A More Sustainable Lunches Continues… the HORROR of ziplock bagsOct. 15th

ziplocksI have a confession to make: I use ziplock bags, a lot of them. Before my son started kindergarten, it would take at least 6 months to go through the box of ziplock bags, but suddenly, with packing school lunches for a picky eater, I have been going through 1 box every month. I hate to think that I’m contributing to the giant trash gyre of the pacific, or to my family’s exposure to endocrine disruptors released by plastics. Plastic, a ubiquitous part of modern life, is very hard to eliminate from the household. I remember one playdate I went to where the house was pretty much plastic free. I was so envious of the amount of jars and pretty ceramic containers that they had. So, I’ve tried to start, with one container at a time, one less processed food at a time. After all, my cupboard used to be full of Teflon non-stick pans  and one by one I replaced them with safer (and more expensive) options. One step at a time, I CAN do this!! I’m not much of a seamstress, so luckily there’s Etsy with lots of options for hand-made reusable bags.handmade bags When choosing fabrics, you want to look for BPA and phthalate free material as the liner, as some are made with cheaper PVC plastic that is not safe for packaging food. When I googled “do it yourself sandwich bags”, the first link was to a better homes and garden article which says to use the PVC fabric because it is easier to sew than ripstop nylon. If you are handier at sewing than I am, you can look at do it yourself materials on the internet like this. Your kids will enjoy picking their own fabrics and you can teach them how to sew with this really easy first project. You can even sell them for your PTA fundraiser instead of candy or other junk food popularly used as fundraiser fare. So, who’s with me in dumping plastic ziplock bags?

Guest Blogger: Rebecca Wolthers, parent educator and aspiring green mom

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!

The Wise Ways of Water!Jun. 7th

The latest Simple as ABC post is all about water wisdom. Oh, how I love water! I really didn’t appreciate water in my twenties. But in my thirties and now, I have come to cherish

it.  I think as I get older I learn more and what I have learned for one, is that water is the best drink I could have! It replenishes, and satisfies my thirst.

It’s a source of relaxation. Love to be in the water and feel free. A great source of recreation for us humans and a source of living and habitat for animals…something we often overlook!

It’s a precious resource, that we, as stewards of the world, must protect and make sure it’s continued access is maintained and available. We take that for granted here in the states. At least I know I have. But there are many places in the world that do not have water at the turn of a faucet. Think about that. Once again, Playful Planet has me conscience of the world and what I can do to keep it safe and in harmony! Thanks for the Wisdom!

4 Back-to-School Sustainable Lunch Box AlternativesSep. 23rd

4 Back-to-School Sustainable Lunch Box Alternatives

With Labor Day past us, school for everyone should now be in session. While you may like to pack your child’s lunch every day so that he or she has access to healthier and greener food items (not to mention it’s more budget-friendly) the container you place your child’s lunch in can be as equally as important as what you actually packespecially in terms of the environment. To paint a better picture for you, according to statistics more than 20 million sandwich baggies are sent to the landfill every yearand if you weren’t aware it takes a 1,000 plus years for plastic to degrade. And using small brown paper bags are an automatic no-no for obvious reasons: the killing of trees. Even some “reusable” lunch kits can be just as bad some of the ones made from plastic can actually jeopardize your child’s health. Thankfully there are some eco-friendly alternatives you can look into to make sure your child and the environment are properly protected. To check out the top 4 choices, continue reading below.

Disclaimer: We have no affiliation with the products listed below and were not given samples. The products were recommended through word-of-mouth and were tested for efficiency/reliability.

Lunch Skins by 3 Green Moms

1. Lunch Skins by 3GreenMoms. These ultra-chic and colorful bags made of “a thick cotton fabric” and “coated with a food safe-polyurethane” are the ultimate solution for toxic plastic zipper and folding baggies. With three sizes available, they’re perfect for any snack, traditionally sized-sandwich, or sub sandwich. All you need to do is wash them after each use (they’re dishwasher safe) and you’re all set. Baggies are durable enough to withstand 1,000 washes. Price: $7.85 to $10.95

Kids Healthy Lunch Kit by Fit and Fresh

2. Kids Healthy Lunch Kit by Fit and Fresh. This eco-friendly 13-piece “kit” includes all the essentials your child needs to pack everything from soups, salads, fruits, dips and yes of course sandwichesthe best part? They’re BPA free and meet FDA regulations for food-grade plastic. Price: $16.99

Planet Box

3. Planet Box. Not only is this nifty lunch box a safer alternative to plastic lunch boxes (it’s BPA free and is made of 400 series food grade non-toxic stainless steel) but it also serves as a major organizational tool. It looks like your typical lunch box from the outside, but in the inside it has convenient containers engraved in the tray. It almost looks like a bento box, which leads us to our last option

Price: $34.95-$59.95

Bento Lunch Boxes by Lap Top Lunches4. Bento Lunch Boxes by Lap Top Lunches. Originally Bento boxes are of Japanese origin, but these bento boxes are made in the U.S. Like the other lunch boxes that made the list, these line of bento boxes are contain no lead, are BPA free, contain no phthalates and are made of recycled materials and as a bonus they can in-turn be recycled too. The separate containers come out for easy cleaning and the actually lunch boxes themselves come in an array of colors and designs. Price: $24.99

Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com.

