Food literacy is at an all-time low. Here’s what you can do about it…

I recently came across an astounding article in The Washington Post, entitled “The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.” Author Caitlin Dewey uses surveys and studies to make the case that the American public’s food literacy is at an all-time low. From elementary-school aged children to adults, the U.S. citizenry is unaware of the agricultural and commercial processes that occur as sustenance is transported from fields to factories to food marts.

“Project Lunchbox: Let’s Eat!” aims to debunk food myths, inspire informed food choices, and instill in families the belief that they are capable of igniting change within the global food system: through their united voices and their collective wallets.

To that end, here are five action steps to implement in your household to ensure that your family is food literate:

  1. Take your kids with you to the grocery store. As you’re placing items into the cart, explain to your children that although food is purchased at the grocery store, it doesn’t come from grocery store.
  2. Plan a family visit to a local farm…’tis the season for apple and pumpkin picking! I’ve discovered that many farms offering CSA shares also provide free agriculture and food programming for kids.
  3. Bring the farm to table concept to life by planting a family garden. Yes, even in the season of autumn, there are steps you can take to ensure a bountiful harvest next spring. Did you know that planting garlic during the autumn months ensures a plentiful growing season the following summer? Food for thought…
  4. Cook with your child. As you prepare a recipe, explain to your child the difference between a whole food and a processed food. Then ask your child to tell you whether each ingredient is either a whole food or a processed food. 
  5. If your child is old enough, read books about the food industry together. Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers Edition provides an age-appropriate overview of the global food system, and the differences between how whole foods and processed foods come to be.

Do you agree that food literacy is at an all-time low in America? What steps have you taken to ensure that your family is food literate?

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

Katie

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Reading Recommendation: Real Food Fake Food by Larry Olmsted

Has anybody read Larry Olmsted’s Real Food Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It?

I recently picked it up, and I’m impressed by Olmsted’s knack for breaking down the American food industry’s fraudulent practices in bite-size chunks. 😉 His comprehensive analysis of how some grocery vendors and restaurateurs misguide consumers by mislabeling food products will compel you to act.

One of my favorite parts about the book is that Olmsted’s writing style is empowering. This is not a book that will make you throw you head in your hands, lament the way things are, and feel as though the problems are too big and too complex for you to make a difference. Instead, Olmsted shows you how you can take matters back into your own hands and become a savvy sleuth skilled at detecting real food versus fake food.

From Kobe beef to Parmesan cheese to sushi, Olmsted cleverly devotes each chapter to a food product that’s sold in America as something that it’s not. He sifts through the historical information, food politics, and statistics to provide you with the relevant research you need to determine what fake food is and how to avoid it.

What books about the food industry are on your must-read list?

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

Katie

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Panera Bread takes your health into its hands by disclosing the amount of added sugar in its beverages

Has anybody ate at Panera Bread lately?

If so, you may have noticed the restaurant chain’s cups sporting a new look. Seven of its beverages are now poured into cups disclosing the number of calories and the teaspoons of added sugar contained in the drinks. 

If your local Panera Bread chain hasn’t rolled out this initiative yet, don’t worry. The company will implement this change at each of its locations throughout September 2017.

How cool are these new Panera Bread cups?

Super cool! I’m thrilled to see Panera Bread continue to establish itself as a brand invested in providing pertinent nutritional information to its customers (Psst…remember the restaurant chain’s 2015 publication of the “No No List,” a consolidation of the chemicals it pledged to eliminate from its menu offerings?) 

It’s also refreshing to see such a prominent corporation in the food industry transparently communicate the added sugars in its drinks. While Panera Bread certainly could have printed these quantities of added sugars in grams, it chose to print this information in teaspoons. I think that this metric is easier to visualize than grams, which takes me back to the chemistry laboratory at my high school.

Looking for more information about added sugars and their affect on your diet?

Check out my app recommendation for a hassle-free way to determine the natural versus added sugars in food products, and discover the many pseudonyms masking as added sugars on nutrition labels!

How do you feel about Panera Bread’s decision to publicize the amount of added sugars in some of its beverages?

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

Katie

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Is how you eat as important as what you eat?

Does this sound familiar?

You sprint to your car at 6:30 a.m. (and you’re somehow already running behind schedule?!) so you race to the nearest drive-thru to grab a bagel and a coffee. As you shove your food down in the car, you hastily check breakfast off the seemingly never ending to-do list. But at what cost?

