A healthy twist on a cool classic.
Welcome to our little Monster’s Blog quest to make the lunchboxes of American children healthier! Last post we gave you the basics of a healthy lunchbox based on the recommendations of nutritionists at My Body, LLC. Today, we give you an example of how to put those basics into action. Every kid loves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white with no crust, right? I figured this would be a tough one to make healthier. All that sugar, all that fat. But there are ways you can alter this classic lunch to one that is more health savvy.
PB and J lunchbox the original way.
- PB&J Sandwich – peanut butter, jelly and white bread no crust
- Carrot sticks with ranch dip
- Potato chips
- Mini chocolate chip cookie snack pack
- Fruit punch juice box
PB and J lunchbox the healthy way.
- PB&J Sandwich – All Natural peanut butter, Low Sugar jelly or sliced bananas and Whole Wheat bread with crust
- Carrot sticks
- String cheese (part-skim)
- 2 cookies or ginger snaps
- 100% apple or grape juice
Pretty simple, huh? The All Natural peanut butter and low sugar jelly may sound difficult to find, but the national brand Smuckers actually makes both. No health food store required!
Making friends by making kids healthier.
I love running into organizations that do what we love to do…help families live healthier lives. My Body, LLC is a group out in the New York / New Jersey area that provides individuals, fitness centers, and health care professionals with nutrition counselors. These aren’t just any old nutrition counselors though. They have backgrounds in holistic medicine, personal training, massage therapy, and physical rehabilitation. Oh, and nutrition of course. Some of their services require a membership, but they do have a great website that is full of helpful information for kids and parents (complete with a link to our health game Food Fury). The site also features a nutritional recipe center which can be accessed by all free of charge. We’re all about free health information! One section that caught my eye in particular was their “Build a Better Lunchbox Program” which I received permission to share with you on Monster’s Blog. Exciting!
Starting your own brown bag special.
The nutritionists at My Body, LLC recommend that children take a packed lunch to school rather than eating at the cafeteria. What’s so great about packing your child’s lunch, you ask? Several things:
- You will know what your child is consuming during the school day. Many school cafeterias offer healthy options alongside several unhealthy options. Know what your child is eating during the school day by packing it yourself.
- Packing a lunch can be more economical for the family. Every penny counts these days!
- Packing a lunch is an easy way to include your child in making their own nutrition decisions. Demanding they eat a tofu sandwich or order the salad at school isn’t the way to go. Work together to come up with something that’s nutritious and delicious.
But how does a parent that is accustomed to giving their child lunch money as they run out the door even start to pack a healthy lunchbox? Don’t feel like you have to start out with a trendy bento lunchbox like the experts. Start with the basics. The basic instructions for making a healthy lunch are fairly simple:
- Lunch should be designed to get your child through the rest of his or her day. Make sure there is enough nutrients in there for sustained energy. Balance your lunchbox with a main entree, vegetable, fruit, healthy snack, and drink.
- Invest in a good thermos and tupperware. Variety is key, and adding a hot or cold dish is an easy way to keep things interesting.
- Involve your kids during lunch preparation. Go grocery shopping together. Think of creative, healthy lunch options together. The goal is not to put healthy things in the lunchbox that you child will try to trade away or worse yet, throw away.
Stay tuned to Monster’s Blog for specific examples of tasty, healthy lunchboxes that are easy to prepare and full of nutrients. In the meantime, try your luck at our most popular Playnormous Health Game that’s all about lunch, Lunch Crunch!
Shop ’til you drop.
Our Teacher Rewards Program did so well that we had to start up a little store on Cafe Press called the Playnormous Monster Gear Store. We’re now offering Playnormous products to the public from pet bowls to mommy hoodies. Here are some of the exciting things you will see at the store:
…and so much more! Visit our Monster Gear Store today, and feel free to suggest additional products you’d like at the store. Happy shopping!
A Monster’s Blog tradition.
Since the inception of our Playnormous Health Games blog, Monster’s Blog, I have listed the worst foods of the year. Ok, ok, we’ve only been around for 13 months so there are only two posts, but I hope to continue that trend. One of my first posts was the Worst Foods in America (2008) and a few weeks ago, The Worst Foods of 2009. Congratulations to Baskin Robbins Large Chocolate Oreo Shake for winning this year’s prize! To compliment that post, I would like to present The Best Foods of 2009, brought to you by The New York Times list of most-viewed stories. These are the foods we all should be eating.
