9 Tips for Packing a School Lunch

I’m starting to shed tears thinking about school starting back up again. I’m sending my first born off to kindergarten this year. I cry anytime I think about it, and believe it or not, I’m shedding some tears while writing this post. 

We did everything to prepare for the first day of school: final registration, school physical and immunization, dental visit, eye exam, purchased backpack, school supplies, gym shoes, new school clothes…but then my son comes to me and asks me about his lunchbox. Light bulb! I am going to have to start packing a lunch.  Now don’t get me wrong, he can learn to eat a few school lunches, but I’m still going to be packing quite a few lunches to make sure he is nutritionally sound at lunch.  I have put my dietitian mommy hat on and put together 9 tips to help pack a nutritious school lunch.

I have put my dietitian mommy hat on and put together 9 tips to help pack a nutritious school lunch.

 1) Get your kids involved by asking them about their favorite foods they would like to see in their lunch. I know you may get some off the wall ideas and candy cannot be an entrée, but a treat every once in a while won’t hurt.

2) Have your kids  help you pack their lunch the night before. The more you get them involved, the more likely they will eat the food! Bonus, you have one less item on your morning to-do list.

3) Think of quick, healthy foods like fruit smoothies, whole grain crackers and string cheese. If Here’s a little trick to make smoothies last, make enough smoothies for a couple days –then just drop in ice cubes in the thermos the next morning.

4) Remember the #plategoals (Half the plate is non-starchy vegetables, ¼ is whole grains/fruits/starchy vegetables and ¼ is lean protein). Use this as an opportunity to teach your children about the food groups and fruits and vegetables.  There is no parent fail if you don’t get a veggie in their lunch, however, encourage them to snack on some after school and to include them at dinner.

plategoals

5) Try to include at least 2 colors of plant-based foods at lunch. For example: orange carrots and frozen pineapple tidbits, plum tomatoes and green grapes, black bean dip and frozen mango chunks. Not only does this boost the nutritional quality, but it also makes the meal more colorful and fun!

6) Invest in a fun new lunch box, an ice pack, and some food containers your kids help pick out. I’ve learned that younger kids often times have to see the food through the container to be interested in opening it, so clear lunch food containers may increase the odds of it being opened and eaten. Big on the market are Bento boxes.

7) If you have an extra minute, which I know we don’t usually, try and label a container or two with little post it notes, like “magnificent mango” or “tasty hummus” –it may help the lunchbox come home empty.

8) Offer variety, but remember to keep portion sizes small. Try 5 pieces of sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon, a small turkey and cheese wrap and a small square of black bean brownie with an 8oz carton of milk. With small different options, you are increasing the chances your child will get a balanced meal at lunch.

9) Add fun shapes to the sandwich by using sandwich cutters or even a cookie cutter. Shaping foods make meals more appealing, and doesn’t take much time.

There is no fool proof way to make sure your kids will eat their lunch while at school, but you can at least know you are doing your part for their health. Happy Back to School!!

Megan Klemm

 

 
 

5 Shortcuts to Mealtime

You’ve done your meal planning but the day has still fallen apart, now what are you going to do for dinner? 

You’ve done your meal planning but the day has still fallen apart, now what are you going to do for dinner?

 

