit mixtures and rinse out your blender as soon as you are done to avoid having to scrub off dried-on fruit fibers later.

A basic guide on where to start: Combine 1 cup of frozen fruit with about ¾ cup liquid (I personally love vanilla-flavored soy milk). Optional add-ins could include a handful of kale or spinach (what better way to hide those greens than a sweet smoothie?), a spoonful or two or chia seed or ground flaxseed, a little peanut butter or almond butter, rolled oats, or even a banana to add a little extra creaminess. Top with a drizzle of honey or a little granola.

Lunch

A light and citrusy dressing is a refreshing way to beat the winter blues! A favorite dressing in my house is this orange tahini dressing. It tastes delicious on any leafy green, so if you aren’t a fan of kale, just top your spinach or romaine lettuce with it instead. Whisk together the following ingredients in a bowl:

2–3 tablespoons orange juice (fresh-squeezed preferred)

2½ tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons orange zest

Salt and pepper to taste

Massage dressing into kale and top with chopped apple, grapefruit (peeled and sliced), and pepitas or nuts of your choice (walnuts are my go-to).

Dinner

I’m not sure about you, but if something requires a recipe, there’s a big chance I might never get around to making a dish—we all have our reasons, right? Roasted cauliflower and chickpea tacos are one entrée that requires no real recipe to follow. Trust me, it would be really hard to mess this one up, even if you consider yourself a novice in the kitchen!

  1. Toss chickpeas (from a can!) and chopped cauliflower on a baking sheet with a little olive oil and a variety of spices like chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.
  2. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees until chickpeas are crisp and cauliflower is tender (about 30 minutes).
  3. Take a corn tortilla and place cauliflower and chickpeas on top. Top with chopped cabbage, jalapeño (if you like spice!), avocado/guacamole, and cilantro. Drizzle with lime juice. Sour cream and cheese are optional.

This recipe will deliver that healthy and refreshing dinner entrée you’ve been longing for since Thanksgiving!

Eat in Season and Use Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Use these in-season veggies to avoid breaking the bank—broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, parsnips, kale, potatoes, sweet potato, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Use in-season citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, clementines, and tangerines.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables are an absolute must! They are more nutrient-dense than their produce section counterparts because they are picked and frozen when they are at peak ripeness.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating lunch breakfast winter fruits and vegetables seasonal eating produce

Getting Started with Meatless Monday: Vegan/Vegetarian Meal Staples

GettyImages-1136561497Mondays can be hard enough, getting back into the swing of things after a much-too-short weekend. The last thought on your mind is what to cook for dinner, right? You might go out to eat instead, pick up carryout, or eat a frozen pizza for the most painless dinner prep possible. However, what if you opt for something that is not only easy for you, but also healthy for you and the planet?

Meatless Monday is a global movement with this message: one day a week, cut the meat. The goal is to reduce meat consumption by 15% for personal health and the health of the planet. Did you know that over 40 countries participate in Meatless Monday? Check out these easy tips on how to get your Meatless Monday started!

Breakfast

Breakfast, known as the most important meal of the day, is one of the easiest times to make a meatless meal. I understand it can be hard to get out the door on time in the morning, especially if you are also trying to get kids and pets taken care of. Opt for a carbohydrate and a protein at breakfast to create a breakfast that satisfies you throughout the morning.

Meal Ideas

  • Oatmeal + nuts/nut butter + fruit
  • Whole-grain toast + peanut butter + banana slices
  • Yogurt (try Silk soy yogurt) + granola + nuts
  • Smoothies

Staples

Rolled oats, variety of fruit (apple, banana, frozen berries), nuts/nut butters, plant milk, yogurt variety (try a plant milk option!), whole-grain bread.

Lunch and Dinner

I’ve combined these two meals because, honestly, what’s easier than eating dinner leftovers for lunch? Just make sure to cook an extra batch the night before. If you’re not a fan of day-old food, I have a few fresh ideas as well!

