Archive for October, 2008

 I am a meal planner.  I find that if I plan meals for one or two weeks and grocery shop for all the items I need to make those meals, I reduce my stress level and feel good about the healthful meals I am offering my family.  I can plan for variety, 5 to 9 fruits and veggies a day and making half my grains whole, as the mantra’s go.


As part of my planning process, I pick a few recipes from the dog-eared pages of my recent cooking magazines, throw in a few of my family’s favorite meals, and plan to use leftovers, creatively to fill in the gaps.  I stick to the following rules that I have compiled from many respected health sources.


Per week:


ü Only one meal with red meat

ü  At least one meatless meal

ü  Meals including fish once or twice

ü  Include beans (black, kidney, garbanzo, navy, baked) in 2 or more meals


But as all great planners can attest to, sometimes our plan fails us.  I might run out of an important ingredient to a recipe, or just simply run out of time to prepare that particular planned meal.  Not to worry, because I have what I call a stand by meal.


Stand by meals fit the following criteria, as defined by me:

ü I always have the ingredients for these meals

ü Prep to table in 30 minutes or less.


I am sure every meal planner has their own meal stand-bys. Here is my stand by meal and recipe:


Black Bean and Rice Burritos – Makes 6 burritos


1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)

1 can diced tomatoes (try zesty style if you like a little heat)

1 bouillon cube – vegetable or chicken bouillon

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup dry brown rice, cooked according to package directions

Shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Whole wheat flour tortillas

Light sour cream (optional)

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

1 ripe avocado, seed removed and cut into wedges (optional)


Cook rice according to package directions (around 20 minutes). While rice is cooking, sauté garlic in olive oil over medium low heat for about 1 minute.  Add rinsed beans, diced tomatoes (including juice), and bouillon cube. Cook on medium low until some liquid absorbs (about 15 minutes).  Add cilantro in last 5 minutes. Assemble burritos.  Lay out tortilla and spread a spoonful of rice along the middle.  Next add a spoonful of the bean mixture.  Add a little shredded cheese, light sour cream and avocado and roll it up.  Serve.



Always on hand:  Brown rice, 1 can black beans, 1 can diced tomatoes, whole wheat flour tortilla shells, cheddar cheese, tomato sauce, bouillon cubes, and garlic.


The beauty of this recipe is that I can add ingredients like chopped peppers, avocado, green onions, salsa, if I have it.  If I don’t, they are just as good without it. 


My son and husband love this meal and often times request it.  It is meatless, if you use vegetable bouillon; high fiber, low fat and can possibly contain all food groups in one burrito!  Serve with fruit (canned peaches packed in 100% juice, or mandarin oranges, always on hand) and steamed corn.  Remember, after making your stand by meal, put all items on shopping list for next time!




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During the school year, your child has access to nutritious meals through the School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. But when school is out for the summer, access to these programs comes to an end. Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, you can make sure your child has healthy meals in the summer.

The Summer Food Service Program reimburses sponsor sites for healthy meals and snacks they serve in their area throughout the summer months. The program is administered by the Ohio Department of Education and site sponsors vary but may include schools, community centers, public or private nonprofit agencies, and public or private nonprofit colleges or universities with National Youth Sports Program activities. Sites must meet one of the following criteria: 1) Location is in an area served by a school where 50% or more of the students are enrolled in free or reduced-price meals, 2) Location is in an area where 50% or more of the population earns less than 185% of the federal poverty level, 3) Income eligibility information gathered from all children verifies that participants live in households that earn less than 185% of the federal poverty level.

To sign-up for summer meals, call 1-800-481-6885.

To sponsor a Summer Food Service Site, call 1-800-481-6885.

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Think about the color of pumpkin.  A deep bright orange like fall leaves.  Some of my favorite pictures of my son are in the pumpkin patch on a sunny day. The contrast of the blue October sky and the orange pumpkins is the perfect background to capture a small child’s excitement over these mysterious objects lying in the dirt.  We have a picture of him at just over a year of age giving thanks to the great pumpkin by squatting over one with his head down and arms outstretched.  It was a completely candid shot and I love it!


