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Food for Thought: Your Child's Lunch- To Pack or not to Pack

Written by Lisa Jillanza

It's a well-known fact that school-aged children who do not eat a nutritious breakfast or refuel with nutritious lunch during the middle of their school day lack focus, can be disruptive in class, and can oftentimes be very distracting to their fellow classmates.

Healthy lunch for children

Because kids are growing daily, they need the appropriate calories and nutritious value in their meals, especially breakfast and lunch, so that they can meet the demands of their growing bodies. If you need some help in decided what you should be packing in your child's lunch and what you should be keeping at the grocery store here is some help,

Lunchables or other pre-packaged lunch kits : Nutritionists call this “double packing” in that manufacturers have already packed the lunch and then you repack it into their lunch.  Most of these pre-packaged lunches contain lots of sodium and fat, along with very few nutrients.  These packaged meals leave kids feeling unfulfilled and therefore not refueled when it comes to tackling the rest of their day.

White bread : While sandwiches are a good choice for your child's lunch, if you are using white bread to make your sandwiches, then you are missing out on some significant nutritional value. Instead try some whole grain bread, with at least 3 grams of fiber per slice, so that your child gets more out of their sandwich than usual.

Fruit snacks : Fruit snacks are so very deceiving, they say they are made with real fruit, but they are made with fruit juice which is just sugar.  Plus, fruit snacks get lodged into your kid's teeth very easily leading to decay.  Choose an apple, orange or another healthy fruit for your child's lunch instead of those deceptive fruit snacks.

Soda : sure it's a no-brainer that you shouldn't be packing soda into your child's lunch, but still kids drink soda.  Soda is high in sugar, high in calories, and high in caffeine and that's about it!  Nutritionists are also weary of sports drinks, like Gatorade, because they are primarily sugar with some added salt. Milk or water is always best.

Healthy Living: Pumpkin Spice Latte Breakdown

Written by Lisa Jillanza

One sure sign of fall is not the changing and falling leaves or the drop in temperature, it's definitely the Pumpkin Spice Lattes EVERYWHERE!

While they taste delicious, they can be one of the unhealthiest things you can drink all year. Here are some of the most popular brands that unfortunately aren't good for your overall health.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

  • Au Bon Pain Pumpkin Pie Latte : this latte packs 290 calories, 7 grams fat, 115 mg sodium, 49 grams carb, and 47 grams sugar. That's 12 tablespoons of sugar!
  • Krispy Kreme Pumpkin Spice Latte : this seasonal favorite contains 310 calories, 11 grams fat, 120 mg sodium, and 43 grams carbs.  The one saving grace of this drink is that these amounts are for the smaller size 12 oz cup.
  • McDonald's McCafe Pumpkin Spice Latte : people are “lovin' it” but it's filled with 340 calories, 10 grams fat, 51 grams carbs, and 160 mg sodium.  With 160 mg of sodium, that's twice the amount of salt than a kid's size French fries.
  • Einstein Brothers Pumpkin Latte : this latte contains 370 calories, 10 grams fat, 65 mg sodium, 59 grams carbs, and 54 grams sugar.  With 59 grams of carbs, that is twice the amount of a bagel, maybe it's time to rethink your beverage of choice!
  • Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte : this is hands down the most popular fall drink of choice (come on, it had its own trending hash tag!) and it is filled with 440 calories, 8 grams fat, 280 mg sodium, and 63 grams carbs.  You would be better off eating a pumpkin cream cheese muffin : which contains fewer calories!
  • Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Latte : this latte contains 470 calories, 13 grams fat, 250 mg sodium, and 71 grams sugar.  And just because they offer three different flavors of pumpkin latte that doesn't mean you are in the clear if you order one over another : they are all made up of the same nutritional content.  You would be better off eating three of their chocolate caramel donuts!

Eating Healthy: Spotlight on: Pumpkins

Written by Lisa Jillanza
  • Many people do not know that pumpkins are made up of 90 percent water.
  • Pumpkins also contain other great nutritional aspects including potassium and vitamin A.
  • The bright orange color of pumpkins also tells us that they are a great source of the important antioxidant, beta carotene.

Healthy Pumpkins

Recipe: Traditional Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 ¾ cups (one 15oz. can) unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

(For crust us a pre-made store bought crust or a homemade crust) In a small heavy saucepan, stir the pumpkin, brown sugar, spices and salt together until mixed.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and shiny.  Scrape the mixture into a mixer or food processor for 1 minute. With the motor on, add the milk and cream, mixing until incorporated completely.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing just to incorporate, about 5 seconds after each egg.  When you add the last egg, also add the vanilla. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell.  Bake the pie for 50 - 60 minutes at 375 degrees.

Recipe: Pumpkin Soup

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 whole black peppercorns

Heat stock, salt, pumpkin, onion, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.  Puree the soup in small batches (1 cup at a time) using a food processor or blender.  Return to pan and bring to boil again.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered.  Stir in heavy cream.  Pour into soup bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.

Food for Thought: Understanding Fats

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Good fats? Bad fats? You will not find these terms on food labels. Instead you will see words like polyunsaturated and trans fats. This article will give you a brief explanation of the four types of fats (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats) and how they affect your body.

Understanding Fats

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are fats that stay solid at room temperature, such as lard, coconut oil and cow butter. Saturated fats are considered “bad fats” because they raise your bad cholesterol level, thereby raising your total cholesterol level. People whose diet consists of many foods high in saturated fats typically are at a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats have a lower melting temperature than saturated fats, which means that they do not stay solid at room temperature.  These types of fats can be found in: peanut oil, olive oil, nuts and avocados.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are fats that can stay liquid even at lower temperatures, such as corn oil and sunflower oil.  Polyunsaturated fats are also found in soybeans, fish, fish oil and in grain products. Dieticians consider polyunsaturated fats the “good fats” as they lower cholesterol and they help prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering the amount of fat in the blood. 

Trans Fats

Trans fats are man-made fats that are created during the hydrogenation process.  These types of fats are unnatural and toxic to your body.  Trans fats are abundant in packaged and processed foods. Dieticians consider trans fats the “bad fats” as they can cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, birth defects, low birth weight babies, and sterility.

Eating Healthy: Spotlight on Sweet Potatoes

Written by Lisa Jillanza
  • Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene and vitamin C.
  • The nutrients in sweet potatoes are also anti-inflammatory, which means that besides being great tasting, sweet potatoes can help reduce the severity of conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • In addition, sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6.

Sweet Potatoes

Recipe: Golden Sweet Potato Brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups peeled and finely shredded sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the batter just until blended. Fold in the shredded yam. Spread the batter evenly in the greased baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Mix together the confectioners' sugar, butter and milk until smooth. Spread over the brownies while they are still warm.

Recipe: Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

  • 6 sweet potatoes cut into French fries
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a plastic bag, combine the sweet potatoes, canola oil, taco seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Close and shake the bag until the fries are evenly coated. Spread the fries out in a single layer on two large baking sheets.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until crispy and brown on one side. Turn the fries over using a spatula, and cook for another 30 minutes, or until they are all crispy on the outside and tender inside. Thinner fries may not take as long.