“Pack” to School (or work)

My daughter likes school lunches but she also likes packing. Honestly, I start the year out great: she usually packs 3-4 times per week and buys school lunches 1-2 times. By the end of the year I’ve hit a road block and she buys lunch every day because I’m just over it! Told you I’d be honest.

She has gotten into situations where she hasn’t eaten enough fiber and that’s not good for her gut health. When she packs, she eats enough fiber. When she buys school lunch I’m not so sure…? It’s really nothing against school lunch, she can pick and choose what she wants to eat and I can’t guarantee it’s full of fiber! Packing lunches for my kiddo is fairly easy because she does eat a moderate variety of foods. Some kiddos are easy to pack for, while others aren’t. Whichever box your child fits into, I think you’ll find some ideas in this blog. You may even be able to get ideas for your own lunch at work!

First, you need the key items: a lunch box that can keep things cold, an ice pack, containers and/or baggies, and a piece of paper.

  1. The lunchbox to keep things cold along with the ice pack will keep you and your child’s lunch safe from harmful bacteria that grow when it gets warmer.
  2. If you are packing warm items, consider a thermal lined container that will keep it hot and also safe from harmful bacteria.
  3. Containers are great for things like salads, pasta salad, and even things like sandwiches, fruits, and snack items because they are reusable. I love the environment and being responsible but we also use baggies because…life!
  4. Was the piece of paper weird? Probably but here’s the catch: your child, spouse, you yourself needs some encouragement and what better way to add it than half way through their day at a meal?! If your child is younger and can’t read, just a simple picture of a heart or a smiley face will do. In elementary school a nice “I love you”, “Kindness is cool”, or “God loves you” is amazing! In high school, quotes of encouragement “Be the best you, you can be”, “Look out for the friend that’s hurting”, “I am so proud of who you are becoming”, “I loved watching you play baseball yesterday”, etc. I’ll put more encouraging quotes at the end of this because I think it is super important to use words of affirmation with your children/spouse/yourself!
My kiddos help with food prep! This is my 7 year old daughter cutting cucumbers.

Second you need an idea of what a good lunch layout looks like. I mentioned fiber was an important piece to my daughters lunch…it should be a huge piece to everyones lunch! Fiber keeps your bowels healthy which in turn helps to keep your entire body healthy!

  1. Protein: protein comes from both plants and animals. We mostly think of them coming from animals like chicken, turkey, ham, cheese, and tuna BUT they can also come from plants like peanut butter, almond butter, beans, peas, lentils, and nuts.
  2. Energy: energy comes from things with carbohydrates. Carbohydrates help to feed every.single.cell in our bodies! Foods like fruits, grains (whole wheat bread, rice, corn), beans, and starchy vegetables like potatoes will give your kiddos the energy they need to finish out their day strong!
  3. Veggies: there’s really no scientific reason that I put veggies here except for the fact that it helps them get in more fiber and keeps them fuller longer so they aren’t coming home SUPER RAVENOUS! Things like carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, salads, etc all have a load of fiber AND nutrients for their and your overall health.

Third you need to actually pack it! I like to pack my daughter’s lunch in the morning BUT I will do prep-work the night before. I know many parents who pack their kiddos lunch the night before because the mornings are chaotic. If I worked a full time job I probably would put in the grunt work the night before because…chaos BUT because I stay at home now, I just throw it together in the morning. There’s no right or wrong but I will tell you that if you are feeling overwhelmed in the mornings PLEASE pack lunches the night before. Do whatever you can to lighten the load of the morning rush 🙂

Fourth the “what to pack” is probably the most important! OK Dietitian Lady, just tell me what some good ideas are for packing. I’m on it! Honestly (again), as I sat here reading through one of the dietitian bloggers’ lunch ideas I realize how hard it is to follow their lunches. I mean…you’ve got to make grain free granola bars and chia seed pudding. I’m not that kind of girl!!!!! Here’s a list of 20 EASY AND FEASIBLE ideas to pack your kiddos and yourself! There will be asterisk* after some and I will provide the simple recipe to that.

  1. PBJ sandwiches on whole wheat bread with carrot sticks and ranch dip
  2. Turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread with cucumbers and hummus
  3. Pasta salad with cheese cubes and veggies (broccoli, cucumbers, and tomatoes)
  4. Whole grain crackers (think Triscuits or Wheat Thins), ham and cheese chunks with pepper sticks (add a dip to make it fun)
  5. Garden salad with Greek yogurt on the side and cheerios
  6. MYO pizzas! Whole grain English muffin, pizza sauce, and shredded mozzarella with celery and ranch dip
  7. Ham sandwich on whole wheat bread with creamed cucumber salad*
  8. Tortilla chips and hummus and/or salsa to dip with a few cheese cubes
  9. Tuna salad on whole wheat bread with celery
  10. Apple slices and celery with peanut butter
  11. Three bean salad (green beans, wax beans, black or kidney beans) add some string cheese to that for a pop of protein
  12. BLT sandwich with turkey bacon on whole grain bread with carrot sticks
  13. Bento box lunch: hard boiled egg, blueberries, whole grain crackers, pepper sticks
  14. Bento box lunch: cubes of turkey lunch meat, cheese cubes, whole grain crackers, carrot sticks
  15. Bento box lunch: cottage cheese, strawberries, whole wheat tortillas, salsa
  16. Chicken salad sandwich on whole grain bread with sliced cucumbers
  17. Sushi PBJ: whole grain tortilla with peanut butter and jelly sliced up and broccoli on the side
  18. Greek style tziki* made with plain Greek yogurt, whole grain pita bread, and cucumber slices
  19. Hummus roll-up: your favorite hummus filled with spinach, shredded carrots, tomatoes, etc on a whole grain wrap
  20. Taco salad: leftover taco meat on a salad with tortilla chips
Guac toast is another great lunch idea! Add some protein in there like Greek yogurt on the side and perfecto!