Meal Ideas

  • Veggie wraps (hummus + spinach + bell peppers + tomato + avocado)
  • Tofu stir-fry (baked ½-inch cubes of extra-firm tofu + brown rice + assorted veggies)
  • Fajitas (peppers + onion + black beans + salsa)
  • PBJ (fresh fruit slices + peanut butter + side of carrot sticks and hummus)
  • Veggie chili (beans + assorted spices + cornbread)

Staples

Canned beans (black/garbanzo/kidney/pinto beans, etc.), hummus, whole-grain bread, variety of veggies (peppers, onion, tomato, carrots), fruit (apples, berries), extra-firm tofu.

Take Care of the Planet and Yourself

It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about switching up your usual routine, but I promise it will be so worth it! You might even find that you actually love chili without the meat or hardly notice it missing when you begin to experiment with the vast array of spices that plant-based cooking uses. Make your grocery list and stock your kitchen with these staples and you’ll be good to go! The year 2020 is all about addressing the needs of the planet as well as ourselves. A plant-based diet has never been easier to try!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: lunch breakfast vegetarian vegan meals meal planning Meatless Monday dinner

Get an A+ in Back-to-School Nutrition

GettyImages-1026132188Whether you are starting your first year in college, sending your kids off to school, or are teaching classes this school year, make sure that your nutrition stays at the top of your priority list. It can be easy to get bogged down in your day-to-day routine and quickly lose sight of your goals. Follow these steps to help you stay on track this year.

1. Eat Breakfast

It’s okay to be a creature of habit and eat the exact same meal every morning, as long as it is nutrient dense and keeps you satisfied throughout the morning. Pair a little protein (about 15–20 grams) with a carbohydrate. This gives your brain the boost it needs, but also helps keep you full so that you don’t arrive at lunch with a growling belly.

A few ideas to try:

  • Oatmeal with berries and a spoonful of peanut butter (try making overnight oats for easy grab and go).
  • Scrambled egg with sautéed veggies and whole-grain toast.
  • Banana or apple slices with a thin layer of almond butter on whole-grain toast.

2. Take Snacks

Your body needs a little fuel throughout the day to keep energy levels high and keep you focused. Just like breakfast keeps you full throughout the morning, you want to make sure you aren’t arriving to your next meal famished—otherwise, people have a tendency to eat too much, too quickly. Keep the pantry and fridge stocked with healthy and easy snacks so you can grab one and go in the morning.

A few ideas to try:

  • The original fast-foods: bananas, apples, oranges.
  • A variety of nuts such as pistachios, almonds, and pecans.
  • Granola bars such as Larabar or KIND snacks.
  • Hummus and veggies.
  • Whole-grain crackers and guacamole.

3. Practice Smart Hydration

Skip high-calorie beverages and aim to increase your intake of water. Opt for alternatives like flavored sparkling water, unsweet tea, or fruit-infused water to mix up your choices. (Here are some more tips for proper hydration.)

4. Make a Meal Plan

Just like you plan a time to do homework, work out, or go to sports practice, don’t put your nutrition on the back burner to everything else. Sit down as a family or roommates and write out your plan for the week. Start with breakfast—this is often the easiest. Next, plan dinners—dinner often will help you fill in your lunch plans with leftovers. From here, make your grocery list. This not only helps keeping you out of the closest fast-food joint, but it also helps with budgets—a win for everyone!

Meals do not need to be complicated. Keep the Plate Method in mind. Simply try to make half of your plate fruits and veggies, keep protein portions to one quarter of your plate, and make the other quarter of your plate whole grains.

5. Allow for Splurges

After a long day of exams, helping with book reports, or grading papers, everyone deserves a little treat, right? Try to avoid rewarding yourself with food at the end of every day, but also know that if you plan for some of your favorites you will be less likely to over-eat these items when you “cave” at 3 AM on a Tuesday! Take the kids for Friday night ice cream every week, hang with your friends and enjoy a slice or two of your favorite pizza, and then plan to get right back on track with healthy eating after that. One meal or snack will not throw you off track.

