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Steps to Making Healthy Lunches

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child-packed-lunchNow that summer vacation is coming to a close and the kiddos are headed back to school, it’s time to start preparations. Many have already done the school shopping, picked out their first-day outfits, and packed their backpacks with new supplies, but haven’t thought about those pesky little lunches that need to be packed. A healthy lunch provides sound nutrition to give students energy to do well in school and for the rest of the day. Healthy lunches are not just for kids, so these tips can be applied to all packed lunches, including the ones you take to work.

Here are some tips to take that lunch from blah to healthy in no time!

Reusable Containers Make Packing Lunches a Snap

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Use containers that have separated sections, like Bento boxes. The separate sections allow for more healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and dips, with less waste from packaging. The box’s sections also allow for portion control, so you get to decide how much of each food is included.

Offer Nutrient Dense Foods

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Provide a selection of foods such as lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, that will give children needed nutrients. An added benefit of nutrient-dense food is that it makes you feel fuller longer.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

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Switching from white bread to whole grain bread and opting for low-fat dairy products and organics can make a world of difference without noticeably changing the tastes of favorite foods. Also be sure to visit your local farmer’s market to buy locally grown produce!

Remember, Beverages Count, Too

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Giving children a healthy lunch, then packing a sugar-filled, high-calorie drink eliminates the efforts of the healthy lunch. Water is the best option for a healthy drink. Make the water more fun by picking a fun, reusable water bottle. (You can always pack a small low-fat milk or real fruit juice to add variety.)

Let Kids Choose Some of Their Food

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Allow your kids to pick some of the healthy foods they will be eating. Giving children the option will make them more likely to enjoy their lunches.

Enjoy those healthy lunches!

Plan A Picnic

 

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Memorial Day Weekend is the perfect occasion to pack a picnic and head outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather. First you have to decide what dishes to bring. Typical picnic foods can include hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and cookies, which are not the healthiest choices (though they may be delicious). If you’re looking for better options, here are 10 healthy finger-food ideas for your next picnic outing!

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1. Edamame

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2. Ants on a Log (celery with peanut butter and raisins)

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3. Grilled Vegetables (zucchini, squash, mushrooms, etc.)

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4. Pita Chips with Hummus

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5. Homemade Trail Mix (dried fruits and nuts)

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6. Turkey Sandwiches with low-fat ingredients (whole-grain bread, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and low-fat cheese)

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7. Shrimp and Lemon Skewers

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8. Yogurt

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9. Fruit Salad

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10. Angel Food Cake (low in calories) with fresh fruit and fat-free whipped cream

Now that your basket is packed with delicious foods, it’s time to head out and enjoy the beauty of nature!

 

Spring is in the Air…

Spring is finally here! After an unusually bizarre winter with the “polar vortex” swirling around the east and the dry skies in the west, we’re all ready to enjoy the pleasures of springtime. The sun is shining, maybe a little rain is still falling, but warm weather is here, hopefully to stay!

 

Here is a list of 10 things to do, get outside… enjoy the weather and your family and friends.

1. Read outside on a blanket in the sun

2. Go fishing with your buddies

images-13. Do some spring cleaning to fun music

4. Make these beautiful spring centerpieces, using simple glass jars and lemons for a touch of color!

20893414909de221e35e3b2d0ff7b1fa-15. Fly a kite on the beach

6. Plan a “staycation” with these cool ideas

7. Take pictures of wildflowers

5847087633_598af01050_z-18. Make this delicious “dirt cake”:

6309663259aac1a07cbdb3f4d3e9cf879. Walk barefoot on cool grass

10. Make a fairy garden like this one!

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Comfort Food with a Healthy Twist

Since Phil the groundhog saw his shadow this year on Groundhog Day, I am pulling out a favorite dish to celebrate this extra-long winter. Found on Pinch of Yum is a recipe with a twist on the traditional broccoli and chicken casserole, with extra protein from bacon and quinoa!

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CREAMY CHICKEN QUINOA AND BROCCOLI CASSEROLE

Author: Pinch of Yum

Serves: 6

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups reduced sodium organic chicken broth
  • 1 cup organic milk
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • ¼ cup cooked, crumbled bacon
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons seasoning (like Emeril’s Essence)
  • ¼ cup shredded Gruyere cheese (any kind will work)
  • 3 cups fresh organic broccoli florets

INSTRUCTIONS

1.Sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and generously grease a 9×13 baking dish (seriously, be generous because it really really sticks to the sides). Bring the chicken broth and ½ cup milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Whisk the other ½ cup milk with the poultry seasoning and flour; add the mixture to the boiling liquid and whisk until a smooth creamy sauce forms.

2.Assembly: In a large bowl, mix the sauce from step one, one cup water, quinoa, and bacon and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips and lay the chicken breast strips over the top of the quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

3.Broccoli: While the casserole is in the oven, place the broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute until it turns bright green and then run under cold water. Set aside.

4.Bake: Remove the casserole from the oven, check the mixture by stirring it around in the pan, and if needed, cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. When the quinoa and chicken are cooked, add the broccoli and a little bit of water (up to one cup) until the consistency is creamy and smooth and you can stir it up easily in the pan. Top with the cheese and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or just long enough to melt the cheese.

NOTES

You will know the quinoa is done when it is soft and looks as if it has popped open, with the germ of the kernel visible as a little spiral. If you want the chicken to get that browned exterior, leave the foil off for part of the cooking time, but be aware that the quinoa does take a lot longer to cook without the foil.

For the full recipe and many other delicious recipes check out Pinch of Yums website here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wishing everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

A Salty Halloween Snack

Halloween is fast approaching and I am getting my house ready for trick-or-treaters. My simple Sea Salt Seeds are the perfect treat to enjoy while carving Jack-o-lanterns. Make them yourself using the seeds from carving pumpkins.

 Carved Pumpkins

Sea Salt Seeds

1. Cut the top off your pumpkin and scoop out the insides. Clean all the pumpkin goop off the seeds and rinse them well in warm water.

2. Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt, and place seeds in boiling water for 10 minutes. This will help soften the seeds and make them easier to digest. Also, the steam inside the seeds will cook them more thoroughly.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. After boiling the seeds in water, place them in a colander, then gently pat dry with a paper towel (they don’t have to be completely dry, but shouldn’t contain too much excess water).

4. Place the seeds on a baking dish with olive oil and sea salt to taste. (Use 1 tbsp per cup of pumpkin seeds).

5. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Stir seeds on baking dish and cook for another 8 minutes.

6. Take out of the oven and enjoy!

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For some great variations, during step 4, replace the olive oil and salt with: 1. Cinnamon, sugar and butter

2. Fresh garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

3. Ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg (for pumpkin-pie-spiced pumpkin seeds, mix with a little bit of butter)

4. Seasoning salt and olive oil

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