Throw in some side dishes too! Here are some great ones to keep in mind:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Dressing to dip veggies
  • Fruit at any time
  • Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Water, 100% fruit juice, milk

Do not beat yourself up if lunches are simple! Simple is sometimes the best! Make sure it is cost effective too! The goal of my blog is that anyone can read it and follow through. If you get your food from food banks, you can make most of these (you’ll be surprised at what you can get at your local food pantry). If you use SNAP, you can make all of these. If your food budget is tight, you can make all of these. If you keep the reins on . your food budget, you can make all of these. If your food budget is unlimited, you can make all of these!

Here are some inspirational quote ideas for your kiddos, your spouse, yourself:

  • Draw something! A heart, a smily face, you hugging your child, an inside joke that only you and your kiddo would get
  • “I love you”
  • “I love your face”
  • “You make my heart smile”
  • “Have a great day”
  • “Be the best you, you can be”
  • “Be kind to everyone”
  • “You are smart”
  • “You are kind”
  • “You are a great friend”
  • “You are a blessing to your teachers”
  • “God loves you”
  • “God is with you today”
  • “Smile”
  • “I’m so proud of the boy/girl you are becoming”
  • “I loved watching you play (insert sport or instrument) yesterday/this week/whenever”
  • “Thank you for helping me this morning”
  • “I appreciate how kind you are to your siblings”
  • “Life is so much better with you in it”
  • “You make life fun”
  • “Three things: I love you, you make me so proud, please wear deodorant” (haha)
  • “Find someone who is hurting today and give them a smile and this piece of candy”
  • “I can’t wait until you come home today”
  • “I can’t wait to watch/hear you play/sing…”
  • “I was so proud when you…”
  • Here are some scriptures for school and work: Micah 6:8, Romans 15:13, Psalm 20:4, 1 Samuel 16:7, Joshua 1:9, 1 Timothy 4:12, Proverbs 3:5-6, Hebrews 12:1-2, Colossians 1:17, Matthew 11:28, Philippians 4:6-7, Isaiah 30:21, Philippians 4:13, Proverbs 13:20, Colossians 3:23-24, James 1:5, Jeremiah 29:11, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:8

Make packing a lunch part of your routine! It’ll not only save you money (from buying lunch every day) but also improve your overall health if you are eating nutrient rich foods!

** Recipes:

  • Creamed cucumber salad: sliced cucumbers, sliced onions (optional), greek yogurt, splash of vinegar, salt. If you like it sweeter, add honey or sugar.
  • Tziki: cucumbers, dill, greek yogurt, lemon juice

Oh No – GMOs!

I hear chatter about GMO’s allllll the time. Frankenfoods, if you will. I’ve heard someone at the grocery store look at a box of granola bars (that were literally loaded with added sugars) and put it back because the label indicated it used some GMO ingredients. Yes…they were terrified of the GMO’s but the cup of added sugar per serving didn’t seem to phase them at all. I was so confused!!!! You see, there’s so much more research on added sugars leading to chronic disease than GMO’s so it got me wondering…what exactly is being said about GMOs to make the average person more terrified of that then the proven fact that too many added sugars can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer!

While GMO’s seem like weird Frankenstein plants, I want to clear up some misconceptions about them to give you the facts so you can make informed choices when it comes to buying food. I’ll give you the 411 you need and then you can make decisions for yourself and your family. Let’s get controversial!

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Basically this means that scientists took a plant and changed its DNA to make it what they need it to do/be (resistant to a disease, produce more fruit, resistant to herbicides, etc) in order to have a “better” plant. What happens is they usually combine DNA molecules from other sources in one single molecule for the plant they’re working on. To make it simple: if they want to keep a certain disease from apples, they get a plant that doesn’t get that disease and use it’s genes in the apple. Boom, apple is now resistant to that disease.

Still following me after all that?

In the US there are 11 commercial crops that are GMO. So if you are looking in the grocery store, here’s the GMO’s you could potentially run in to.

  1. Apples
  2. Potatoes
  3. Field corn (corn oil, high fructose corn syrup, cereals, etc)
  4. Canola (canola oil)
  5. Alfalfa (used to feed farm animals)
  6. Soybeans (Silk has a patent on their soybeans which are non-GMO)
  7. Papaya
  8. Cotton (cottonseed oil)
  9. Sugar beets (added sugars in foods NOT the red beets you eat)
  10. Sweetcorn (corn you eat off of the cob in the summer and canned/frozen)
  11. Summer squash

SO! When you see a package of rice that says “Non-GMO” and it seems awesome because it wasn’t made with GMO rice, rest assured, there isn’t a GMO rice. They are suckering people into their marketing tactics! When you see a company that says “made with some GMO ingredients” they’ve used one or more of the above foods in their product. Does that make it “bad”? You decide. I can tell you, it makes it genetically modified to be resistant from bugs, pesticides/herbicides, or disease resistant.

An important point I need to make is that cross breeding/selective breeding in plants DOES NOT mean its genetically modified (GMO). Cross breeding or selective breeding has been done since the ancient of days to continue the lines of fruits/veggies/grains/nuts that taste the most delicious and produce the most crop! Seeds were saved from the best plants and continued while the seeds of the worst producers/tasting plants were thrown out. This left us with tomatoes that taste like a dream and cucumbers that are super crunchy and sweet! Heirloom varieties of crops are prime examples of this. Farmers continued to pass down their seeds of the plants they had worked on for generations to be the best and tastiest!

