Guest Post: 5 ideas to get us out of a lunchbox rutOct. 12th

HeartSandwich

When we think of school lunches normally food items such as a sandwich, mini pizza, cookies, a pack of juice come to mind. These are what usually form the lunch box of a child. Why is that so? Mainly because they are convenient and children like them too. No preparation time is required, saving you time and effort, and all you have to do is pop them in your child’s bag. Children also love you for that. But are parents really doing a favor to their kids by giving them such items for school lunch? Not really. Not only are these highly processed but they also contain high levels of sodium, preservatives and sugar, making them unhealthy. School canteens also do not always have a variety of healthy options available. Besides, it is better for you to pack homemade lunch for your children rather than giving them money to buy something from school. Not only will that ensure that the food is hygienic and nutritious but it will also save loads of money over time. Since most kids are unaware of the health hazards of unhealthy food, it is up to you to provide them with nutritious meals and help them eat healthy.

Last night’s leftovers

No, there is no hard and fast rule that school lunches can only include chips and cookies. Last night’s leftovers will work just fine. Did your child love the meatballs from last night? You could make some extra and maybe add some rice with it. There you have a healthy lunch ready and something that your child would be eager to have. You could prepare chicken chunks, make chicken and egg spread for a sandwich, fry or bake boneless fish. There are plenty of options for you to consider. Just make sure to pack everything properly to ensure freshness and safety. You could use a thermos for warm food. Include reusable utensils and cloth napkin for ease.

Fruits and vegetables

Pack them such that they can be eaten easily. A child would prefer sliced apples and oranges rather than a whole one. The downside is that they would turn brown by lunch time and your child would rather skip them. Use lemon juice on them to avoid that. Bananas could be given as they are. A bag of grapes is also a good idea. Rather than buying jams and jellies from the stores, you could prepare these at home. The ones available in the supermarket contain very high sugar levels plus preservatives. Some children tend to prefer smoothies over eating fruits. If your child is one of them, you could skip on whole fruits and instead prepare a fruit smoothie, with maybe just a small portion of some vegetable, like spinach. Believe me they would not be able to spot the difference. The best part is that this could be prepared the night before and frozen.

Dairy products

Smoothies are a good way for your child to consume dairy. If not, you could give them the small tetra packs of milk available in the market. Another option is yogurt that you could freeze at night and it would be ready to be eaten by lunchtime. You could add fruits to the yogurt to make it more appealing to a child’s palate. But while you are working on adding dairy to your kids’ diet, think about choosing organic dairy products. You will be doing a favor not only to your children but also to the environment. Factory farms are still injecting artificially produced hormones into cows that make them give more milk. This is not natural and definitely not healthy for you, your children, or the cows. Opt for organic milk even if it costs slightly more.

Grains

How can you incorporate grains in your child’s lunch? Whole grain or whole wheat bread should be preferred over white bread. Prepare rice cakes at home and sprinkle them with fruit syrup or maybe peanut butter to make them more appealing. Whole grain crackers are also a good idea and you could also include cheese in the lunch box to go with them. Making cookies at home of whole grains, such as oatmeal raisin cookies instead of the usual chocolate chip, will add nutritional value to their desserts. 

Proteins

Meat does not necessarily have to be a part of your child’s diet to get them to take in protein. If they do not like it, do not fret. There are alternatives. Egg is a great source of protein, and packaged perfectly for on the go. Hard boiled eggs are easy to prepare and eat. Nuts are also good for lunch or snack time. You could prepare chicken salad or a tuna sandwich if they are into these.

Final thoughts

Children who have healthy, well balanced lunches are better able to concentrate in their class than those who go for the less variations. So there is another reason you should ensure that your children are being supplied with a healthy lunch box. There is also the issue of food allergy to consider. If a certain kind of food does not suit your child, it is best to have their lunch packed from home. Kids may not be as careful about their food choices even if you have instructed them about it beforehand. It is better to be safe.

Author Bio:

Batool Ali is an international blogger who loves to write on different disciplines such as Health, lifestyle, fashion, finance and education.