A Breath of Fresh AirJul. 18th

cl

One of the main motivations for me to start Playful Planet was the self-knowledge that, while I have every good intention of being a good role model for my child, I KNOW that there is so much more I could be doing on a daily basis to impact our world.

This is not to get down on myself Ive gotten past self-flagellation as sport. I simply recognize that life is complex. There is a constant stream of information coming into my life providing me with suggestions of how I can be greener, eat more healthily, be a more conscious citizen on the planet. Its all well and good, AND it can be a little overwhelming.

This is why I decided that Playful Planet was a perfect thing for me to focus my attention on. NOT because I am the perfect role model, oh no. But exactly because I am the perfect target market for the mission we have established empower kids and their families to be healthy and live sustainably. A grand mission to be sure. But one that we have decided can be approached with simplicity, accessibility, and yes, even fun.

sophia_bounceWhat I didnt know as I got onto this path was all the amazing information, organizations and groups that I would be introduced to along the way. I was recently led to the Moms Clean Air Force which I am now allied with because of the great work they are doing with a very specific goal: defending clean air and our kids health! Now that is something I can get behind!

Moms Clean Air Force is a group of powerhouse bloggers and writers who are committed to the preserving the Clean Air Act and a new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency. This new rule is in the part of the process where it is open to public comments the time when opponents (think big industry) will work to water down the standards.

What I have learned from the little I have learned through Moms Clean Air Force is that my voice can be heard. By taking the simple action of Joining the Force I am speaking up for my childs rights (and all childrens rights) to CLEAN AIR. Doesnt seem too much to ask for, right?

I like how focuselily_bounced Moms Clean Air Force is and how much great information is packed into digestable bites. For example, did you know, the Clean Air Act was signed into law in 1970 by Richard Nixon? And, that this Act delivers $30 in measureable health and economic benefits for every $1 invested? You can learn more here.

I am so grateful for organizations like MCAF that help me realize my goal to be involved in creating a better future in a way that is so very manageable for my busy lifestyle.

Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the DreamJun. 15th

On my 4-hour drive home last weekend, I spoke to a friend and told her how I spent my birthday. Sitting in a 4-hour symposium called Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream. She was surprised or maybe it was more baffled. Why would anyone choose to spend a weekend afternoon (especially their birthday!,) listening to what is happening on the planet these days?

I have many reasons why this was the choice I made to celebrate another 365 day journey around the sun. I give you a few of those reasons on this list.

1. I am concerned for future generations on this planet. Am I concerned for the planet itself? Yes — sort of. But I tend to agree with George Carlin The planet is fine. Been here four and a half billion years. The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. I am more concerned with the people and the species that are inhabiting the planet. What will it be like for them if we continue to live as if the resources being used now are renewable?

2. I need to be reminded about Where We Are (the first section of the Symposium,) so it can help inform my day-to-day decisions in my life. Does my daughter need another Zhou-Zhou pet? No. Will she get one because she asked for that as a present to commemorate her graduation from kindergarten? Yes. But I get to be reminded that when that new Zhou-Zhou pet comes in, we can use that as stepping off point to go through old toys, find new homes for them, share with kids less fortunate, etc.

3. I am inspired by co-founder Lynne Twist ever since I was lucky enough to hear her give a keynote at the Natural Products Expo West in March. Lynne and her husband, Bill, founded the Pachamama Alliance and I am moved by the grace, humility and power that they lend to the dual mission. They are not only dedicated to empowering the indigenous people of the rainforest to preserve their land and culture, but also to educate and inspire individuals everywhere to bring forth a thriving, just and sustainable world. Simply Beautiful.

4. This particular weekend fit into my schedule, and as a mom, wife, homemaker and co-founder of Playful Planet, finding A DAY that actually fits my schedule is easier said than done. So I did it.

Did I get upset and cry a during the Awakening portion? Yes. Did I leave feeling inspired? Yes! Would I make the same choice over again? Absolutely!

My hope is that another person ( or maybe even a couple of people) read this and feel inspired to do the same. Find A DAY that works for you in a town near you and go be upset. And be inspired. (Symposiums are led by volunteer facilitators across the country and the world.)

100519327_100Watch a short video here.

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







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