Whats the research on GMOs? Well, honestly, GMO’s have only been available at the grocery store since the 90’s so we don’t have a lot of GOOD/LONG TERM research to give a solid answer. There have been questions about allergens in GMO crops. Much of the “gluten intolerance” pushers say that GMOs are to blame (this is why you need to ask and listen to a Registered Dietitian and not “joe shmoe”) Did you notice the list???? Wheat is not a GMO crop. It literally cannot be the reason people have an increase of sensitivity to gluten…literally can.not. More research needs done on GMO’s clearly, BUT there are no solid research studies that show GMO’s are to blame for any chronic illness, allergy, and/or issues known to man.

Many GMO crops are resistant to herbicides like RoundUp. If you know me you know my absolute hate of RoundUp…it is not allowed near or around my house because of it’s proven cancer causing chemicals. And you’ve guessed it, I’m not a fan of Monsanto either…there. I said it. It is now internet official…if my blog gets turned off, you know why. Hah! Would I prefer that RoundUp be banned like they did in Europe? ABSO.LUTELY! If I can list any con’s of GMO’s the herbicide resistance would be a huge one.

I plant a garden. I don’t use all “organic” seeds but it’s all GMO free (because I don’t plant corn, apples, papaya, cotton, canola…etc…witty, I know). I also don’t use herbicides (weed killer) or pesticides (bug killer).

Wanting to steer clear of GMO’s? Go organic! Plant your own garden! Watch what you buy! There are ways to avoid them most of the time.

What do I conclude? I have 5 thoughts about GMO (both pro and cons) for your reading pleasure!

  1. Many of the GMO crops are used in more heavily processed foods (high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, added sugar, etc). If you start eating less processed more fruits/veggies/grains/homemade items then by default you’ll be eating less GMO crops. Is that good or bad? I dunno BUT there it is!
  2. I like apples, potatoes, and sweet corn. I take advantage of the fact that some apples don’t brown as fast, I don’t buy potatoes that have rotten spots, and the sweet corn isn’t riddled with worms. Knowing that they are GMO doesn’t stop me from eating them or enjoying them. Can I buy these tasty foods organic? Sure. Do I have the budget for it? Not often. Do I lose sleep over it? Absolutely not!
  3. I use canola oil all day every day. I could buy organic if I wanted to spend triple the amount of money on it but I choose to continue to use GMO canola and mix in some olive oil too. If organic canola gets cheaper I’d definitely use it (remember the RoundUp-rant? Yeah, Canola is one of those plants) but for now we stick with the regular stuff. It still has omega 3 fatty acids, still great for your heart, and still makes my salad dressings taste like a vinegary dream!
  4. If it is important for you to steer clear of GMO’s based off of personal beliefs then go for it. Organic produce will be non-GMO. It will be heavy on the budget but it is feasible. Like I said, if I had the budget for it or if organic canola went down in price I’d be buying it simply because of my absolute annoyance of herbicides.
  5. The last piece of advice I have for you is this: you can live your life as if everything is a conspiracy but what kind of life is that? I’m not saying to trust everything (remember my hatred for RoundUp? hahaha) but I’m saying that if you can’t trust anything, you’re living life worried and in fear instead of in confidence and freedom. If you believe in God and you’ve given your life to Jesus there should be no fear (GMOs included). Again, this is not to say you should believe everything you hear and go out and wrangle poisonous snakes and eat all the bacon you want because you’ve been washed by the blood of Jesus!!!!!!!! Hear me out…it’s to say that you can live your life without fear that everything is out to get you because He who has created the universe has big plans for your life…much bigger than what kind of apples you eat. Understand where I’m coming from? Be informed but be free!

So that is my take on GMO’s. There’s not a ton of research because it is a new science. I will tell you that before a GMO edible plant comes to market, it has been tested for at least 13 years and 5-7 of those years are going through all the regulatory steps. It’s not an easy process and it shouldn’t be if people will be eating them. There have been plants turned down during this process…not all of the fruits/veggies/edibles they have altered make it through. Why do scientists continue to do it? Because there are real farmers who depend on a good crop and people to buy their produce for their livelihood. Because there are real people to feed in the United States and honestly around the world. Because sometimes God gives scientists the knowledge to make our lives better, even if it’s just so that worms don’t eat our corn!

Eat in freedom friends!

Sunflower Strawberry Salad

It’s still verrrry much spring where I live. Like the local strawberries just started to come out and it’s mid-June! BUT that’s ok because I can enjoy Carolina strawberries in early spring and local strawberries in late spring…winning!

I never really liked fruit in my lettuce salads for some reason…that is until lately. Now, I’m all in! I have a great winter mandarin salad, this spring strawberry salad, and summer…maybe I’ll load it up with blueberries? We will see!

Usually the main attraction of a salad, for me, is the dressing. I mean, isn’t that why most of us eat a salad? Because, we like the dressing? Well, in this salad, the dressing takes a back seat (although it is delicious) to the amazing crunchy, salty, sweet flavors that hit every bite! I use a simple lemon vinaigrette dressing that’s not too tangy and not too sweet. I make my dressings to taste so these may not be the exact measurements BUT make yours to what you like!

I buy a big box of spring mix each week and it usually stays good for about 5-7 days

Salad Ingredients:

  • Spring mix or spinach (2 cups per salad for a large salad)
  • Feta cheese (1 tablespoon per salad…more or less based on your taste)
  • Sunflower seeds (1 tablespoon per salad)
  • Spring onions (1-3 teaspoons)
  • Strawberries, sliced (1/4 cup per salad)

Dressing ingredients:

  • 1 whole lemon juiced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (you can use 1 small clove minced too)
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/3 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or apple cider)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (more if you like a sweeter dressing)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Honestly, this salad isn’t hard to make because many of the ingredients are grab-n-go!

Grab a wide bowl. This isn’t super necessary but honestly, it makes it look prettier! Throw the lettuce in the bowl and then layer the ingredients. I like strawberries, feta, sunflower seeds, then onions personally but, go on…do yo thing!