Question of the MonthOct. 2nd

PP Question_Leaf

How do you pack a more healthy, sustainable lunch for your kids?

lunch bentos

With everyone caught in the Back to School frenzy, our October topic is all about our desire to explore how to pack our kid’s lunches in a way that aligns with our values regarding keeping our planet and our bodies clean and sustainable. With many modern parenting issues, there are often more questions than answers that come up, and we are all about taking ideas and putting them into action. For some, sustainable may be about organic, for others, about going vegan, or even dabbling in urban permaculture. In the end, we all have to make it work within our family’s budget and time constraints. It isn’t a contest to see who is the greenest parent, but comes from a desire to put good things in our children’s bodies so that they can feel healthy, happy, and energetic. We want to show our kids how to be stewards of the earth and make good choices for themselves and their future families. The resources that come out of making these inquiries will hopefully help you come to terms with the lunchbox struggle in a way that fits your values.

This month we will be sharing ideas, recipes, and yes, PLAYING around on Youtube! Stay tuned!

U R What U EatAug. 29th

U= U R What U Eat

It’s often said that “we are what we eat”, but many of us don’t really know what we’re eating. Sure, we can see meats, vegetables and whole grains on our plate, but what we don’t see is often cause for alarm. Processed foods are usually loaded with additives designed to increase shelf life and change the taste and texture of food. While processed foods are generally healthier options, many have still been produced with pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Many of these invisible ingredients are known carcinogens and can cause extensive damage to both our bodies and our environment. In the United States, more than 3,000 substances can be legally added to foods for the purpose of preservation, coloring, texture, or increasing flavor. Simple Steps For Choosing Healthier, Sustainable Foods

  • Read the ingredient list. The best way to avoid additives in your foods is to check the label. In general, if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. If you’re unsure about an ingredient, look it up before you put it on the table.
  • Buy organic. The organic label can only be applied to produce raised without chemicals and pesticides and meat raised without the use of hormones and antibiotics.
  • Grow your own. The best way to know what’s in your food is to raise it yourself. Strawberries, blueberries, bell peppers, potatoes, and spinach are good choices for produce to grow on your own because of the high amount of pesticides found on grocery store varieties.

Learn More These tips for avoiding pesticide residue show you which vegetables to always buy organic as well as safer alternatives if organic isn’t available. The EPA website provides more information on what is required for a food to be certified organic.

Bike to School DayMay. 22nd

In honor of May being National Bike Month, Lily and I rode our bikes to school on Wednesday.  She goes to the Coastal Montessori Leaning Center in Morro Bay.’

 

It was organized by the teachers and parents at the Montessori School.  I love this school for so many reasons, but when I saw Miss Sonya, the school principal,   out there on her own bike,  directing the kids across the main streets, I realized how committed she is to encouraging ideas of health and protecting the environment at such a young age – ideas that don’t just stay in a book,  but involve the entire school and community in a wonderful activity that will be remembered into their adult years.  She also understands that by combining healthy kids activities with fun at school, children are inspired to learn and do more.

 

 

We ended up at her classroom for a delicious healthy pancake breakfast with fresh fruit.  Wow, it was delicious – especially after the fresh air and exercise!   The kids really enjoyed it, and thanks to Scott, Susan & Karen just to name a few of the kitchen crew who prepped and cooked the meal. 

      

The ride was in support of National Bike Month and the SLO County Bike Coalition, both organizations are wonderful sources of information and creative ideas on how the simple act of biking to work or school can have a tremendous impact on our lives, our health and our environment.  Check them out.

Pumpkin: Not Just for CarvingOct. 25th

carved_pumpkinsDan Melton is a partner in SloVeg a local delivery service that brings ‘farmers market fresh’ fruits and vegetables to your door. SLO Veg engages in practices that have a minimal impact on the planet. Dan is also a self proclaimed “closet writer.” After reading Dan’s treatise on PUMPKINS, all I can say is ‘Out of the closet, Dan!’ And thank you. I can also say, thank you for agreeing to write this post.

On Pumpkins, By Dan Melton

Man, through the course of time has always followed food and its source. Crossing the roughest terrain in order to feed the family, usually himself first, but thats a whole other story within itself. But thankfully for us, both as a society and as a species, weve evolved however slight from the earlier years. The migration of Americas founders, regardless of whom you might regard as that clan of people, followed the path of food, eating seasonal, local crop and meat sources insomuch that the towns formed across this great land where born out of and grew continually from the direct relationship it had with a sustaining food source.

There has been resurgence, with both the health science communities and municipal community dtable_of_pumpkinsevelopment models, of the relationship between s eating seasonal food and ones overall health. Simply put, theres a reason you cant buy tomatoes here in February and maybe instead you should replace those vitamins and minerals that youd get from a tomato in its prime (Summer and Fall typically), with a Winter squash or pumpkin, thats right I said pumpkin, instead of a tomato, for example.