Here are 5 Shortcuts to get a meal on the table in no time…

  1. Have fruits and vegetables already prepped and ready to go. Have these fruits/vegetables washed, cut and in individual containers. Put a dry paper towel on top before you put the lid on to help soak up the moisture. Do this on a day that works best for you. For some it may be the weekend and for others it may be a weekday/weeknight.
  1. I have priced cauliflower this time of year and buying the already cut up cauliflower is about break even with a head of cauliflower. My family loves cauliflower and there is so much you can do with it: Fresh, steamed, roasted and mashed. When you have it already cut up you can do any of the above in a short amount of time.  Don’t be afraid to look around in your fresh produce section to find easy time savers to keep on hand.
  1. Keep staples on hand:
  • Buy meats in bulk and freeze in family portion sizes
  • White/sweet potato
  • String cheese
  • Applesauce
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Freeze bread
  • Yogurt
  • Tortillas
  • Cottage cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned fruits & vegetables
  • Low Sodium canned soup
  • Italian dressing (liquid or dry)
  • Canned Beans
  • Whole Wheat Pasta (any kind)
  • 5-10 minute rice
  • Oats
  • Chicken broth (98% fat free)
  • Cream of … (98% fat free)
  • Canned fish/chicken
  • Frozen chicken
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable/Tomato Juice
  1. Keep frozen steamer bags of vegetables in the freezer. I love that they don’t go bad, you can take it out of the freezer and within 5-7 minutes in the microwave you have steamed vegetables. Honestly, this can be quicker than going through the drive through.
  1. Ziploc Zip’n Steam Bags: these are fabulous. You can cook vegetables and protein in them.  You can actually make a whole meal in minutes in them.  I always keep baby carrots on hand, so in a pinch I throw some of the baby carrots in the bag, look at the cooking directions and usually in a few minutes you have a side.  But you can also cook fish/chicken in these fresh or frozen.  FABULOUS!!  Get them in the baggie aisle.

Simple Meals

These are quick and simple meals, with no special ingredients and would primarily be using staple ingredients that you already have on hand. I recommend keeping 5-10 recipes in your ‘back pocket’ for when you need a meal on the table in just a short amount of time.

  1. Thawed chicken with either Italian dressing or BBQ sauce on top and bake
  2. Soups – chicken noodle soup, you can make any canned soup better with your own ingredients added to it
  3. Breakfast for dinner: whole wheat pancakes/waffles, omelets with vegetables,
  4. Salad with all the toppings
  5. Roasted chicken from the store
  6. Quesadilla/tacos/spaghetti
  7. Cubed chicken/canned chicken with cream of chicken soup and frozen veggies, mix together. Top with stove top and bake ~30 min.
  8. 7 can soup (add 7 cans of whatever you want to make a soup), simmer on stove till warm.
  9. I’m a realist mom here – chicken nuggets, fish sticks – ITS WHAT YOU PAIR IT WITH
  10. Always remember the #plategoals to make your meals balanced. Even in a pinch, you can make it happen!

plategoals

 

Megan Klemm

 

Are you stuck in your workout routine?

If you know me, then you know how much I love exercise. My passion for fitness led me to study exercise and metabolism in college. Obtaining a degree in Exercise Science and earning 3 different fitness certifications allowed me to share this passion with others and provide guidance for leading healthier, more-fit lifestyles. Over the past 12 years, I have learned a lot about the body, metabolism and fitness capacities through research, practice and personal experience. During that time I have learned what works and what works better.

are you stuck in your workout routine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First and foremost, you should always start with an activity that you love. This is especially true for those who are just starting out on their fitness journey. The most basic principle to remember about exercise is that your body was designed to move and any form of physical activity accomplishes that objective. Nature never intended for us to sit for 8 hours a day at work, drive umpteen hours during the week and engage in sedentary activities such as watching TV and playing on our smartphone devices. Do what you love and be happy, because if you’re not, it’s highly unlikely that you will stick to your exercise routine. This recommendation is for general health, not necessarily for those wanting to push their fitness to the next level.

nature

That being said, some forms of exercise may not be best-matched for our fitness or physique goals. All throughout college and even into my mid-20s, I was a cardio junkie. Because nothing burns a ton of calories like a good hour of sweat, right?  Sure, I would strength train and teach a variety of classes, but my workouts were still dominated by long, aggressive cardio sessions. To the untrained eye, I appeared “healthy” but looking back, old photos of me reveal I had skinny, cardio-arms and a cortisol-provoked pooch. Overdoing it on cardio workouts left my body chronically inflamed and extremely sensitive to changes in my normal routine.  I would gain weight very easily which would in turn drive me to add extra workouts to burn off more calories. This cycle repeated itself over and over and over.

cardio

 

 

 

 

 

I began journaling my workouts and recorded how I felt after using different training methods. Surprisingly, I would always feel the best after a good weight lifting session, but it would still be years before I made strength-training my primary form of exercise. It’s easy to think that the longer your workouts, the healthier you’ll be.