For the dressing, I use the Pampered Chef manual food processor. This thing is a kitchen staple in my house! I don’t have an electric food processor because, well I don’t need it with this bad boy! Toss all the ingredients in the food processor and chop away! It comes out rich and smooth and delicious!!!!

Refreshing, crisp, and delicious! (also quick and cheap!)

This entire salad provides nutrients from the lettuce to the fixin’s to the dressing. It is seriously a nutrient power house! There aren’t many other foods that you can get TONS of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in just one bowl. Let’s just go over some of the nutrition highlights of this bad boy!

Power-Packed Lineup!

  • Spring Mix: tons of Vitamin A, C, K, and folate (a B vitamin). Some iron (although some of it does get lost during digestion), fiber (much of that insoluble to keep everything “moving”). **If you are on a blood thinner and watching vitamin K you can eat iceberg lettuce as a LOW vitamin K food**
  • Feta Cheese: look, honestly theres such a small amount you aren’t getting much but a tiny bit of protein and calcium BUT it tastes great! Even if you are watching your sodium intake you shouldn’t worry too much because again, a small amount (190 mg-ish)
  • Sunflower Seeds: loaded with heart healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein! Also a good source of iron and potassium makes this a crunchy little firecracker!
  • Spring Onions: although, like feta, the amount you are using isn’t huge, the little boost of immune-boosting antioxidants in the entire onion family are something to keep on your radar! Plus…fiber!
  • Strawberries: do you know that strawberries have more vitamin C per serving than an orange…fun fact! In just one serving of strawberries you get WELL over 100% of your daily vitamin C. Along with that you have fiber and a LOAD of antioxidants in this yummy little gem!
  • The dressing is also loaded with amazing nutrients from the ingredients in it so even just a few teaspoons on the salad gives you flavor and nutrition!
Enjoy my friends! I know we did!

Road Trippin’ Snacks

In my family, we go on vacation together. No. You don’t understand. This is not just immediate family we are talking about. There are around 30 of us who go to the beach (not quite) every year (but usually every other year). You see, years ago my grandparents created this tight knit bond of a family and 40 years later it is still going strong…to the point we vacation as extended-extended families!

Lovin’ their popcorn-in-a-bag

We go to the beach and we don’t live very close SO that means we spend hours in the car…with three kids…who eat A.LOT.OF.FOOD. Honestly, sometimes road trip snacks are to keep kids satiated (feeling full) but sometimes it’s to keep them satisfied (not screaming and crying). You know what? On road trips, that’s definitely OK! You’ve got to survive and as a mom and a dietitian, I get it!!!!!!!

Question is, what should you pack for road trip snacks? Well, I’ve come up with a list of 30 foods that are kid proof (won’t make a huge mess in your car) and adults love them too!!! If you’ve followed me long enough you know there’s at least 1 list in each blog post! Hah! These snacks should be quick to open, easily eaten with the fingers, AND provide nourishment!

Have your kids help! Emma (7) can cut up veggies with a pairing knife!
  1. Carrot sticks. Seriously these are a family favorite and delish! Bag them in small containers or baggies for each member of your family. Really little kiddos? Cut the carrots in to fun strips to reduce choking.
  2. Pepper sticks. Yes kids will eat them too! Try red, orange, or yellow peppers. Super sweet!
  3. Turkey jerky. Beef jerky is a great choice as well. Although expensive, this can be a great protein source…find it on sale!
  4. String cheese. They make tons of flavors so choose your favorite and snack away!
  5. Popcorn. Pop ahead and put them in individual baggies or containers.
  6. Granola bars. Kids Clif bars, Lara bars, and homemade granola bars are my favorite!
  7. Grapes. Make sure you cut them in 1/4ths for babies and toddlers and in half for younger children (choking hazard)
  8. Nuts. Peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews…whichever are your favorites!
  9. Raisins. The to-go boxes are great on the road. Sour raisins are Ah.Maze.Ing!
  10. Cranberries. A little more added sugar than raisins but still a great choice for a road trip
  11. Amanda’s Awesome Trail Mix: 1 cup cheerios, 1/2 cup raisins or cranberries, 1/2 cup nuts of your choice, 1/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. Mix and toss in to snack bags.
  12. Peanut butter bites: Here’s the link to mine. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE BREASTFEEDING TO EAT THESE! My husband loves them (and my kiddos do too)!
  13. Sunflower seeds: not just for salads!
  14. Pumpkin seeds…all the flavors.
  15. Dried whole grain cereal. Seriously. Cheerios in a bag…stellar!
  16. Yogurt pouches! YUM! These portable packs are great for younger kiddos and older ones alike! AND they don’t need to be refrigerated…BONUS!
  17. Fruit/veggie pouches…so many brands/varieties! Choose your favorite grab-and-go flavor.
  18. Cucumber slices. So good and refreshing! Sure you can dip them into hummus or ranch but if you can’t trust yourself or younger kiddos plain cucumbers work great themselves.
  19. Apple slices. Wash and keep the skins on (there are tons of nutrients in the skins) get your kiddos used to it! To keep them from browning on the trip use whole apples for yourself and older kids or slice them and add a little ascorbic acid (vitamin C…name brand “Fruit Fresh”) to keep them from browning.
  20. Mandarines. Easy to peel and sooooo delicious! I like to peel mine ahead of time for the kids and then when they are hungry just hand them a peeled one so they can go to town.
  21. Edamame. Add a little salt and pepper to these amazing soy beans and YUM! These come in the fresh and frozen section. Sometimes when they are frozen, salt has already been added so make sure you check!
  22. Whole grain crackers. My favorites are Triscuits and Wheat Thins but there are tons of brands and varieties that are great and tasty!
  23. Cherries. Especially in season these juicy fruits are great! Just make sure you have something to spit the seeds into.
  24. Roasted chickpeas. So good! They are crunchy and come in tons of flavors.
  25. Pickles. Yep. In a bag. My kids love them! They’re crunchy and salty and ohhh soooo yummy!
  26. Apple chips. These freeze dried fruit crunchies are incredible!!!! You can also pack dehydrated apples. They won’t be as crunchy but they are super sweet and delicious.
  27. Tortilla chips. The varieties are endless. Black bean, blue corn, flavored, extra crunchy…whatever. Although they are fried they’re usually only a few ingredients and if you get the whole grain, bean, or higher fiber varieties they also have some protein in them. I NEVER DO BAKED CHIPS! The ingredient lists go on forever. Regular tortilla chips/potato chips may be fried in oil (which is usually heart healthy) but their 3-5 ingredients makes up for it by not having so many additives. Plus fat isn’t “bad” for you…neither are carbs. Moderation.
  28. Fruit cups. Yes I know with little little kids this is a nightmare but with older kids this is fantastic! Peaches, pears, mandarins, apple sauce…your possibilities are endless!
  29. Turkey rollups. If your cooler game is strong (and I mean very strong like you can keep these under 44 degrees the entire trip) go for it! Roll up a slice of turkey lunch meat with some cheese. If you’re feeling adventurous add honey mustard and a thin slice of cucumber…mmmm
  30. Yogurt. Again, you have to keep these bad boys cool BUT some Greek yogurt on a road trip not only hits the sweet spot but also keeps you fuller longer.
Snacks are better on a shark towel…