Sweet alternatives:

  • Chocolate hummus with fruit
  • Dried and pitted dates filled with almonds or dark chocolate
  • “Nice cream” (frozen banana blended with peanut butter)

***

We at NIFS hope your school year gets off to a great start. Best of luck in the 2019–2020 school year!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch breakfast hydration school meals meal planning

Helpful Kitchen Gadgets for Balanced Eating

GettyImages-673500198When my husband and I got married and combined our kitchens, he was appalled at the amount of gadgets that filled my drawers and cabinets. I have always loved the single-use items such as the pineapple peeler and corer, the avocado slicer, the strawberry-top remover, the banana case keeper—and the list goes on and on and on!

If you are a minimalist and don’t want your drawers and cabinets overflowing with kitchen items, hopefully you can use this list of five helpful gadgets to help with balanced eating. Lucky for you the holidays are coming up, so any and all of these would be great gifts or something to add to your own wish list!

Pasta Portion Control Container

A serving of cooked pasta is ½ cup, but the average person eats around six servings at a time! This handy pasta portion cooker will help keep those pasta serving sizes in check. Use the basket to portion out 1–3 servings of your favorite smaller pasta noodle. Then place the basket in boiling water; when it is ready you just lift the basket out and the water will drain right into the pot! Then just add your favorite protein and sauce and enjoy. If you prefer skinnier noodles such as spaghetti or fettuccini, there is a hole on the basket to help measure the correct amount. Look for the pasta portion control container here.

Stainless Steel Vegetable Steamer

One product that I use almost nightly is the stainless steel veggie steamer. It is super easy to plop the steamer in a pan with a little water in the bottom. Fill it with your favorite veggie like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower. Then cover with a lid and cook for around 10 minutes. Perfectly steamed veggies are the result with almost all of the nutrients intact since they aren’t submerged in water or cooked until they are mushy. You can purchase the vegetable steamer here.

Salad Dressing Shaker

One of the first foods you think of when trying to eat healthier is salad. However, you can make a bowl full of veggies very unhealthy if you top it with a high-fat processed salad dressing. If you have ever flipped over the bottle of salad dressing, a lot of ingredients are listed! To cut back on all of those additives, purchase this little salad dressing shaker to make your own. It comes in small and large depending on how much dressing you want to make and is easy to clean and use. Start with some heart-healthy olive oil and add your favorite spices to top your next salad. Purchase the salad dressing shaker here.

Collapsible Salad Bowl

Not having a plan for lunch can be a killer if you have to order in or go out each day. Instead, you could purchase this handy contraption to make bringing your own salads to work much more tasty. This space-saving bowl collapses for storage and has a tray on top for all sorts of toppings or sides. Toss a few whole-wheat crackers, veggies, diced chicken, tuna or egg, and your homemade salad dressing on top and you can have a balanced, high-fiber lunch without having to go out. A fork and spoon attach to the lid so you don’t have to go searching for one at the office. You can purchase the salad bowl here.

Olive Oil Sprayer

The benefits of a Mediterranean diet have been researched and proven. The base of that diet is using olive oil. However, even though olive oil is good for you, it is still very high in calories, so the key is to not overdo it. One way to help with this is to use an olive oil sprayer. This is another gadget that gets pulled out almost nightly at our house. Just spray your pan before adding your protein or veggie, or add a spritz to your cooked veggies when they are done. You can even spray your air-popped popcorn with it too! Just grab your favorite olive oil, fill the container, and spritz away! You can purchase a Misto here.

Hopefully one or all of these gadgets will find their way into your kitchen soon!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating lunch cooking fats portion control salad

10 Foods That Will Keep You Satisfied with Fiber, Protein, and More

GettyImages-855098134Are you one of those people who are always hungry? Are you constantly thinking about your next meal or snack and what you’re going to eat? The issue could be that you aren’t choosing meals or snacks that fill you up and keep you satisfied. So the alternative is grazing constantly to get that full feeling.

Luckily there are lots of foods out there that are filling and will keep you satisfied longer. These foods are ones that are high in protein, fiber, or good-for-you fat. Here’s a list of 10 foods to choose when you want to stay fuller longer.