In Western culture, how we eat is often overlooked. A kitchen table is often substituted for the driver’s seat of your car, the bus stop, or the desk chair of your office.

Have you ever thought about how these various places you eat may affect your health and well-being? In many cultures across the globe, mealtime is not viewed as a check off the to-do list, but rather an experience to be savored and shared with others.

This week, make mealtime an authentic dining experience to be savored and shared with others, rather than a time to multitask.

Enjoy a meal with family and friends, rather than with your cell phone or other electronic device. Eat at the table, rather than in a car or on a couch.

When you do these things, you’re more likely to have cooked the meal yourself. The majority of homemade meals are nutritionally superior to processed food options.

Also, when you don’t multitask while enjoying a meal, you’re more likely to consume your meal mindfully. By pacing yourself as you eat, your digestive system is able to keep up with your consumption.

Do you think that how you eat is more, equally, or less important than what you eat?

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

Katie

Children’s Menus…Lacking Common Sense?

Chicken tenders, French fries, hamburgers, hotdogs, mac-and-cheese…

This hodgepodge of nutrient-devoid fats, carbs, and processed meats appear on virtually all children’s menus at restaurants, regardless of cuisine.

The concept of children’s menus lacks common sense.

Why is it that elementary school-aged kids are only offered a menu of salt, sugar, and fat, at such a critical point in the development of their eating habits? How is it that only once a young person becomes an adult are they offered a healthier menu when dining out?

There are, of course, exceptions. Some restaurants incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as lean proteins and nutritious fats into children’s dishes. However, this is the exception, not the norm.

Imagine a restaurant without a separate menu for young children. Instead, children ordered the same food as adults.

We only live what we learn.

Next time you’re out to eat with your child, consider sharing your meal with her or him. This approach will not only enhance your eating habits, it will also cultivate your child’s palate.

Restaurant entrées are supersized. By sharing your meal with your child, you’ll either avoid the urge to overeat or avoid wasting food. You’ll also save money, and who doesn’t love that?!

Your child will also reap the benefits of sharing a meal with you. Not only will she or he foster nutritious eating habits from an early age, they’ll also expand their culinary horizons. Not to mention the fact that a meal shared with you will be much more nutrient-dense than an option from the children’s menu.

Looking for more tips to make your family’s restaurant experience healthful?

Check out why happy meals make me unhappy, and discover how to improve the nutrition of your next restaurant meal.

What’s your take on the concept of children’s menus?

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

Katie

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A nutrient-dense chip? I’m in!

Have you tried Beanitos black bean chips?

NO? Then you MUST.

Why, you ask?

How about:

Five grams of protein per serving.

Five grams of fiber per serving.

Zero grams of trans fat per serving.

Zero grams of sugar per serving.

And oh…

They taste phenomenal.

While they’re spectacular on their own, they also do well in group settings 😉 when paired with homemade salsa or guacamole.

Looking for other nutritious snack ideas?

Check out my recipes for cheesy, crunchy, salty, (and nutritious!) eggplant chips and zucchini chips. Also, revisit my post on smart snack switches to make simple nutrition upgrades to your shopping cart.

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

Katie

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Season with herbs using these 15 suggestions

One of the local farms my family frequents is harvesting its herb crop. The bounty includes sprigs of cilantro, leaves of parsley, and stems of basil.

Do you grow an herb garden? Whether you plant herbs on raised beds in your backyard, planters on your deck, or pots on your kitchen counter, one thing is for sure. There is no dearth of herbs this time of year!

To ensure that you make the most of this growing season, implement these tips for incorporating herbs into diverse recipes:

1. Sprinkle a handful of finely sliced chives on scrambled eggs.

2. Tear basil leaves into spring mix or your other favorite salad greens.

3. As you knead pizza dough, add leaves of oregano into the dough.

4. Chop parsley leaves and sprinkle them onto roasted asparagus spears.

5. Add two tablespoons of thinly sliced cilantro to your favorite guacamole recipe.

6. Prepare basil ice cubes by incorporating equal parts water and a chiffonade of basil to ice cube trays. Also, check out my post on healthful hydration for more suggestions for herb-infused waters and ice cubes.