I hope this list helped to give you some great ideas on road trip snacks. Instead of loads of candy or tons of processed snacks this list helps to start vacation off on the nutrient rich foot. Look, I’m not judging…I like snacks the same as the rest of the population. I don’t say no to a good Blazin’ Buffalo Dorito (ever). But it helps to take snacks on the road that won’t give the kids a sugar high while you’re cooped up in a car!

Once you get to your destination, nutrition shouldn’t be your top priority…honestly. Enjoy it and your family/friends! Don’t worry about “what” is eaten as much as how it tastes and who is in your company. Calories, carbs, proteins, fats, aren’t my main priority…ESPECIALLY while spending time with family. My family is a healthy group of eaters, balanced with a ton of activity. Our beach house will be filled with people of all ages, love, donuts, gobs, cookies, snacky foods, salads, fruit, shrimp…a lot of shrimp, fun, and laughter.

Enjoy your summer vacation! Make it healthy but don’t obsess about it! Don’t like some of the foods on this list? Don’t eat them! Choose healthy snacks you enjoy. Life is too short and moments are too good to focus on how many calories you eat while life is flying past you. Take healthy road trip snacks and mix it in with other foods too #balance.

Owen and Asher approved ::two thumbs up::

Summer Lunchin’

I’m baaaaack! It’s been a while and honestly, I wasn’t inspired enough to give you content that I felt would be worthy of you reading. I took on too much and my brain/heart just wasn’t in it BUT today I felt super inspired because I was trying to wrack my brain about what to give the boys for lunch. Summer is coming and if you have kids who are going to be home or you are going to need to pack them lunches for summer camp, you came to the right place!

I decided to pull together a list of delicious, quick, healthy, and low-cost lunches for you and your kiddos this summer. So what makes a healthy lunch anyway? Welllll I’m so glad you asked! A healthy lunch doesn’t have to be gourmet, take forever to make, or break the bank! It just has to be balanced enough for you and your kiddos to get nourishment and energy that you’ll need to conquer all of the summers most fun moments!

A healthy lunch consists of:
– Protein (for snack/hunger control): turkey lunch meat, peanut butter, beans, peas, cheese, greek yogurt, chicken, tuna, ground beef/chicken/turkey
– Carbohydrates (for energy): whole grain bread, brown rice, potatoes, pasta, pizza crust, corn, beans, peas, lentils, fruit (yep it counts!)
– Veggies (because I said so): carrots, celery, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, veggie soup, tomato soup, snap peas, cauliflower, etc etc etc

From there, get creative! Keeping it low cost is a cinch…seriously, don’t make this too hard on yourself and too time-consuming either! If you use SNAP benefits, these ideas will help your access money stretch! If you get food from your local food bank/pantry keep your eyes peeled for these things! If you’re watching your food budget (like I do) take these tips to heart!

  • Make a meal plan and stick with it. Check your pantry for foods you already have and use them up! Cans of tuna? Tuna salad/casserole this week. Pasta sauce, yep you guessed it! Some kind of pasta dish! From there create a grocery list (if you get food bank items, meal plan around them). ONLY BUY WHAT IS ON YOUR LIST!
  • ROTATE IDEAS! Seriously, don’t reinvent the wheel. Your kiddos (and you) will have your favorite lunches so use them once a week/once every other week. They’ll love you for it and so will your brain 😉 You know that works, they’ll eat it, and it’ll be budget friendly, right?!
  • Because it’s summer, get your fruits and veggies FRESH! They’ll be much cheaper (especially if you plant a garden) and definitely tastier! Check local farmers markets to see if they accept the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC and senior assistance). Many farmers markets also accept access cards. SNAP also covers fruits and vegetables you can plant! You’ll find the SNAP logo on the approved ones.