  • Nuts: Nuts have all three things that help keep you full: healthy fat, protein, and fiber. The key is to stick to a serving size because they are calorie dense. Measure out an ounce and enjoy all types of nuts at snack time or meals to keep you full.
  • Avocado: Loaded with good-for-you fat, these tasty treats are a nice addition to a sandwich or salad, or as a dip for veggies. Like nuts, they are very calorie dense, though, so a little goes a long way. Stick to a fourth of an avocado as a serving and enjoy the benefits of staying satisfied.
  • Eggs: Studies have found that protein keeps you more full than carbs. When you eat eggs versus a bagel for breakfast, the eggs win every time for post-meal satisfaction. Start your day with this complete protein; grab a hard-boiled egg for a snack or add it to your salad at lunch and enjoy staying fuller longer.
  • Popcorn: This tasty snack is high in fiber, which helps with the full factor. It also takes up a lot of volume, which means a serving size is pretty large (3 cups!) for a snack. So, if you like to reach for a larger snack, popcorn could be your new go-to item!
  • Berries: Loaded with fiber, these sweet and tasty fruits are an excellent way to increase your fullness factor. They can easily be added to breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack time. The cancer-fighting antioxidants are just an added bonus.
  • Cottage cheese: Dairy foods are high in protein, which is a plus for keeping you full. Cottage cheese is also a great way to vary your snack routine. Toss in some fruit, veggies, or nuts for some crunch, and every day can be a different experience.
  • Celery: If you have heard that celery is a negative-calorie food, you know this a great go-to item for filling you up and keeping you full. It’s low in calories and high in water and fiber content, both of which will help keep those hunger pangs away.
  • Greek yogurt: Another protein-packed goodie is Greek yogurt. Choose a 2% variety to add some fat to your snack or meal. The portion-controlled cup is also nice to help keep the serving size in check.
  • Beans: You get protein and fiber-filled goodness with all of your bean varieties! Toss them into soups, salads, and dips and enjoy the benefits of staying full longer.
  • Sugar-snap peas: Another high-fiber veggie that you can add to your routine is sugar-snap peas. They are crunchy and filling and super easy to prepare. Just wash and go!

Add some or all of these 10 foods to your daily routine and enjoy the benefits of keeping that growling stomach at bay!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss snacks lunch protein fiber fruits and vegetables fats

Eat Better, Work Better? Three Nutrition Tips for Productivity

GettyImages-171693421.jpgWe’ve all heard the phrase that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but who knew that eating a balanced diet would also make you more productive at work? That’s what was found in a study conducted by Brigham Young University on 19,000 employees from three large companies (published in the Population Health Management journal). It was discovered that employees with unhealthy diets were 66% less productive than those who ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

So how can you be a more productive employee? Try these three simple ways to eat more balanced meals and then get ready to impress your boss.

Whole-grain Goodness

Swap out your old rice, pasta, bread, and cereal for grains that are higher in fiber and are less processed. Brown and wild rice are excellent alternatives to white rice. Whole-wheat pasta, couscous, quinoa, millet, and oats are more high-fiber options to incorporate into your diet.

When it comes to breads and cereal, check the label. Choose options that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Check out the Whole Grains Council website for more information.

Fabulous Fruits

Most people need three pieces of fruit per day to meet their individual requirements. This can easily be done by incorporating a fruit in your morning cereal or oatmeal, grabbing an apple or banana for a quick and portable snack, or having a bowl of sweet berries after dinner for dessert. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in fruit are all great reasons to include them in your diet.

Varied Veggies

One of the most challenging food groups to get into your diet, but also one of the best for you, is vegetables. It can be difficult to meet that 4–5 recommended servings per day, so how can you get these in to help balance your diet?

One way is to make sure that you are spreading them out throughout the day by including a vegetable serving at lunch and/or snack time. At lunch, grab portable veggies such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, mini bell peppers, and sugar-snap peas to add some variety and crunch along with your typical sandwich. Or nibble on veggies with a hummus dip for an afternoon snack. Make it a goal to try one new/different vegetable each week.