The family-friendly winners.
I have to admit, many of the healthy foods on their list I don’t care for. There were 11 total, but I decided to shorten the list to seven, ones I consider to be “family-friendly.” I suspect that most parents couldn’t see their child eating a can of sardines or swiss chard sauted in olive oil. If you can, kudos to you! But for all you that are less courageous, try some of these winners.
- Frozen blueberries
- What’s so great about ‘em – Found to be associated with better memory and they’re available year-round!
- How to eat ‘em – Toss on a favorite breakfast cereal with almonds or blend with yogurt.
- What’s so great about it – Contains cancer-fighting enzyme sulforaphane.
- How to serve it – A crunchy alternative to lettuce on a burger or as an Asian-style slaw.
- What’s so great about it – May help control cholesterol levels and blood sugar.
- How to serve it – Sprinkle some on oatmeal or frozen yogurt.
- Pomegranate juice
- What’s so great about it – Full of antioxidants and can lower blood pressure.
- How to serve it – Just open, pour, and drink!
- Pumpkin seeds
- What’s so great about ‘em – Did you know that this is actually the most nutritious part of the pumpkin? Full of magnesium which is associated with lower risk for early death.
- How to ‘em – Roast them with a pinch of salt for a traditional fall treat. Also great on salads.
- Canned pumpkin:
- What’s so great about it – A low-calorie veggie that’s high in vitamin A for the immune system and fiber for overall health. A great way to fill up on very few calories.
- How to serve it – There’s always the pumpkin pie route, but for a filling low-cal dessert, try mixing with a little butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- What’s so great about ‘em – A potential cancer fighter with natural red pigments and folate.
- How to serve ‘em – This may be a stretch for some, but try them freshly grated on a salad. They may surprise you. Remember, don’t heat beats because that decreases their antioxidant power.
Would you like fries, I mean, carrots with that?
Obesity always seems to be in the news. The latest stats, the latest diets, the latest work-out crazes. But have we really addressed this issue, especially when it comes to childhood obesity? An article by my favorite health editor, Tara Parker-Pope interviewed the Director of the Rutgers University Nutritional Sciences Preschool on parenting and childhood eating habits. Why do kids want a side of fries versus broccoli with cheese? Parents, perhaps it’s time to look inward and evaluate how you approach nutrition with your child.
The six step program.
So how does a parent become a better host of nutritious foods? Lock up the sweets and hide the carrots in the mac and cheese? Not really. Veggie stealth isn’t the way to go. Experts have six tips for parents, some obvious, and some an eye-opener.
- Get your child involved in meal preparation. Allow your child into the kitchen to see how food is prepared. Take a cooking class together. One study with 600 K-6th grade children found that kids who took a nutritional cooking class were more likely to ask for second helpings of veggies than those just learning about nutrition the conventional way. Cool.
- Don’t force-feed the good stuff, even just one bite. Studies show that pressuring children to “just take one bite” or “just try it” backfires faster than you can say Johnny-eat-your-vegetables. Forget “eat your Brussel sprouts or no dessert.” and “You can play video games if you try your beet salad.” Encourage your child to try the colorful tidbit, but don’t give praise or scold depending on their reaction. Play it cool.
- Don’t lock up the junk food. A good way to cause unhealthy snack binging is to restrict specific foods. One study found that restricting cookies in a jar from children more than tripled cookie consumption versus when cookies are placed freely on plates. If you don’t want your kids to eat it, don’t bring it into the house. Period.
- Don’t diet in front of your children. This is a tough one, especially this time of year. Researchers have found that daughters of dieters are more likely to try diets as well. Stop the dieting cycle by introducing balanced, portioned meals for all.
- Serve vegetables, super-fun style. Don’t just steam ‘em, dress them up. Make vegetables exciting with seasonings and trying new recipes that incorporate vegetables. This is much easier than hoping a child will eat a whole pile of cooked cabbage.
- Don’t give up. Studies show it can take up to 15 times before a child accepts a new food. That’s a lot of trying. So don’t give up! Keep serving the healthy stuff and keep trying!
These are only some of many tips that are probably out there. Feel free to send yours!