Has it really been 100 days already? Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess. Living and breathing Real Food these past 100 days has made us realize a lot of things. We thought we’d take a minute to share our thoughts on the challenge and hope you will share your experience as well. We are so far from experts, but here are 10 things we learned during the last 100 days (we thought 100 would be overkill).
1. We already prepared a lot of real food, without even thinking about it. “I credit this to my mother, grandmother and extended family who always make everything homemade,” - Magge
2. The transition to Real Food was easier than we thought. “To make my homemade macaroni and cheese Real Food macaroni and cheese, I just subbed white flour out for some white whole wheat (that King Arthur’s stuff is awesome), and the regular noodles for whole wheat ones. Done. And awesome, BTW.” - Maggie
3. Reading labels is important. Not only does this help extend that precious alone time at the grocery store (when did grocery shopping alone become such a luxury, BTW?), it also changed what we buy. The staples like bread, bagels and yogurt we used to buy without thinking twice have now been swapped out for Real Food versions. It’s the little things that make a big impact. Here's how to read food labels.
4. Eating Real Food is expensive. There just isn’t any way around this one, but we did find a lot of tips to make it more affordable. We know the cost is a big challenge, preventing a lot of people from eating Real Food. We are hopeful healthy, organic, whole foods will become more and more accessible to everyone in the coming years.
5. Rethink fast food. We don’t eat fast food, but what kid (or adult) doesn’t love chicken nuggets. Have you ever thought about making homemade chicken nuggets? They are so good and there is no mystery meat. Here is a recipe we used for inspiration. You probably won’t be able to make them look like dinosaurs, but the kids will get over that once they taste them.
6. Getting the kids involved is so fun. Stirring, pounding, mixing and pressing out tortillas was a highlight for Maggie and her boys.
7. Having a plan is key. This not only saved our sanity, but made it easy for everyone to be on board. “It’s easy for the nanny, my husband or my mom to look at the meal plan on the fridge and make Parker something to eat when I am away from home. It takes the guesswork out of cooking and makes feeding her healthy so easy.” - Melissa
8. Leftovers are the best. In addition to prepping and planning ahead, making a little extra of whatever we were having for dinner, meant we could turn it into lunch the next day.
9. The right tools make a big difference. “I would cook and puree a lot of fruits and vegetables for Parker on Sundays. But without a bunch of trays to freeze the purees in, I would have a bunch of pureed food that has to sit in the fridge while I wait for the trays to be available again. More trays would make it easier, but at $25 each, I just couldn’t spend the money for that convenience.” - Melissa. On the other hand, Maggie has already gotten her money’s worth of her newly acquired tortilla press.
10. We discovered new favorite foods. Farro, homemade ricotta, homemade almond milk are just a few of our new favorite things. We also learned to not fear fat.
Now it’s your turn...what did you learn during the challenge? What are your Real Food tips?
This post comes to you from Healthline and is written by Adrienne Santos-Longhurst. Healthline's mission is to improve health through information. Healthline provides objective, trustworthy, and accurate health information, guided by the principles of responsible journalism and publishing. Enjoy this article on real food lunches.
Knowing what to pack in your child’s lunch box isn’t always easy. From trying to balance between food that’s healthy and food that they’ll actually want to eat can be a downright pain! This can especially hard when it comes to sticking to lunches made up of real food and not just reaching for some of the quick fixes at the grocery store.
Obviously, your child is always worth the effort, but it’s perfectly okay to admit that sometimes a hectic schedule makes it hard to prepare real foods for their lunches five times a week. Before you give into your crazy schedule or your child’s pleading for cheese and cracker snack packs like “all the other kids get,” think about these facts:
-According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 in every 3 children in America is overweight or obese.
-Contrary to popular belief, fast food isn’t the main cause of child obesity, according to a recent study. Turns out that the bigger issue is what their parents and caregivers are feeding them, which often includes very little fruits and veggies and loads of processed foods and sugar-filled beverages.
-Obese kids have a higher risk of several health issues such as bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and heart disease. They also have a higher risk of psychological problems like low self-esteem.
-A National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel concluded long ago that food additives and certain foods affect some children with behavioral issues, including ADHD.
It won’t be easy to get your child to eat a lunch box full of whole grains, fruits, and veggies when little Suzy is sitting on one side with her cupcake treat and little Jared on the other eating a pizza pocket. The key to making it work is to create healthy alternatives that taste great and, since kids are visual creatures; look good too.