***

Now that you know the impact of nutrition on employee health and productivity, you can follow these three tips for healthy meals and snacks.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch employee health productivity fiber vegetables whole grains fruit

Nutrition on the Go: Can Food Trucks Provide Healthy Eating?

ThinkstockPhotos-87741362.jpgThe food truck phenomenon started in 2008 in California with a truck called Kogi BBQ that served Korean-Mexican fusion on the streets of L.A. Soon many chefs followed the trend, and now you can find these mobile dining establishments in most cities across the U.S.

One great thing about this trend is that it tends to be inexpensive compared to restaurants, and a fresher fast-food option. However, since these trucks typically have an ever-changing menu, it can be challenging to know what to order—and whether you can find a healthy option.

Tips for Healthy Eating

Follow some of the tips below, and then get out there and find your new favorite truck!

  • Scan for the best. Normally if you see one food truck, there is another one close by, or as is getting popular now, you might be at an event where a bunch of food trucks have gathered at one time (such as the First Friday Food Truck Festival). Take a walk around and check out all of the menus available (burning those calories as you walk), and then you can make a more informed choice.
  • Eat with a fork. One thing food trucks are known for is their fresh ingredients, so take advantage of filling up on those. And when you load up your plate or bowl and require a fork to eat the item, it slows down the process. Allowing your brain to tell your stomach that you are full is the goal, and this typically takes around 20 minutes. By eating with a fork, you can slow down considerably versus folding over the pizza and finishing it in five bites, keeping the burrito all rolled into a nice hand-held contraption, or using both hands to wrap around the giant burger!
  • If you aren’t using a fork, look for a taco truck. Almost all food trucks that specialize in tacos have great things going for them: they are portion controlled, typically have a protein source in them, and are loaded with veggies on top! Most food truck tacos aren’t loaded with sauces and cheeses like sit-down Mexican restaurants, so you can save a lot of calories. One more plus is that most food trucks use corn tortillas instead of flour, which means less processing, fewer calories, and less sodium.
  • Burn more calories standing up. Usually there aren’t a lot of places to sit around food trucks, which a lot of people see as a drawback of the movement. However, take this opportunity to practice eating your food while standing. It is well known that standing burns more calories than sitting, and can also help prevent acid reflux.
  • Share, share alike. As I already mentioned, typically there are a lot of different food trucks in one area. So, grab a friend or a co-worker and try multiple items. You will get to try a lot of different things but in much smaller portions.

Moderation and Balance Are the Keys

As with any dining out, when it comes to food trucks the same nutrition rules apply: moderation and balance. As long as you remember to have three food groups on your plate and eat a standard amount, you can enjoy the food truck experience for lunch or snacks and not feel guilty!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating snacks lunch acid reflux

Helping Picky Kids Get Better Nutrition

ThinkstockPhotos-474735668.jpgHas dinnertime become the dreaded time lately? Getting picky children to eat can be very frustrating. Children of different ages may respond differently to various tactics. Here are a few ideas for how you can get your child to try (and hopefully like) new foods, and get better nutrition.

Pregnant and Lactating Women

Some research shows that the foods that a woman eats during pregnancy may “program” the fetus’ food preferences later in life. Both amniotic fluid and breast milk take on flavors and odors of the foods mom eats. When pregnant and breastfeeding, try these tactics:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods to expose your baby to an assortment of flavors and smells. This may reduce the chance that your child will be a picky eater.
  • Avoid a diet based around junk food. Your need for additional calories is not a good reason to eat food that contains no nutritional value. Doing so may increase the amount of sugar needed to experience reward in your child’s developing brain, possibly leading to loss of control and binge-eating episodes later in life.

Infants

Feed your baby variety. It often takes the introduction of a new food ten times for a young child to develop a taste for it. Most babies grimace at every new food. Keep trying a food and your baby may learn to like it.

  • Introduce vegetables before fruits so that the child does not get used to eating sweet foods all the time.
  • When eating several different foods at one meal, introduce new foods before familiar favorites. If they do not know mashed bananas are available, they may try the lima bean puree.
  • Do not avoid foods because you do not like them. Your child may learn to like different foods than you.