10 Fun Ideas For Summer Lunchin’

  1. Tomato soup and cheesy flatbread – canned tomato soup will work just fine for this but if you want to make homemade, go for it! I use flatbread or thin pizza crusts…brush with oil, sprinkle with garlic powder/oregano/basil/black pepper, and a small layer of cheese. Bake or broil until cheese is melted! Cut in strips for easy tomato soup dipping!
  2. Tuna salad with crackers and celery – tuna, mayo, and diced pickles are how I like to make my tuna salad. Shoot for a cracker that gives some fiber like wheat thins or triscuits. Serve with a side of celery sticks (these are great to dip into the tuna salad too)!
  3. Garden fresh pasta salad – whole grain or high fiber pasta makes a great base but you can use regular pasta too! Use any veggies you have and add some cubed cheese for protein. My favorite dressing is an Italian style (I make it homemade) but use whatever you like.
  4. Grilled chicken salad with black beans – after making grilled chicken for dinner, use the leftovers in a salad! Top with black beans and your favorite dressing and you’ve got yourself a balanced lunch.
  5. Corn tortilla chips, guacamole, and salsa – my sister makes the.best.guacamole.ever…seriously! Her secret ingredient is sour cream! A great substitute for sour cream is Greek yogurt AND it adds tons of protein! Making guacamole with avocado, limes, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and greek yogurt and serve it with corn tortilla chips (whole grain plus more protein), and salsa!
  6. Sushi-like hummus wraps – grab your favorite hummus flavor, very thinly sliced cucumbers, julienned carrots and peppers, and whole grain wrap. Make it and roll it up tightly! Cut it into small slices like sushi!!!
  7. Turkey bacon BLTs – Turkey bacon, lettuce, garden fresh tomatoes, and whole grain bread. It’s old school but it is SO GOOD! PS if your kiddos don’t like tomatoes, try it with cucumbers instead 🙂
  8. Egg salad sandwiches – Hardboil up a dozen of eggs (use them for this salad, chopped up in a veggie salad, for snacks, etc), I like pickles, celery, and mayo in my egg salad! Gives it a little pop and crunch. Spread on whole grain bread with tomato and lettuce…mmmmmm.
  9. Turkey and cheese kabobs – go to the deli and get turkey breast in a chunk. Buy block cheese and then cube both into one-inch cubes. Along with the cubes of meat and cheese, add cherry tomatoes, pepper squares, lettuce pieces, mushrooms to the kabob sticks…whatever veggie your kiddos like! On the side use honey mustard dressing for dipping!
  10. Apple slice PBJ – Instead of using bread, make it super fun with apple slices! Cut the apple with the core still in the middle OR use an apple corer to take out the core before cutting them in slices (like a sandwich). Put the peanut butter and a small amount of jam or jelly on one apple slice and then top with another apple slice! Fun and delish!

Don’t reinvent the wheel either! I know ya’ll like looking on Pinterest for ideas but what do your kiddos like? Expand on that! If they enjoy mac ‘n cheese MAKE IT FOR THEM ONCE IN A WHILE! They should have a veggie with it, so give them an option of green beans, broccoli, salad, whatever they like. Hot dogs on your kid’s favorite list? FINE! It’s not an everyday kind of thing but once in a while have fun with it! Make them their favorite veggie side dish and have a picnic outside.

Remember parents…you only have 18 summers (sometimes less if they decide to get a summer job when they are 16) with your kiddos. Don’t make the lunch menu a point of contention with kiddos. Keep it fun, incorporate the things they like too, help them try new things, and eat together!!!!! The love and skills they will gain eating together this summer at lunch are going to be taken with them throughout life. Nurture that as you eat your BLTs on a blanket in your back yard 🙂

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Bars

I’m sorry, did you say you love the chocolate-peanut butter combo and can’t imagine life without it???? Yeah, me too.

This recipe is going to throw you for a loop though. It’s a super awesome, omega-3 packed, fiber-rich, chocolately, peanut buttery, FROZEN snack bar. YEP! Frozen! You can’t even imagine the deliciousness…

I have a Pampered Chef problem. Their kitchen tools and gadgets are super high quality and are really thought out by people who spend TIME in the kitchen! I appreciate the thought they put into their products, knowwhati’msayin? ANYWAY they have a new snack bar maker and it’s pretty awesome. You can bake it, freeze it, and just store your homemade granola bars in it.

This recipe boasts crunchy peanut butter (you can substitute it for other nut butters or soy butter), quick oat, rice cereal, chia and flax seed, and of course to add texture/flavor/stick-togetherness -butter, and of course semi-sweet chocolate chips!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER NO-BAKE BARS
1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons)…yes I know, just trust me (you can also use solid coconut oil and I would have had I not run out)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup quick oats
1 cup rice cereal
1 Tablespoon chia seed
1 Tablespoon ground flax seed

  1. In a medium pan over low-medium heat melt butter. Add in the semi-sweet chocolate chips and melt. Then add in the peanut butter to the mixture so that it is smooth (minus the chunks of peanuts). Remove from stove and allow to cool slightly.
  2. In a large bowl mix oats, cereal, chia, and flax seeds. Pour slightly cooled chocolate mixture over the oat mixture and let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Place mixture into a cookie sheet and press flat or if you have a granola bar pan use that!
  4. FREEZE and enjoy!!!!

NOTES: I cut them in small bite size pieces

Why are these better than original No-Bake Cookies????
1. half the butter
2. no added sugar (besides what is in the semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies)
3. chia and flax seed = omega 3 fatty acids = super heart health benefits
4. frozen…because ohhhmagoodness so good!

You can eat well, eat deliciously, and have fun doing it. You don’t need to count calories/fat/carbs in order to be healthy. Eat well, my friends!

Sometimes the Right Thing IS the Hard Thing

By now many of you have quit or forgotten about your New Years Resolutions. Were they too hard? Are you too busy to worry about it right now? Do you want a personal chef, a kick-your-butt trainer, and/or a cookie hand slapper? Were you expecting this time, this year to somehow be different? Did you expect that the new Weight Watchers program or those shakes you bought a few months ago would motivate you enough to stick with it?

Listen to me…the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results. The soul-crushing rules of fad diets, the cycle of starving yourself only to find a few days later binging on anything that isn’t tied down, the all-or-nothing do-or-die diet mentality, and the guilt of eating food that isn’t on the “good” list will whittle away at your psyche and leave you back where you started.