In 2013, I finally entered the world of Crossfit, fell in love with it and we’ve been happily married ever since. Crossfit is a strength and conditioning program that focuses on functional movements such as weight lifting, running and rowing that are performed at various levels of load and intensity. It can be applied to individuals of all ages and fitness levels. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, when I started Crossfit I merely wanted the aesthetic benefits of it.  My goals were purely extrinsic, like they had always been with exercise. As I became more immersed in the Crossfit culture, something unexpected happened. I found myself surrounded by a group of people who all shared the same passion for hard work as I did and these people are now my fit family. A Crossfit gym is unlike any other gym you will ever experience. It separates itself by the presence of spirit and camaraderie. As I continued with my training in this new environment, my goals became more fitness-oriented and less and less about my looks.

Today, I am constantly striving towards a new challenge and to make myself a better and smarter athlete than the day before. What’s crazy is that when I finally let go of the whole “gotta look good” concept of exercise, my body naturally transformed on its own. My metabolism has never been healthier. I eat twice as much as what I used to, have excellent energy levels, more positive moods and have never felt more beautiful and confident in my body. I also learned that my rest days are just as valuable as my training days. It all happened when I traded in the treadmill for a barbell.

treadmill

Many would agree that Crossfit has a “less is more” approach to fitness. Some days, all I do for a workout is perform 5×5 back squats. The old Amanda would think, “That is hardly a workout” while the new Amanda says, “I can’t wait to see what my body can do today”!

I know what you’re thinking. Can you get injured doing Crossift? Sure can. You know what else you can get injured doing? Zumba, running or picking a toy off the ground. Crossfit is not injury-prone, people are. When skillfully guided by a certified trainer, Crossfit can be a safe, effective and motivating way to train the body and metabolism.

This whole concept of high intensity interval training has caught on like wildfire in the research world. What was once considered a form of training for the elite athlete is now being applied to our clinical population. Numerous studies have shown that not only is HIIT safe for the clinical population, it has shown to have greater benefits in both cardiorespiratory fitness and physiological parameters (weight, BMI, blood sugar and insulin control, blood pressure to name a few) when compared to older standards of recommended exercises such as moderate-intense cardio prescriptions. This further strengthens the need for health practitioners to be not only educated but exposed to alternative forms of exercise that includes strength and interval training.

So, if you feel like you are stuck in your exercise routine, hopefully this article will help generate the idea of pursuing alternative fitness goals. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable. For me, Crossfit served as a gateway to deeper wellness: teaching me to nourish my body better with whole food ingredients, rest, and recover properly. And I now surround myself with people that make me a better person, both inside and outside of the gym. The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do. It’s a very simple formula. Love. Laugh. Lift.

Amanda Figge

Meal Planning 1-2-3

Meal planning was a hard concept for me to start doing. I honestly never really meal planned until I had kids, because let’s face it, it didn’t matter if dinner was an hour late. The kids need to be fed by 6:00pm so there is time for bath, jammies, books, prayers and bed by 7:30pm.

Most nights we don’t even get home till 5:30-5:45pm so meal planning is most certainly part of my vocabulary. Additionally, when I heard the following statistic it changed my thought process for planning meals, “60% of Americans don’t know what they are having for dinner by 4:00pm, and 66% of Americans are overweight”.

With a little preparation, planning your meals in advance can help you save time and money at the grocery store or from dashing through the drive-thru at lunch or dinner. Developing a meal plan can also help you eat a more nutritious, well-balanced diet that includes nutrient-rich foods from each of the food groups. You may find that you can better manage your weight and health if you plan and prepare meals at home more often. 

plategoals

Meal Planning 1-2-3

  1. Use the #plategoals image above as a guide.
    •Start with the main dish/protein and work from there.
    •Sometimes this main dish may already include a starch.
              •When I say starch, I’m thinking grain, bread, fruit or starchy vegetable.
    •Think about the color choices of your meal and try and color the plate.
  2. Start by planning 3 meals per week.
    •You can always slowly work your way up to more, but even planning 1 meal a week is better than not planning at all.
    •Print of our free Weekly Meal Plan template here!
  3. Spend no more that 1-2 hours total prepping and cooking these meals.