7. Prepare herbed butter by combining a single clove of garlic, four tablespoons of salted butter, and sprigs of thyme.

8. Stir finely sliced chives into sour cream to create a topping for baked potatoes or zucchini pancakes.

9. Chop up a few teaspoons of thyme and incorporate into your favorite shortbread recipe.

10. Chiffonade basil and add to a fruit salad consisting of watermelon, cantaloupe and pineapple.

11. Stir leaves of oregano into a few ounces of goat cheese and enjoy over salad.

12. Top chicken or fish tacos with cilantro leaves.

13. Add parsley to the breading mixture for baked chicken tenders or fish fillets.

14. Tear leaves of basil into steamed peas.

15. Sprinkle chopped parsley onto roasted potatoes, smashed potatoes, or mashed potatoes (polenta works too!)

What’s your favorite herb? How do you incorporate herbs into your diet?

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

Katie

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How to increase your vegetable intake the simple way

If you like it, veggify it!

One of the easiest ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet is by adding them to recipes you already enjoy. This strategy makes healthful eating habits attainable in the following ways:

First, you feel comfortable preparing the recipe. Rather than investing resources to master a brand-new vegetable recipe, simply adding vegetables to recipes that you’re already familiar with conserves your energy and your time.

Second, this suggestion affords you the opportunity to make your favorite culinary classics new again with the diverse flavors and textures of different vegetables.

This week, aim to bolster your healthful consumption habits by making vegetables a priority on your plate. Begin by implementing these recommendations for veggifying popular recipes:

1. Scrambled Eggs

Coat a pan with a thin veil of olive oil. Then, sauté mushrooms, onions, and peppers. Set aside. In the same pan, prepare your scrambled eggs. Next, add the sautéed vegetables to the thoroughly cooked scrambled eggs to make this morning meal more nutrient-dense.

After your scrambled eggs have taken shape and are thoroughly cooked, toss a handful of sliced greens (i.e. Bok Choy, collard greens, Kale, spinach, etc.) into the pan.

2. Brown Rice

Dice two medium-sized carrots. Combine the carrots with diced onions and one cup of snow peas into a pan. Sauté. After that, add in your batch of cooked brown rice.

3. Tomato Sauce

Add a depth of flavor and texture to this Italian classic by cubing four medium-sized carrots and four medium-sized stalks of celery. Sauté. Use the carrot and celery sauté as a base for your tomato sauce.

4. Pancakes

Incorporate squash or pumpkin into your pancake batter.

Grate a medium-sized zucchini to add to your pancake batter. Helpful hint: zucchinis have a large water content, so be sure to press the grated zucchini with a paper towel to prevent your batter from becoming soggy.

Looking to incorporate more vegetables into your diet?

Check out my recipes for Zucchini Chips, Escarole Salad, and Roasted Potatoes and Leeks.

Have you ever veggified a recipe?

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

Katie

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Five flavorful alternatives to sugary drinks

I’d like to begin by sharing an exciting announcement…

Let’s Eat Lunch! now offers sharing buttons for email, Pinterest, and WordPress to make it easy to share your favorite posts with your family, your friends, and your social media following! These new sharing buttons serve as additions to the Twitter and Facebook sharing buttons that have been staples on this blog since its inception.

To use any of these sharing buttons, simply click the title of this blog post–Five flavorful alternatives to sugary drinks–and after you arrive at its web page, scroll to the bottom of the post to share, share, share 😉

As always, thank you to my loyal following of nutrition advocates, food bloggers, health enthusiasts, and fellow foodies for supporting Let’s Eat Lunch!.

Five flavorful alternatives to sugary drinks

This summer, Let’s Eat Lunch! is empowering your path to health and freedom. To kick off this new season of blogging, Nannie served as inspiration for you to go after your own #healthgoals. Last week, I focused on how to transform your eating habits by selecting whole foods over processed ones.

The philosophy of choosing whole foods over processed ones to attain optimal health applies to selecting beverages. Sugary drinks such as diet soda, seltzer, and soda contain additives that detract from, rather than enhance, your health. On the other hand, tea (without synthetic sweeteners) and water are beverages that elevate your well-being.

This week, hone your hydration habits to be simultaneously flavorful and healthful. Enjoy fragrant and nutrient-dense flavored water with these alternatives to sugary drinks.

1. Mint Water

One of my family’s favorite breakfast places is always experimenting with flavored water. When a waiter or waitress comes to the table with iced water, it’s always a fun surprise to see the new flavor.

