Project Lunchbox is GROWING!!!

Over the past few years, you may have noticed that school food service programs have been able to focus more on offering healthier alternatives.   This is so exciting to me since PROJECT LUNCHBOX:  LET’S EAT! is all about providing upper elementary school students with the knowledge to explore these types of food choices while further developing their palates.

One of the “wishes” I had when creating this project was to work with my local school food services department to determine if some of my recipes could be served in the cafeteria, and I am VERY HAPPY to report that my wish is coming true!  A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting with the Director of Nutrition Services for that school.  The Director was very supportive of my ideas, and I am thrilled to announce that the cafeteria will serve Project Lunchbox’s Homemade Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette NEXT WEEK!

I am definitely beyond excited that my project is able to be a part of all the positive change that is occurring in school food service programs.  I’m counting down the days to next week and am hoping that this may be the first of more Project Lunchbox recipes served in the cafeteria!

Thanks for reading…I couldn’t think of a better group of people to share this fabulous news with.

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

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The Dog Days of Winter

I envision three things in the not too distant future: First, my local  farmer’s market, offering an abundance of organic produce to its customers.  Next, my family’s vegetable garden, with the tomatoes at their peak of ripeness and the soil rich in nutrients.  Finally, I see daffodils just barely peaking out of the ground, one of the most lovely harbingers of spring.  All of this and so much more is just a season away!  We’re so close, yet so far…sigh.  So, as we endure ever frequent snow storms this winter, I’m sure that we’ve all been suffering from the limited availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Only good old Mother Nature will decide when to  turn the clock to spring, but in the meantime, I offer both ordinary and inexpensive frozen produce to sustain you and your families as we journey through winter.

Nutritionally, it has been confirmed that there is no difference between fresh fruit and veggies and the frozen kind sold at the supermarket.  The innovative idea of freezing certain produce originated in the 1920’s, when inventor Clarence Birdseye created a method for flash-freezing.  With Birdseye’s technique, food manufacturers have preserved certain fruits and vegetables, which make them much more readily available to consumers all year long.  Luckily, the flash-freezing process retains the vitamins in the fruits and vegetables; therefore, the nutritional content of the food is not compromised during this procedure.

Although frozen produce doesn’t hold a candle to the gorgeous fruits and vegetables we find in our gardens and at the farmer’s market, it certainly gets the job done in the nutrition department.  If you have a chance, leave a comment and tell me what you think about using frozen produce.  In the meantime, here’s to surviving the dog days of winter!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

References

Oz, Mehmet. “Give (Frozen) Peas A Chance And Carrots Too.”  Time  3 Dec. 2012: 37-42. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.

The Burden of BPA

Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is a mass-produced chemical that is found in numerous types of plastics.  The Center for Disease Control has stated that about 93% of U.S. citizens have traces of BPA in their bloodstream.  Copious amounts of research suggest that once BPA has entered the body, it begins to alter hormones, cause reproductive problems, increase the likelihood of obesity, and make the body more susceptible to certain types of cancers.  What does plastic have to do with a food blog you ask?

Unfortunately, overwhelming evidence has proven that BPA is lurking in our food, and the most prominent way in which BPA is absorbed into our bloodstreams is not a direct outcome of our environment or the weather.  Instead, the food we eat can at times contain BPA in large quantities.  Therefore, this week I want to discuss ways to prevent excess BPA from entering your diet.  Although it would be nearly impossible to completely eliminate this chemical from all of the food we eat, below are some strategies to help you to minimize consumption.

1.  In terms of the amount of BPA contained in food products, canned foods are by far the biggest culprits.  In fact, the resins, or substances that line the cans contain this chemical, so it can be found in anything from a can of chicken noodle soup to a can of tomato sauce.  Therefore, it’s recommended to reduce the amount of canned food that you consume, and/or make sure to be on the lookout for cans marked “BPA Free!”  Alternatively, choose fresh or frozen foods over canned.