If youre still with me on this premise, that being, in a perfect world its better for all of us to eat a local, pesticide free crop, either vegetarian or carnivorous, all the time, period. So, I like to offer a simple but yet extremely delicious pumpkin recipe. First just as a point of reference Id like to give you the scoop on pumpkins:

  • Pumpkins fall into the fruit category because they have seeds
  • Native Americans used pumpkins as a source of feed for their horse.
  • Pumpkins are low in calories and extremely low in fat
  • The seeds are high in protein, iron, and the B vitamins
  • They are also low in sodium
  • Depending upon the variety, pumpkins and winter squash have different culinary uses. Sweet and refined varieties are best for pies, while dry and dense varieties are well suited for soups and stews.
  • The disease combating power of pumpkins carotenoid compounds is manifold. These compounds, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene among them, have been proven strong cancer-fighters, reducing the risk of lung, colon, bladder, cervix, breast, and skin cancers. The compounds and their powerful phytonutrients are likewise capable of cutting the risk of heart disease, forestalling cataracts, and preventing macular degeneration, just to name a few!

pumpkin_sign

So as Fall and Winter descend upon our bountiful land here on the Central Coast, I implore you to, instead of heading to a major “industrial grade” supoermarket for a tomato to complete your dinner salad, go instead to one of the many local farmers markets and grab a cooking pumpkin and whip up the following easy-to-do dish. Using a Kabocha squash, chosen for their abundance here on the coast and attributes best suited for the dish, treat you and yours to Vegetarian Curried Pumpkin Stew… So easy to do even this Man can handle it, really!

  • Slowcooker Bowl Size: 4 quarts
  • Time setting: Low Heat (or 8-10 hours)
  • Yields: 8 healthy servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (option: organic chicken broth)
  • 1 Tablespoon grape seed or olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons hot curry
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt (Trying to cut down on salt? Substitute Braggs Liquid Amino Acids)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

Preparation:

  1. Place pumpkin puree in the slow cooker
  2. Pumpkin puree can be made from a whole store-bought or garden-grown pumpkin. Simply wash, cut into large slices, remove seeds, and roast slices at 375-degrees on lubricated cookie sheets until the flesh is fork-tender. Allow to cool slightly. Scoop the warm pumpkin off the shell and into food processor. For this recipe, pumpkin chunks are also acceptable, as the pumpkin cooks down nicely.
  3. Add vegetable or chicken broth.
  4. Warm skilled with grape seed or olive oil and add garlic, cumin, coriander, and curry. Toast lightly to bring out flavor. (Be careful not to over-toast or burn spices; smoke will plume!)
  5. Add garlic and toasted spices to slow cooker
  6. Add the chopped carrot and sliced bell pepper
  7. Add thyme, cloves, pepper, salt (or liquid aminos, a salt substitute)
  8. Set slow cooker as indicated above (on ‘low’ or 8-10 hours)
  9. Garnish each serving with the coarsely chopped roasted peanuts. This dish is filling, extremely healthy, and will be ready to dish up after a long day away from home.

pumpkin_housepumpkin_stewcut_pumpkin

As the year traverses the four seasons so do our bodies. Keep in mind that colder weather means the immune system has to work harder to maintain its strong defenses and sometimes that evil thing call a cold wins the battle with your body and you fall weak, powerless until your inner self resolves to regain strength and move forward once again. Why not hedge against such attacks and fortify those troops to their best potential?

Life is grand, keep it simple

Editors Note: I felt inspired to test out the recipe and I can tell you, it is really delicious!

Stay Playful,

Karen







September is National Yoga Month!Sep. 9th

Hands_Sun_smallYoga Health Foundation administers the National Yoga Month awareness campaign in the month of September to educate people about the health benefits of yoga and inspire people to adopt this healthy lifestyle.