My all-time favorite is mint water, complete with a single mint leaf that sits atop the ice cubes. Mint water is not only energizing first thing in the morning, it also neutralizes breath odor.

2. Strawberry-and-Basil Water

Forget the strawberry-and-banana flavor combination…strawberry and basil is where it’s at! The sweetness of the strawberries pairs incredibly well with the more savory taste of fresh basil.

If you cultivate an herb garden and grow different varieties of this herb, experiment with types such as Thai basil. The vibrant hue of purple basil brightens a glass of water too. To prepare strawberry-and-basil water, hull two medium-sized strawberries, and then quarter them. Add them to a glass of iced water along with a few leaves of fresh basil.

3. Grapefruit Water

Grapefruit water is a staple at one of the dining halls on campus. It’s super easy to prepare by peeling a grapefruit, slicing it into thin rounds, and then placing the rounds into a water pitcher.

Also, it’s aesthetically appealing and a surprisingly unexpected offering in beverage dispensers at barbecues and celebrations. Speaking of festivities, a very Happy Independence Day to my stateside followers!

4. Lemon-and-Lime Water

Please do me a favor and skip the lemon-and-lime flavored diet sodas, seltzers, and sodas. Instead, opt for a DIY-verison of these sugary drinks, minus the synthetic ingredients.

This flavored-water combination is ideal to prepare after you’ve finished a recipe calling for the juice of lemons and limes (i.e. guacamole). Grate the zest of the lemons and limes into ice cube trays, add water, and freeze. Then, add equal parts lemon pulp and lime pulp to a glass, and finish with the lemon-and-lime zest ice cubes.

5. Orange-and-Thyme Water

Water with orange segments is relatively common, but a few sprigs of thyme elevates this citrus fruit to give the flavored water an edgier (savory and sophisticated) taste. If you grow an herb garden, orange and thyme water (as well as other herb-infused waters) is an awesome way to incorporate your garden bounty into your hydration habits.

To prepare orange and thyme water, squeeze the juice of one orange into a pitcher of iced water. Add 10 medium-sized sprigs of thyme to the pitcher, and enjoy. Similar to the lemon-and-lime water, the zest of the orange can be used to prepare orange-zest ice  cubes in this orange-and-thyme recipe.

Looking to make healthful hydration a habit?

Check out these Tips for Drinking More Water, and find out why I’ve hailed H2O – The Rockstar of All Beverages!!!.

What’s your go-to flavorful alternative to sugary drinks?

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

Katie

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Consumption patterns: One profound shift to health and freedom

Last week, I wrote about Nannie’s empowered journey to health and freedom. How can each of us reach this same destination?

I’m of the belief that changing our consumption patterns from mostly processed foods to mostly whole foods profoundly affects our diets, and consequently, our collective health.

Whole foods originate from the Earth and its bounty. (Think animals, nuts, seeds, and plants.) Processed foods are manufactured by humans or machines. (Think cereal, hotdog buns, pop-tarts, and seltzer.)

In general, whole foods offer vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients essential for longevity. On the other hand, the majority of processed foods consist of empty calories, that is, they’re devoid of nutrition.

While whole foods are pure, processed foods contain additives, such as artificial colors, maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup, and other gunk (yes, I ❤ the technical terms 😉 ) that hinder health and wellness.

For example, a recipe for homemade tomato sauce may consist of the following: garlic cloves, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, olive oil, basil, oregano. Voila! It’s a winning recipe because each component is a whole food that originates from the Earth.

In contrast, a jar of tomato sauce purchased from the grocery store may consist of tomato paste, herbs, salt, and pepper, but also guar gum, Red 40, and refined sugar. Yikes! This store-bought tomato sauce is processed because all of its components do not originate from the Earth.

This week, try swapping processed foods for whole foods. However you begin is awesome in every way! Depending on where you’re at in your journey to health and freedom, you may feel ready to make this shift during a single meal one day this week, or at dinner each night for the next seven days. The only thing that matters is that you do indeed begin.

Remember, this shift in consumption patterns doesn’t have to be a monumental change filled with angst and rigidity. Go for a noble effort rather than aiming for suffocating perfection. You totally got this 🙂

Comment below to ask questions, to share your go-to recipes featuring whole foods, and to tell us how this shift in consumption patterns affects your health!

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

Katie

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