What makes the pumpkin so great?  Because of its dark color, it ranks as one of the top foods from a nutrition standpoint.  Pumpkins, along with other dark orange colored vegetables, are low in calories, very high in fiber (5 grams per serving), and are packed with an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients including vitamins C and E, potassium and magnesium.  The key ingredient that makes pumpkin so valuable comes from the antioxidant group, carotenoids (alpha and beta-carotene).  Carotenoids, working together with the other important nutrients, have been linked to decreasing the risk of various cancers (lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast, and skin), heart disease and blindness caused by cataracts and macular degeneration.  All this and just ½ cup is a serving!


I bet you are thinking that there is no way you plan to wrestle cutting, peeling and scraping a pumpkin in order to get to the edible insides on a busy weeknight after a long day of work.  Well, never fear!  The beauty of this beast is that a can of 100% pumpkin that you can buy at the store in the baking aisle, is just as good nutritionally speaking and all the work has been done for you.  I regularly make this recipe for a pumpkin pudding that tastes like pumpkin pie without the crust.  It is easy to always have these ingredients on hand.  Plus it is low in fat (being crustless) and makes a great fall side dish.  This is one vegetable dish (technically it is a fruit) you can get your whole family to eat!


P.S.  When carving your Halloween pumpkin this year, don’t forget to roast those pumpkin seeds.  Pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) offer a lot of nutritional value as well including vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.  Just scoop them out, rinse them off, let them dry and then pop them in the oven on a cookie sheet sprinkled with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and other spices.  Cook at 350 degrees for around 15 minutes.


Pumpkin Pudding

Serves 6


½ cup sugar

1 ¼ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (you can substitute 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, and ½ teaspoon ground cloves)

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin (like Libby’s)

1 12-ounce can nonfat or 2% fat evaporated milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt and pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon spice mixture in a small bowl.  Beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Stir in the pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture.  Gradually stir in the evaporated milk.  Pour into a shallow oven proof baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes.  Do not over bake; the center should be slightly wiggly.  Cool and serve.  Refrigerate leftovers.

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If your child is very active he needs plenty of healthy snacks throughout the day.  Remember that a child has a smaller stomach than an adult and his stomach can only hold small portions of food at any given time.  Healthy snacks in between meals are important to make sure that he:

· gets enough nutrients,

· is able to maintain his energy level throughout the day, and

· does not feel hungry, which allows him to concentrate on the task at hand without losing focus or becoming cranky.    

After-school sites across Ohio benefit from the USDA after-school meal and snack reimbursement program, helping children end the day with a nutritious meal. Meals can be served to children up to age 12 and children of migrant workers 15 years and younger at a sponsored after-school program. Snacks can be served at sites for school-age children up to 18 years of age. After-school site reimbursement rates are based on each child’s family income level.

To sign-up for afterschool meals, visit http://www.occrra.org/contact_agencies.htm

To sponsor an afterschool meal program, call 1-800-481-6885.

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Lunch provides a significant amount of your child’s daily nutrition needs. Eating a healthy lunch enhances children’s learning abilities by contributing to their physical and mental well being. Studies have shown that children whose nutritional needs are met are more attentive in class and have fewer discipline and attendance problems. If eligible, your child can receive free or reduced-price meals that are healthy from his or her school through the National School Lunch Program.

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that offers repayment for nutritious, low-cost or free lunches served to children in public and private schools and residential child care facilities. The program is administered by the Ohio Department of Education and serves children attending participating schools and agencies. Children with family income at or below 130% of the federal poverty level are eligible for free meals. Children with family income at or below 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. All children with family income above 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible for full-priced meals.

To sign-up for a School Lunch Program, call your school.

To start a School Breakfast Program, visit http://childrenshungeralliance.org/SCHOOL&SUMMER/

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I simplified my life and reduced my grocery spending by doing one simple thing a few years back.  I stopped regularly buying and having soda pop and other sugary beverages in my home!  This makes beverage choices easy for my son.  I don’t have to say “no” to him about fruit punch or soda pop because it is not even an option.  I also found that it worked great for my husband and me as well!  We drink a lot more water and are happier and slimmer for it! 