Toddlers and Children

As with babies, toddlers may refuse foods—not because they don’t like them, but because they begin to realize they have a choice. Let your child make other decisions, like what book to read, or what clothes to wear, but not what to eat once the food is on the table. A toddler’s growth may be slowing down, so they may eat less. If they are not eating, they may be full from snacks or juice, or they may have been served a portion that is too large. Babies and toddlers will not starve themselves!

  • Eat with your children, and eat the same things. Dad can’t avoid green vegetables, and mom can’t avoid bread or starchy vegetables; your child will pick up on that and think they can avoid certain foods, too.
  • Turn the TV off. Young children need to focus on eating, and distractions such as cartoons will keep them from eating.
  • Make foods fun! Arrange a fruit salad as a smiley face. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes.
  • Let kids play with their food, and be tolerant of messes! It helps kids experience the food’s texture and smell, and will help them eat it, too.
  • Make dips out of cottage cheese, tofu, yogurt, guacamole, peanut butter, or pureed fruits and vegetables. Your child can dip fruits and vegetables, rice cakes, toast, or other nutritious foods.
  • Find a fun character-inspired cookbook, choose a recipe, and make it together.
  • Serve one food at a time, keeping other options out of sight. Start with new foods or foods the child does not like as well first, and then add familiar foods and favorites.

More Tips for Parents

Here are some more ideas that will help make mealtimes more pleasant:

  • Don’t force your child to eat anything.
  • At most meals, try to offer mainly healthy choices.
  • Allow your children to ask for seconds.
  • Do not force your child to finish a meal, even if they want dessert.
  • Deemphasize dessert as a prize; don’t make children finish their vegetables to get it.
  • Have your children rate new foods with a pre-made “New Food Chart”: have them draw a happy face if they like it and a sad face if they don’t.
  • Finally, praise the child for trying new foods. That will encourage them to do it more often.

Hopefully by trying some of these suggestions, you can get your kids on the road to healthy eating—and start enjoying mealtimes more!

Related: Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating snacks lunch kids pregnancy lactation

Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

ThinkstockPhotos-528974268.jpgIt’s that time of year again…back to school! This means busy evenings or early mornings getting lunches packed for the kids. What’s in a child’s lunch is important because it’s in childhood that eating habits are formed—and heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and other diseases begin to develop. Fatty buildups, the beginnings of clogged arteries, are seen in the arteries of children as young as 10 years old.

So even though that prepackaged meal is the quickest and easiest thing to throw in a lunchbox, consider these 10 ways to help your child eat a more balanced lunch.

