Have I mentioned that I’m tired of all the junk food at my daughter’s elementary school? And I am not talking about what they’re serving in the cafeteria. I am talking about the junk food that’s constantly being used for rewards, parties and activities. Here are just a few examples… “Box top” prizes where winning class gets a donut or cupcake decorating party Skittle sort (why not a button sort, which could even be reused the following year?) Cake for the entire class (from the cafeteria) almost every time a student has a birthday School “spirit” events at fast food restaurants and pizza places “Popsicles with the principal” for top fundraising students Celebrating the 100th day of school by stringing 100 fruit loops onto a necklace (cute idea, but I’m confident some healthier alternatives could be just as much fun) But rather than just sitting here complaining about these issues, I thought why not do something about it instead?! As you may know, another mom and I teamed up to offer our school a healthier “nut-free” snack list so now we are doing the same when it comes to student rewards. And I’m finding that there’s no better place to brainstorm for ideas than my facebook page (thank you everyone for your wonderful ideas). So without further ado here’s a long list of student rewards…that aren’t junk food! We plan to submit this list to our school administration and PTA and hope you’ll consider doing the same by downloading the printable version. And as always, please leave any additional ideas in the comments below.
Archives for October 2011
We took our own pledge for 100 days in part to convince others that they could follow our same “real food” rules for only 10 days. We realize not everyone is keen on the idea of going “cold turkey” with the 10 Days of Real Food pledge though, which is why we also developed 14 weeks of mini-pledges. If taking baby steps is more your speed then check out the weekly “real food” challenges detailed below. Earlier this year we finished up these mini-pledges with our readers as a group, but just because we’re no longer taking these pledges together doesn’t mean people can’t do them on their own. If you’re interested in giving it a shot you could start at the beginning or go in your own preferred order. You could also build each week on top of the next or simply tackle one weekly challenge at a time. Our hope is if you take these mini-pledges (or the 10-day pledge) that you’ll gain a new perspective from the experience and make at least some positive long-term changes as a result. No matter what though…these pledges will get you to start reading ingredient labels (if you don’t already)! 14 Weeks of “Real Food” Mini-Pledges Week 1: Two fruits and/or vegetables per meal – Eat a minimum of two different fruits or vegetables (preferably organic) with every breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal. Week 2: “Real” beverages – Beverages will be limited to coffee, tea, water, and milk (only naturally sweetened with a little honey or 100% pure maple syrup). One cup of juice will be allowed throughout the week, and wine (preferably red) will be allowed in moderation (an average of one drink per day).
We originally cut out processed food because we thought it was the right thing to do. What we didn’t expect were all the surprising improvements to our health that followed. It’s hard not to let those positive changes confirm that it was in fact a very good decision to cut out the junk. In case you or someone you know still needs some convincing check out these 10 reasons below for some “food for thought”…. Processed foods are an illusion, often appearing to be healthy (with claims like low fat, low carb, vitamin fortified, no trans fat, contains omega-3s, etc.) when these foods are in fact the very thing making a lot of Americans unhealthy, sick, and fat. Coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer – four of the top ten chronic diseases that kill most of us – “can be traced directly to the industrialization of our food” according to Michael Pollan.
This is one of those recipes that my whole family absolutely loves. Let’s face it…meatballs are a crowd pleaser. My youngest daughter even likes cold leftover meatballs in her lunch on occasion. These would also be good on toothpicks as an appetizer at a party or a tailgate, or you could mix them together with some warm noodles and sauce like the picture. You could also double the recipe and freeze the leftover meatballs (when they are either raw or cooked) for a quick meal on a busy day. No matter what you decide to do I promise you will not be disappointed. This recipe has been one of our family’s favorite “go-to” meals for years!
We actually don’t keep track of any of our food stats whether it’s calories, fat grams, carbs or nutrients. One of the key messages I took away from Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, is that if you eat a variety of whole foods that’s heavy on plants and reasonable in quantity then the rest will just fall into place. After all the subtitle of his book is “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And we agree that this philosophy is a whole lot easier than weighing out 4 ounces of salmon for dinner or writing down how many calories we consumed in a day. Now that’s not to say knowing how nutrients in different foods compare couldn’t be valuable information, which is why I’m sharing the below charts today from the Whole Grains Council. In a recent post about “Understanding Grains” I detailed the difference between some of the most common whole and refined grains, and overall I think most people get the fact that whole-wheat is far more nutritious than refined white flour. But lately quite a few readers have been trying to challenge me when I say brown rice is more nutritious than white rice. So without further ado, below are the exact numbers from the Whole Grains Council that very clearly show you the difference between…
A couple of weeks ago we discussed the fact that meal planning is an important part of sticking to a budget. Not only does meal-planning help you stay on track financially, but I personally think it helps keep things interesting as well. If I actually dedicate a little time to planning out our dinners for the upcoming week there’s a much better chance we’ll have something to look forward to. I know a lot of you out there are expert meal planners (military style!) so please share any tips I left out in the comments below. Scour your fridge, pantry, & freezer so you can make note of ingredients you have on hand that should be used before they spoil. Also, make note of any staples you could incorporate as well (like rice or beans) to reduce your overall grocery purchases. Ask your local farmers market if they have an email list or newsletter so you can be notified of what they expect to offer at the next market. If not, figure out what will be in-season so you can plan meals around those items before you go.