Since sandwiches are a lunch box staple, be sure to include them even if only a couple times a week. Make your own bread, or buy whole grain breads that list grains as the first ingredient on the label. Pack them with protein-filled natural nut butters and sweeten them up with slices of banana. Honey is also a nice alternative to highly processed jams and spreads. If getting them to eat sandwiches takes a little more coaxing, then add some whimsy by cutting the bread into a fun shape. It’s all in the details with some kids!
Fruits and vegetables can be approached much the same way, by cutting and arranging them into fun shapes. It may seem a little frivolous, but investing a few bucks into spiral slicer or taking a few extra minutes to spiral cucumbers and other veggies can make all the difference in the world! Baking veggies into “chips” is also a sure-fire way to get a child to eat their veggies without any moaning.
And, give them the special fast food treats they want without all the fat and additives. Ground turkey and chicken made into patties and placed in a whole grain bun is a great alternative to the traditional hamburger and making your own whole grain pizza dough and letting them add their own healthy toppings is a fun way to give them a healthy version of a classic kid favorite.
Other kid-friendly real food ideas are:
The way you pack their lunch is also important. It may seem silly since most of us could care less what our lunch is packaged in when break time rolls around and we’re hungry. To a kid, the way the food is packaged matters, especially when they’re surrounded by other kids drinking out of bottles with straws and slurping snacks out of squishy tubes and containers! Look for cool containers to make the “real food” look like “fun kid food”. Snack trays with different compartments like bento boxes are great, as are bright bottles, and yes, the Little Green Pouch too. Its kid and slurp-friendly design is ingenious, along with being reusable and compact, of course. Basically, when it comes to packing a lunch that appeals to kids: If you can rearrange it, squish it, or slurp it; they’ll love it!
Getting your kids to eat real food at school doesn’t have to be a struggle. Put your kid cap on and think like your 6-year-old self when planning and preparing their lunches and snacks. And, don’t forget to ask for their input and include them in the process. You’d be surprised at how excited they get about lunch when they have some say.
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she's not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand up paddle board.
My sons Kelley and Finnegan are 5 and 3. Kelley is in kindergarten, and then goes to an afterschool program for a couple of hours (from 1-3). Finnegan is in preschool during the same hours. This means that mama’s preparing lunch for these guys every day of the week. Yeah, every single day (except holidays and those puzzling “in-service” days).
I’m not sure if you are there yet. You know, waking up each morning with the “I have to make school lunches” dread. Stressing over what to put in that fourth container of your kids’ BPA free bento box. Frantically peeling and chopping that last dehydrated carrot in the back of the produce bin because that’s all the plant material left in the fridge. Searching (for what seems like hours) through the Tupperware drawer to find the lid to that fourth container of your kids’ BPA free bento box. I’ll be honest, it’s a grind.
But I must say, things have gotten easier for me. Planning is huge. Preparing the lunch box the night before is even huger (I just checked Dictionary.com and that is actually a real word). Taking on this Real Food Initiative has helped me on both fronts. The truth is, if you want to eat more real food, you have to be organized, and you have to plan. For example, if I want my kids to have wholesome real food applesauce in a pouch for lunch, instead of one loaded with added sugar and artificial ingredients, I need to do it ahead of time. The good thing about this is if I plan and make it on the weekend, I have enough for the entire week (this recipe is great, you can do it in the slow cooker).
Also, if I plan ahead by making a double batch of a particular recipe, I have extra for the boys’ (and even my) lunches during the week. I’ve been doing that a lot with a recipe from 100 Days of Real Food for macaroni and cheese. And what’s even better about this is, when we finish having this fantastic real food mac ‘n cheese for dinner, I just plop what’s left into the good ol’ bento box and I’m half way to “lunch is packed” heaven.
Leftovers are a true sanity saver for me. Here’s an example of today’s Real Food Lunchbox with leftover pork (from dinner), French Toast (from breakfast) and cut up fruits and veggies (from the weekend snack). Having this Real Food Lunchbox already prepared when I woke up this morning was pure bliss.
We want to talk lunchbox with you this week. Let us know your tips for creating healthy, real food school lunches. And check in later in the week for some fun, lunch box give-aways.
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