2.  Try to replace canned beverages, such as soda (if you drink it) with glass bottled beverages.

3.  As stated above, BPA can also be found in certain types of plastics, particularly those that have the number 7 on the bottom of them.  When purchasing foods with plastic containers, such as syrups or condiments, I’d suggest opting for plastics that have the numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5, which haven’t been found to contain these sorts of chemicals.

4.  If you have a plastic container that has a number 7 on the bottom, be sure not to scratch it or put it in the microwave, as these actions actually make it easier for the BPA to seep into your food.

Now you know a little bit more about the burden of BPA.  We can’t live in fear about all of the chemicals out there, but there is always something within our power that we can change to better our health and overall wellness.  As always, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this post!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

References:

Kristof, Nicholas.  NewYorkTimes. The New York Times Company. 2009. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.

Nieh.Nih. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. 5 Nov. 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.

The Fourth Earl of Sandwich…

“Life is like a sandwich – the more you add to it, the better it becomes.”

This past Monday evening, I taught the fourth nutrition class (Sandwiches & Condiments) in the Project Lunchbox series.  During class, we discussed how a sandwich is both a portable and easy lunch option that can be nutritionally rich or nutritionally poor, depending on what you add to it (sort of like life actually).  We also talked about the four main components of a sandwich (bread, condiments, protein, fruits/veggies) and how easy it is to take your sandwich from ho-hum to fantastic from a taste AND nutritional standpoint!  Here’s how:

BREAD:  It was awesome to see attendees leave liking whole wheat bread! 🙂  In particular, we discussed the different ways in which white bread and whole wheat bread are processed.  Interestingly, the flour in white bread only uses the endosperm from the wheat, while the flour in whole wheat bread contains the bran, germ and endosperm, which make it more nutritious.  When purchasing bread, we talked about the importance of scanning ingredient labels for either whole wheat or whole wheat flour as the first couple of ingredients.  Lastly, many were excited to learn that nutritionally, there isn’t a significant difference between white whole wheat bread and whole wheat bread.  Although the coloring of the wheat that makes up whole wheat bread is darker than white whole wheat, the two are considered to be nutritional equals.

CONDIMENTS: Expand your culinary horizons with these creative condiments: smeared avocado, hummus, dijon mustard, basil pesto, red pepper pesto, and balsamic vinegar & extra virgin olive oil.  All of these add lots of great, healthy flavor!

PROTEIN: You can use meats cooked at home (for example roasted chicken or turkey) in place of deli meat in your sandwich.  However, if you really love your deli, try to choose brands that don’t have added nitrates in them or heaps of sodium.  Added nitrates can lead to negative health complications because during the curing process, the nitrates are converted into nitrites, which research indicates is linked to cancer.  In this case, “natural deli meat” usually means that it has been minimally processed, doesn’t have any chemical flavor enhancers, artificial ingredients, preservatives, or added nitrates.

FRUITS & VEGGIES: Use your produce creatively!  For instance, grated carrots, zucchini  and sliced cucumber are fabulous additions to any sandwich.  Also, this time of year, apples are in season, and if you thinly slice them, they can totally elevate lunch.  Pack thinly sliced apples in a container with a squirt of lemon juice and then insert them into your sandwich (they go great with turkey and cheese) once you get to lunch.

Oh, and why is a sandwich called a sandwich?  Turns out, the first sandwich was created in 1762 at Shakespeare’s Tavern in Great Britain    One of the patrons, named John Montague, who was also a British statesman and the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, was playing cards at the restaurant one evening  and asked for something to eat that wouldn’t interfere with his card playing.  After much deliberation, the chefs determined that they’d bring him a piece of salt beef tucked inside two pieces of toasted bread.  With that, the sandwich was born!

Next time you are searching for culinary inspiration, look no further than the venerable sandwich!  With a little creativity on your part, you can have breakfast, lunch, or dinner made in a snap…or should I say, a sandwich!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