“Jessica” is the winner of $150 in Juice Beauty products! Congrats and check your email. Jessica’s winning comment said: “I would love to try the SPF 30 Mineral Moisturizer – Sheer!” We talk a lot on this blog about what foods we’re putting in our bodies, but readers also want to know what natural products they should be putting on their bodies. Well, here’s your answer…Juice Beauty! Recently featured in both InStyle and Whole Living Magazines, Juice Beauty is the organic solution for healthy, radiant skin and hair. And today they are generous enough to be giving away $150 worth of products to one lucky reader. They are also offering a free Pink Reflecting Gloss to anyone who places an order on juicebeauty.com during the month of October (no minimum purchase). Just use the promo code “THINKPINK” upon checkout to get your free lip-gloss. Thank you Juice Beauty! Giveaway $150 Gift Certificate to http://www.juicebeauty.com/ A little more about Juice Beauty products:
Just in case you aren’t feeling the spirit of autumn yet here’s one more reason to get you in the mood. Every year there’s lots of talk about Starbuck’s famed “Pumpkin Spice Latte,” but why leave the kids out of all the fun? I don’t know about you, but my children have not graduated to lattes quite yet, which is why I came up with this “Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate” drink for them instead. And since it has cocoa in it you can easily add a shot of espresso to turn it into an adult “Pumpkin Spice Mocha” (or Latte) as well…which means there is something for everyone. Enjoy!
Whoever said you “had” to hand out candy on Halloween anyway? Trust me kids will be getting PLENTY of candy this month regardless so it wouldn’t hurt, and it actually might help, if you break up the monotony by doing something a little different. I personally kind of like to be different (let’s just call it “unique”) anyway. And let’s face it…bags of candy aren’t exactly cheap either so some of these alternatives might cost the same or even less for your Halloween night handout. Most of them will last a lot longer, too! Also, a quick thanks to all the wonderful facebook fans who helped me come up with these great ideas! Creative alternatives for trick-or-treaters… Packs of mini play dough containers A mix of inexpensive Halloween-themed toys from a place like Michael’s, Oriental Trading, Target or Wal-Mart (pictured) Miniature bottles of water or all natural juice boxes (love this idea because we are always thirsty when we’re out and about trick-or-treating)
The key to making killer chicken noodle soup is homemade stock. And in case you aren’t aware – it takes a little time to make homemade stock, but it is super easy! There are a few different methods for making chicken stock from scratch. You can use a whole raw chicken, bones from a chicken that has already been eaten, or raw chicken parts that people don’t normally eat (like the back, feet, etc.). I’ve tried just about all of these methods and my favorite stock is hands down made with the bones from the leftover “The Best Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot” recipe. It gives you the darkest, richest stock full of so much flavor that I could just eat/drink it plain. So since you need chicken for this recipe anyway, I highly recommend that you make the whole chicken in the crock pot recipe and eat about half the chicken with one meal the first night. Then make the stock with the leftover bones overnight, and you will be all set to make the soup the next day/evening with your freshly made stock and leftover chicken meat. If you can’t eat all the soup at once then just freeze the leftovers. Trust me – you do not need to be an expert chef to make this plan work, and I guarantee you will NOT be disappointed with the outcome! And hopefully it will convince you to never buy chicken noodle soup out of a can again. :)
This recipe has been a favorite of ours for over a decade. Both of our kids love it too, which is always a bonus, and fall is of course the perfect time of year to cook with winter squash since it’s currently so fresh and readily available (at least here in North Carolina). I am personally trying to get better at using foods when they are in season and preserving them for later in the year, and this soup freezes beautifully so it is worth it to double or triple the recipe. This dish would also be a great starter for all those upcoming holiday dinners. One year my husband and I outdid ourselves by serving this soup in a scooped out acorn squash “bowl.” That was long before kids (and food blogs) when we had a little more time on our hands, but it sure was fun to “wow” our guests back in our adventurous days in the kitchen. No matter what you decide to do with this dish though I assure you that you can’t go wrong because it is delish!