Did you know that there are almost 11 teaspoons of sugar in one 12 ounce can of regular soda pop?  Measure it out with your kids sometime for a visual shock.  Also notice that there are no nutrients of value in that can like vitamins or minerals.  One can of regular soda pop a day for one year on top of your calorie needs could cause you to gain 15 pounds in that year!  The artificial sweetener in diet soda isn’t a healthy choice either, in my book. 


All your family needs is milk, 100% juice and water!  Here is how it works:


In a day we need:

½ to 1 cup of 100% juice

2 to 3 cups 2%, 1% or skim milk (kids over age 1 and under age 2 need whole milk)

Water for thirst anytime


Juice offers us vitamin C if you choose 100% juices that naturally have vitamin C like orange, pineapple or grapefruit.  Other 100% juices are fortified with vitamin C and can also be a good choice.  Vitamin C is required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. Vitamin C is essential for the healing of wounds, and for the repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.  Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds in foods that help the body fight against cancer and heart disease.  Read the label to determine if your juice is 100% juice, not a little juice and a lot of added sugar.  It should say 100% juice and only have two or three ingredients on the ingredient list.  Fruit juice drinks like juice cocktails, Hi-C, or Sunny D have added sugar that you and your kids don’t need. Drink one serving (1/2 cup for kids and 1 cup for adults) of juice a day.  The rest of your five to nine servings a day should be whole fruits and vegetables.


Milk offers calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D.  Calcium keeps our bones and teeth strong, our hearts and other important muscles contracting and helps clot our blood.  Vitamin A plays an essential role in our vision, maintains healthy hair and skin and keeps our immune system strong.  Vitamin D helps our body use calcium to maintain strong bones and also helps to keep our immune system strong.  There are other food sources of calcium, but milk packs a powerful dose of this and the other vitamins.  For kids over age 2 and adults, choose low-fat milk; either 2%, 1% or skim.  They have the same vitamins and minerals, just less fat and calories.  Kids over age 1 but under age 2 should drink whole milk because they need the extra fat for brain development. Drink 2-3 servings (2 for kids under 9 years old and 3 for 9 and older) of milk and milk products a day. 


Water is thirst quenching, contains no fat, cholesterol, calories or caffeine and is low in sodium.  Drink water in between meals. Do you get bored of plain water?  Add a slice of lemon, lime or orange to liven it up.  Freeze berries and water in ice cube trays for a fun and chilling addition to water.  Get your kids turned on to water early in life!  If you do, they will turn to it to quench their thirst first!


What about soda pop, diet soda pop, sports drinks or fruit punch?  On occasion, I will buy these drinks, but when they are gone, they are gone! A 2 liter of soda pop is plenty for pizza night and a pitcher of lemonade on a hot summer day is perfect and does not last long.  That is the point.  These drinks are great as a special treat, but not everyday! 



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Just as gasoline fuels cars, food fuels our bodies.  Your body changes food into energy that you need for thinking, walking and talking.  When your child wakes up in the morning after a night time of no food intake, his body is running on an empty tank. 


Eating a healthy breakfast helps your child’s concentration and problem-solving abilities, increases his attention span and mental performance, and lifts his mood. Studies have shown that people that eat a healthy breakfast have better overall diets, are less likely to have health problems, and are more likely to be physically active.  So you can see why it’s important that your child eats a healthy breakfast every morning.

The School Breakfast Program is a federal reimbursement program to provide nutritionally-balanced breakfasts to children in public and private schools and residential child care facilities. The program is administered by the Ohio Department of Education and serves children attending participating schools and agencies. Children with family income at or below 130% of the federal poverty level are eligible for free meals. Children with family income at or below 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. All children with family income above 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible for full-priced meals.

To sign-up for the School Breakfast Program, call your school.

To start a School Breakfast Program, visit http://childrenshungeralliance.org/SCHOOL&SUMMER/

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