Here are a couple more tips for meal planning:

  • Don’t be afraid to get the family involved with the meal planning, especially the kids!
  • Try to avoid selecting different recipes that don’t fit together or else you’ll be buying a lot of different ingredients. Select one, look at the ingredient list and let that help you select recipe #2, and so on.
  • Save yourself some time and write your grocery list while you figure out your meals–and don’t forget to jot down quantities for each ingredient. Before you head to the store, take a quick inventory of what you have on hand and cross off the ingredients you don’t need to purchase.
  • By portioning your plate like the picture, you are getting in the food groups you need, but also portioning your plate correctly. This will help to fill you up without all the calories. Also, this almost guarantees for leftovers!

Megan Klemm

Can I eat seafood when I’m pregnant?

I was recently meeting with a patient to discuss nutrition recommendations for Gestational Diabetes. In talking to the patient about her dietary habits, she revealed that she loves fish and seafood but has been avoiding these during her pregnancy because she didn’t think they were safe. Although I was seeing her for gestational diabetes, I quickly switched my topic of education to food safety during pregnancy. The truth is, there are a lot of benefits to eating fish while pregnant! As with many other nutrition topics, I think the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of pregnancy lead to a lot of confusion and many women cut out foods unnecessarily. Not all fish is safe during pregnancy, but there are plenty that can be safely consumed and provide critical nutrients to mom and baby!

I think the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of pregnancy lead to a lot of confusion and many women cut out foods unnecessarily.

YES! Tilapia, Cod, Salmon, Crab, Shrimp, Canned Light Tuna, Pollock and/or Catfish

8-12 oz. per week of Tilapia, Cod, Salmon, Crab, Shrimp, Canned Light Tuna, Pollock and/or Catfish can be safely eaten during pregnancy. Albacore or White Tuna is a little different than Canned Light Tuna, and 6 oz. weekly of this type of fish has been proven safe. Fish is packed with protein and iron, which are both needed in larger amounts during pregnancy. Oily fish like Salmon is dense in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is linked to brain growth and development for baby.

NO! Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, Tilefish and Raw Fish

Fish to AVOID include: Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, Tilefish and Raw Fish (sushi, ceviche, etc.).These types should be avoided due to the levels of Methyl Mercury that they can contain. Methyl Mercury has been linked to brain and kidney damage in the fetus.

With healthy eating in general, I recommend using the “Diabetes Plate Method” at meals to obtain nutrients from all food groups. While pregnant, swap chickenfood plate or beef with Salmon or Canned Light Tuna as a protein source twice per week to gain vital nutrients for you and baby!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alana Scopel

 

Do you have an anxiety disorder?

Everyone gets nervous, anxious or worried from time to time by things like public speaking, major life changes, financial issues, and difficulties with work or home life. For some people, these worries become so bothersome and intrusive that they can take over their lives.

So how do you know if your worries have crossed the line into an anxiety disorder? The distinction between what is normal anxiety and what constitutes a diagnosis isn't always clear.

So how do you know if your worries have crossed the line into an anxiety disorder? The distinction between what is normal anxiety and what constitutes a diagnosis isn’t always clear. Take a look at 9 common symptoms below. If you experience any of them on a regular basis, it may be worth having a conversation with you primary care physician or make an appointment with someone you can speak to.

  1. Excessive Worry
    Worrying too much about everyday things, both large and small.
  2. Sleep Problems
    Trouble getting and/or staying asleep. Chronically lying awake with racing thoughts about something specific or nothing at all.
  3. Irrational Fears
    Fear becomes overwhelming, disruptive, and/or disproportionate to the actual threat.
  4. Muscle Tension
    Clenching your jaw, balling up your fists, constant tension in neck and shoulders.
  5. Digestive Issues
    Stomachaches, cramping, gas, constipation and/or diarrhea.
  6. Self-Consciousness
    Feeling as if all eyes are on you, difficulties eating/drinking around others.
  7. Panic
    Experiencing sudden feelings of helplessness, pounding heart, sweating, difficulty breathing, tingling or numbness in hands, feelings of being choked.
  8. Perfectionism
    Constantly judging yourself, worrying about making mistakes or falling short of expectations or standards.
  9. Self-Doubt
    Constantly second guessing oneself, problems making decisions asking “What if?”.

Mercedes L. Kent, LCSW