  1. Encourage your child to choose 1% or fat-free milk. Milk is the biggest source of saturated fat in children’s diets. Choosing 1% or fat-free milk instead of whole or 2% is an important strategy for keeping children’s hearts healthy and arteries clear.
  2. Switch from bologna, salami, pastrami or corned beef, and other fatty luncheon meats to low-fat alternatives. Supermarkets sell many good-tasting, low-fat or fat-free brands of turkey breast, chicken breast, ham, bologna, and roast beef.
  3. Include at least one serving of fruit in every lunch. Try buying a few new types of fruit each week to let your child discover new favorites and to give him or her more healthy eating choices. In addition to apples, oranges, or bananas, try pears, sliced melon, cups of applesauce, grapes, or pineapple (fresh or canned in its own juice). Try serving fruit in different ways: whole, cut into slices, cubed, or with a yogurt dipping sauce.
  4. Sneak vegetables onto sandwiches. Try lettuce, slices of cucumber, tomato, green pepper, roasted peppers, zucchini, or sugar-snap peas. Eating fruits and vegetables reduces your child’s chances of heart disease, cancer, blindness, and stroke later in life. Putting veggies on a sandwich is one way to get more into your child’s diet.
  5. Use whole-wheat bread instead of white bread for sandwiches. Choose breads that list “whole wheat” as the first ingredient. If the main flour listed on the label is “wheat” or “unbleached wheat flour,” the product is not whole grain. Most multi-grain, rye, oatmeal, and pumpernickel breads in the U.S. are not whole grain.
  6. Limit cookies, snack cakes, doughnuts, brownies, and other sweet baked goods. Sweet baked goods are the second leading source of sugar and the fourth leading source of saturated fat in Americans’ diets. Low-fat baked goods can help cut heart-damaging saturated fat from your child’s diet, but even fat-free sweets can crowd out healthier foods like fruit. This nutrition rule does say LIMIT and not eliminate. The key is moderation when it comes to sweets!
  7. Pack baked chips, pretzels, Cheerios, breadsticks, or low-fat crackers instead of potato, corn, tortilla, or other chips made with oil. Avoid empty calories from artery clogging fried chips. Also, beware of Bugles, which are fried in heavily saturated coconut oil. One ounce has as much artery-clogging fat as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
  8. If you pack juice, make sure it’s 100% juice. All fruit drinks are required to list the “% juice” on the label. Watch out for juice drinks like Sunny Delight, Hi-C, Hawaiian Punch, and Capri Sun. With no more than 10% juice, they are just as sugary as soft drinks.
  9. Don’t send prepackaged lunch trays. Oscar Mayer’s Lunchables that come with a treat and a drink get two-thirds of their calories from fat and sugar. They also contain over 1000mg of sodium, which is half the recommendation for the whole day. Making your own healthy alternative is as easy as packing low-fat crackers, low-fat lunchmeat, a piece of fruit, and a box of 100% juice in your child’s lunchbox.
  10. Let your child help pack their lunch. If your child is excited about the foods they are eating, they will be more likely to finish their energy-packed lunch. Allow them to help pick and choose items to put in their lunchbox each night or morning, teaching them the importance of meal planning and responsibility.

Find out more about nutritional coaching

This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. (And to see what she brings for her lunch, click here!)

Topics: nutrition healthy eating calories lunch kids sodium

How to Build a Nutrition-Packed Smoothie for Meals or Snacks

ThinkstockPhotos-467257185For a quick and tasty breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, consider making a smoothie. This portable meal or snack can be chock-full of good-for-you antioxidants and vitamins if you make it correctly. Unfortunately, though, some of the pre-made ones are loaded with added sugar. So pull out your blender, food processor, or Vitamix, grab some ingredients, and let’s get started!

  • Produce: The most important part of the smoothie comes from the produce. The fruits or veggies you add will load up your drink with nutrients. Aim for ½ cup to 1½ cups from this group, which typically includes berries, bananas, pineapple, spinach, kale, and whatever else you have in the fridge or freezer to add!
  • Ice and/or frozen fruit: Add ½ to 1 cup to give the smoothie more thickness.
  • Liquid: Use ½ to 1 cup of milk (preferably the unsweetened variety) or water. If you are adding fruit juice, make sure it is 100% fruit and stick to ½ cup or less.
  • Protein: 2 TB. of peanut butter (or any nut butter), protein powder, or Greek yogurt will help to keep you fuller longer, so don’t forget to add this ingredient. If you decide to go with protein powder, make sure to get a basic whey protein powder that isn’t extremely high in extras or sugar (some are available with less than 2g). This powder is also a complete protein, which means you get all of the essential amino acids. Just stick to 1 scoop or 2 TB. to avoid adding extra, unnecessary calories.
  • Fiber extras: For some additional staying power in your drink, add 1 to 2 TB. of chia seeds, oats, or flaxseed. (See this blog for more info on chia seeds and other add-ins.)

If you have an older blender with dull blades and a weak motor, stick to fresh fruit vs. frozen, and blend the ice cubes gradually into the smoothie. One tip is to add your dry ingredients last to avoid them getting stuck in the bottom. If you are having trouble getting the ingredients to blend, let it sit for a few minutes so the fruit can soften or add more liquid a little bit at a time.

Now it’s time to drink up! Letting it sit for just 20 minutes might mean it will start to thicken or separate. You can store it in the fridge for up to 24 hours, but a fresh smoothie will have the best flavor and taste. Enjoy!

This blog was written by Angie Scheetz, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch breakfast protein fiber