Stealing a page from their Health Benefits, here are some ways you can expect to benefit if you begin a regular (or at least fairly regular!) yoga practice:

Yoga has been researched extensively and is known to have a wide range of health benefits for body, mind, spirit:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Decreased stress
  • Greater flexibility (not just physically!)
  • Enhanced brain function
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Better skeletal alignment
  • Strengthened bones/joints
  • Improved respiration
  • Weight Loss
  • Enhanced circulation
  • Easier transition
    through menopause
  • Deeper peace of mind
  • And many more

You can click through on the link above for more resources on the health issues that can be helped through a yoga practice.

karen

I began my own yoga practice in my early 20s and was very blessed to be in Los Angeles and have access to teachers like Erich Schiffman (http://www.movingintostillness.com/) and Shiva Rae (http://shivarea.com/) who were as much about the lifestyle of yoga as the practice of yoga. My own practice has shifted through the years and although there have been periods where I havent been as active as I would like, I have always maintained a deep and abiding love for yoga and all the good that comes with it.

lily Beach_SunSal-1small

Through Playful Planet and Storyland Yoga I am excited to introduce yoga to kids at an early age in the hope that a fun and engaging experience now will lead to a lifetime love of yoga and healthy lifestyles.

Stay Playful,

Karen

BAck-to-School with Waste Free Lunches!Aug. 17th

A little over a year ago, I saw a piece on the internet about a 16-year-old girl who had made it her mission to have her school become a waste-free lunch site. I was so awed by this and inspired by her vision that I began my own personal journey of waste-free lunches for my daughter who has been in preschool part-time for the past 3 years. (Unfortunately, I cannot find the link, not the story to give credit where credit is due, but if anyone knows who I am talking about, please let me know!)

I am amazed at how my decision to do this actually changed some of my shopping habits. Although I havent completely forsaken single serve items I still buy individual string cheese and fruit leather, for example, but a lot of the individual packaged goods have gone by the wayside. No more juice boxes, no more individual bags of chips or snacks, and no more plastic baggies!! So this is turning out to be good for my wallet as well as good for the earth! For a simple definition of waste-free check Global Stewards.

landfill

Wastefreelunches.org gives this sad news: It has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school. This site also has some great tips on easy to pack, healthy foods.

I just stocked up on some re-usable products for Lily to go off to kindergarten with. We got her a new lunch box from recycled materials and a couple of cool new sandwich skins. I chose to purchase from ReUseIt.com (http://www.reuseit.com/learn-more/buying-guides/5-steps-to-a-waste-free-lunch) where they also give some great tips on going waste-free.

lunchbox1lunchbox2lunchboxlily

I sometimes worry that I push this earth-friendly stance on Lily too much. I wonder, is it too much for a 5-year-old to endure? So I asked Lily if other kids were also doing waste-free lunches and she couldnt think of any in her class. So I asked if she minded having all her stuff packed in reusable containers and she said she was okay with it, and then she added, its good because were not wasting paper.

Well, thats the truth, and if shes OK with it, then so am I!

Stay Playful,

Karen

Mini Zucchini – Tomato FrittatasOct. 27th

Mini Zucchini-Tomato Frittatas

Makes 12 frittatas

-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

-1/2 red onion, diced

-2 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thin

-1 large tomato dice, or 10 grape sized tomatoes quartered

-1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

-1/4 cup chopped basil

-8 large, farmers market organic eggs

-salt and fresh ground white pepper

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saut pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the onion and saut until beginning to soften and brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the zucchini and saut until just tender. Toss in the tomatoes and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Let cool slightly.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 baking cups with muffin papers. Add the crumbled feta and the basil to the cooled zucchini. Whisk up the 8 eggs in a large bowl and fold in the zucchini mixture. Season with a little more salt and pepper.

Divide the frittata mixture up between the 12 muffin cups. Bake in the heated oven until set and slightly brown on top, about 15-20 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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Berries n Cream Steel Cut OatmealOct. 27th

Berries n’ Cream Steel Cut Oatmeal

Serves 2-4

-1 cup organic steel cut oats

-3 cups water

-pinch of salt

-4 cups of berries, fresh or frozen (defrost before hand)

-soy milk, almond milk, cow’s milk, or even real cream (you will need much less if using real cream)

-real maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or brown rice syrup

Place the oats, water, and salt in a 4 quart saucepan and bring up to a simmer. Simmer the oats, stirring often, until quite tender and the oatmeal is very thick, about 20 minutes. Set up a large bowl of the berries, a pitcher or two of chosen milks, and a bowl of chosen sweetener/s. Ladle the very hot oatmeal into each bowl and let everyone garnish their own. Alternatively, add the berries to the oatmeal and stir in while still on the heat to slightly soften the berries. Serve as above. I like to add frozen blueberries and blackberries to the oatmeal while still on the heat, stir in to defrost and soften, stir in strawberries and maple syrup off heat, and then top with a good pouring of fresh, homemade almond milk..

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