Going on a diet isn’t the fix. I promise. I’ve been a dietitian for over a decade and I’ve been counseling people on their diets for just as long. Diet’s don’t work. Me, creating a meal plan for you doesn’t work. Me telling you what to do DOESN’T WORK!

So what does? What works? YOU. Deep down inside of you is a spark that just needs to be fueled in order to catch fire. What will fuel you? What is your motivation? Deep down, what do you WANT from nutrition, your health, your wellbeing? I can guarantee you that your deepest motivation really isn’t weight loss. Weight loss is a side effect of an even deeper motivation. Dig down. Keep digging.

Ask yourself these questions to help:

  • What are you wanting from a healthy diet?
  • When you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years, what do you see?
  • What about losing weight is important to you?
  • Picture yourself healthy. What does it feel like?

Once you have a picture of what you want out of your health THEN you can begin to make changes for yourself.

My motto is SMALL CHANGES LEAD TO POSITIVE RESULTS. I want you to change your eating habits to make you the healthiest individual you can be. This may be uncomfortable but sometimes the right thing is the hard thing. I also want these changes to be feasible, not soul-crushing 🙂 I want you to be mindful of what you eat and with that comes learning about what is nourishing for you! Stick with me and my blog for that information!

I don’t expect you to eat perfectly. There’s actually no such thing and those that do eat “perfectly” have what we in the healthcare biz call orthorexia. It’s a type of disordered eating and I don’t want you to be trapped by that. That’s not mindful. I want you to eat so that your body is nourished, I want you to eat so your taste buds are satisfied, and I want you to eat because you just simply like the food you are about to eat. In no particular mindful order 🙂

Look, sometimes the healthy choice isn’t always the easiest choice. BUT sometimes the right choices in life aren’t always the easiest. You get to make food choices every day. Sometimes you are going to make a nutrient-rich choice and sometimes you are going to make a choice simply because you like the food you are about to eat, regardless. All I ask is that you think about your food choices. If it is between eating carrot sticks and pretzel sticks I want you to take a step back and think about what your body needs and what will benefit your body most.

Change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Change stretches you. Change challenges you to be different. Remember that insanity definition…doing the same thing over and over and over again expecting different results????? Well, time to be sane again. Time to do something different and get RESULTS!

****I am available for online nutrition counseling. If you or someone you know is interested in an appointment please send me a message****

Salmon Cakes

Happy New Year!!!!! If you made a New Years Resolution about nutrition (or even if you didn’t) follow me. Follow this blog, my Facebook page, and Instagram! I’m here to provide great recommendations, information, recipes, and comic relief about nutrition in real life 🙂

These salmon cakes are easy, packed with flavor, and super nutrient rich. Salmon can be expensive so you may not buy it often if ever. If this is the case, canned salmon is your ticket! Wild caught Alaskan salmon (with bones and skin) is cost-effective and just as rich in nutrients (even more if you use the bones!)

Omega 3 fatty acids are the star of this show! With the salmon, which is SUPER rich in omega-3’s, and the chia seeds, that not only help to bind the patties together but also add more omega-3’s, this dish is very anti-inflammatory!!! Woohoo!!! Not to mention packed with veggies, these cakes are ROCKIN it and your body will thank you for them!

Let’s get down to it. Nothing worse than having to scroll through someone’s blog for an hour before you get the recipe!

Salmon Cakes:

Ingredients

  • 2, 14.5 oz cans wild caught salmon (with bones and skin, crushed)
  • 3/4 cup whole grain crackers, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup minced onions
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 1/2 cup minced carrots
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (I used 4 drops lemon essential oil)

Directions

  1. Drain salmon into large bowl to save. Add salmon to a large bowl and crush bones until all are dissolved.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until blended.
  3. Make into 3 oz patties (slightly larger than the palm of your hand)
  4. Pan fry in 1 tablespoon canola oil OR broil in the oven (5 minutes each side)
  5. Serve with a whole grain or starch and a vegetable for a complete meal!

NOTES:

  • Salmon cakes would go great on a salad or you can make them into a sandwich (like a crab cake sandwich but a salmon cake sandwich instead)
  • Adding lemon zest gives it a more bold lemon flavor
  • Make ahead and freeze some for a quick meal!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do as a family!

How Resolutions Can Be Helpful

You may be hearing negative comments on New Year’s Resolutions. I too, consider myself an anti-resolutioner for many reasons BUT I also like the refreshing nature of a resolution. I’ll be honest, my 2017 wasn’t the greatest year of my life. It was definitely full of blessings but it was also full of hardships, loss, and just plain surviving. I didn’t cook for my family enough, we didn’t meal plan, and we didn’t make the best meal decisions (there may or may not have been waaaay too much fast food in our diets). I  have resolved to make more nourishing meals at home. It seems simple but when you think about it, that means meal planning, better grocery shopping, and actually making the meal!

Resolutions, by definition, are firm decisions to do or not to do something.

What are you resolving?

What are you firmly going to do?

What are you firmly not going to do?

Don’t take this resolution lightly. It is a firm decision! Even if your resolution is not necessarily nutrition related (maybe it’s to quit smoking, reduce your stress, read your Bible, exercise, etc) this blog can help!

5 ways to stick with your resolutions:

  1. If you make one or two resolutions you CAN do it! Making more than three resolutions can be too challenging. One or two is much more manageable. Top priorities only, what are some things holding you back, what do you want for your health and wellbeing, what keeps you awake at night?
  2. Make your goals specific and realistic. Be specific about what you want and be realistic too! Specificity is key…what, where, when, why, how. Realistic…is it probable and possible?
  3. Know there will be bumps in the road. It’s inevitable so just anticipate them and make it a resolution to not let a little bump (or even a big bump) get in the way of your ultimate goals! You didn’t fail, you’re just human.
  4. You don’t have to jump in with both feet. Small steps can make the biggest difference! Even a little change can help your health (physically, mentally, and spiritually) in big ways.
  5. Tell people and get accountability. Gather a group of people who will support you and encourage your resolution. Ask them to check in on you once in a while and check in with them too!

So sure, resolutions can be cliche and many fail but some also stick. For those that actually make it through and change their lifestyle, it can be the difference between wellness and illness. I encourage you to firmly stick with your decision to improve your life, your health, your wellbeing.

Changing My Environment

When I began my career I was placed, as a young whippersnapper dietitian, at an outpatient radiation clinic. Surprisingly, I felt like a valuable part of the team helping patients who had cancer. These people needed help with their nutrition so that they could live as normally as possible through their treatment. That’s when I realized the impact nutrition could have on the lives of cancer patients.

After that, I worked at a large medical center seeing some of the worst cancers. I was working to help people through the terrible symptoms caused by both radiation and chemo as well as bone marrow transplants. The more I read about cancer treatment, cancer survivorship, and cancer prevention, the more I realized nutrition had a bigger piece of the pie than most give it credit for. This fueled the fire for understanding how nutrition impacts the prevention of cancer.

Later in my career, I worked for an insurance company in their Health Education and Wellness department. We taught an Anti-Cancer Lifestyle Program and I’m pretty sure it was the greatest thing I’ve ever taught…and I’ve taught a lot of programs (some I even wrote!). In the class, we talked about how nutrition, physical activity, social, and environmental factors impacted cancer risk and prevention. I learned so much and that’s when my environmental lifestyle changed forever.

I wasn’t super aware of all of the environmental toxins that I used or were around every day. After this class, I had a heightened awareness of just about everything I used every day and how that impacted me and my family. Admittedly, I was a little neurotic at first…thinking I had to throw out everything and start fresh with new natural stuff. As I went on I made a mental list of what was important to me and what was feasible for me to do.

I’m sharing this list because if you’ve been reading up on environmental toxins and are overwhelmed believe me…I was there!!!!! Hope this helps 🙂

Here are some changes I’ve made to lower environmental toxins in my everyday life.

  1. I only microwave in glass. This was the first and easiest to adjust to. No more microwaving in plastic because that plastic breaks down and leaches into your food. Just throw it in a glass bowl/plate and microwave it like that. Easy peasy!
  2. Hand soap swap. I use handsoap all day every day (two super-pooper boys). I’m a huge fan of foaming hand soap which is awesome because making it is SOOO EASY! I use about 1/4-1/3 cup Castile soap (all natural plant based), witch hazel (to help with any cuts or abrasions on my skin), grape seed oil (to moisturize), essential oils (usually lemon, lavender, or whatever I want it to smell like), and water. Boom, done.
  3. Laundry detergent. This was another easy swap. We had already used the free-and-clear versions of commercial soaps and honestly sometimes still do when I get lazy BUT DIY laundry detergent is super easy to make. Castile soap, baking soda, laundry soda, essential oils, water, done. There are really good recipes online but honestly, I’m so used to making it I just dump dump pour drip drop boom. I also use wool dryer balls with essential oils to keep the laundry smelling so-fresh-and-so-clean.
  4. Cleaning spray/products. My boys eat off of everything. The floor, the table, themselves, whatever. So I really don’t like the thought of them possibly picking up toxins from cleaning supplies. My everyday cleaning spray is simply distilled vinegar, castile soap, essential oils, and water. I mostly clean off highchairs, table, and countertops with it. I’ve also started using Norwex (I’ll put a plug in for my friends Heather and Lysandra who sell these wonderful clothes and cleaning supplies)!!!!!!
  5. Beauty products. This is one that I’m slowest on and honestly, my make up isn’t natural. Makeup really isn’t a priority because I don’t wear it every day. Soaps, scrubs, face masks, lotions, lip glosses, and other things are all in check. I’m a big fan of POSH, especially their lotions, and soaps. YUM! I also use essential oils to make my own.
  6. Essential oiler. I started being a serious oiler a year ago. I knew about essential oils but I didn’t make the plunge to start using them regularly until this past year and I’m so glad I did! I use two major brands, Young Living and Plant Therapy. Honestly, I use them every.single.day for one thing or another. It makes reducing your environmental toxins so easy!
  7. Using stainless steel or glass to eat/drink off/out of. More and more I’m reducing plastic in my life to the point that in a few years I hope to have little to none. The twins drank out of glass or stainless steel bottles when they were babies but I’m still working on sippy cups! Not only is this for cancer prevention but also think about the positive impact on the environment!
  8. Threw out my candles. Remember that essential oil bit? Yeah, I use those scents instead of burning candles…and believe me, I had a candle problem years ago! Instead, I just use essential oils with my diffusers (I bought 2 of them on Amazon for $15 each…seriously, cheap! I also have a Young Living one as well). Essential oils smell good AND many have an aromatherapeutic effect!
  9. Keeping the cell phone away from my body as much as possible. Cell phones next to your body could increase your risk for cancer (research is still inconclusive but RF waves aren’t awesome) Ladies, stop putting your cell phone in your bra next to your breasts!
  10. ***Using beeswax covers instead of plastic wrap or my beloved press ‘n seal. I love press ‘n seal. Hahaha I do though. BUT I’ve wanted to switch more for environmental reasons than toxin reasons (because I don’t microwave with press ‘n seal). I was given a sample of the beeswax covers by a local company Dreaming Tree Designs. The designs are cute AND all you need to do is wash it off and reuse over and over and over again!

I hope this helps. If you want to learn more about environmental toxins check out The Anti Cancer Lifestyle Program’s free environmental assessment! It’s an eye-opener!