Sep 10 2010

lunchbox love – the series

photo courtesy of M. Patrizio

5 Nutrition Must-Haves For Your Kids School Lunch
by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD of Raise Healthy Eaters

Lunchbox Menu Ideas For Everyday of the Week:

Monday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a lunchbox made by PlanetBox.
Tuesday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a lunchbox made by LapTop Lunches.
Wednesday’s Lunch Idea provided by Super Healthy Kids
Thursday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a lunchbox made by GoodByn.
Friday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a divided container made by LunchBot.

Lunchboxes Reviewed on Foodie-isms:

PlanetBox Review
LapTop Lunches Review
GoodByn Review
LunchBot Review
Lunch Box Notes Review

Lunchbox Recipes

Strawberry N’Cream Sandwich
Cinnamon Apple Sandwich

Fun Lunch Paraphernalia:

Say Please Lunch Box Notes reviewed by nice shoes, a great bag, and no drama

Contributing Blog Sites:

Raise Healthy Eaters by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD
Super Healthy Kids by Amy Roskelley
nice shoes, a great bag, and no drama by Leigh Macdonald

Sep 1 2010

5 nutrition must-haves for your kids school lunch

Getting kids back to school leaves parents scrambling — and that includes preparing nutritious and kid-pleasing school lunches. This is why Foodie-isms is bringing you the Love Box Love Series.  We know you put a lot of TLC into making your kid’s lunch. Unfortunately, the anxiety and self-doubt you also feel might be weighing you down.

Do you wonder if your little one is getting enough variety and nutrition?  Do you rack your brain trying to find ways to get them to eat something other than their favorite sandwich?  Are you searching for more healthy lunch box ideas?

This series is here to help you get more joy and peace of mind when it comes to packing lunches.  As a registered dietitian and mom of two, I’ve crafted an easy nutrition checklist for you to keep in mind as you  plan your child’s lunch.  Stephanie will follow-up with awesome meal ideas that are tasty, easy and nutritious.  I can’t wait to try them on my little preschooler.

So with that in mind, let’s talk nutrition:

New Nutrition Standards

Based on the 2009 Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations, new and tougher nutrition standards will be phased into school nutrition programs all over the country.  Yet parents packing their child’s lunch also need guidance about which key nutrients and foods to provide (and which to limit).

Source referenced.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that while both school meals and packed lunches had similar amounts of calories and protein, packed lunches had 50% more sugar, sodium and saturated fat than school lunches. Packed lunches fared better in fruit, iron and calcium content but contained fewer vegetables.

Here is a general nutrition checklist based on the IOM’s recommendations for School Lunches:

1. Include at least one Whole Grain serving: The Dietary Guidelines recommend that half of grain servings be “whole,” about 3 servings per day.  Make sure to include at least one whole grain serving in your child’s lunch such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, oats or whole grain crackers.  To find out the whole grain value in your favorite products look for the Whole Grain Councils stamped products (16g of whole = 1 serving)

2. Vary the fruits and vegetables: The biggest change to School Lunch nutrition standards is the variety and amount of fruits and vegetables offered.  IOM recommends 3/4 to 1 cup of dark green and orange veggies (high in vitamin A) and legumes (beans, lentils and dried peas). They also recommend 1/2 cup to 1 cup of fruit.

So include a fruit and veggie with most meals.  Experiment with broccoli, kale, romaine, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and other colorful veggies instead of starchy white potatoes and corn.  Try vitamin-C rich fruits like oranges, strawberries, kiwi and cantaloupe.  And  substitute legumes for meat whenever you can (see below)

3. Make Room for Low Fat Dairy: To limit saturated fat the new IOM guidelines recommend offering kids1% milk or fat free instead of 2% or whole milk.

But how much is enough?  To meet calcium and other nutrient needs, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends two cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products (cheese, yogurt) a day for children ages 2 to 8 and three cups per day for individuals aged 9 and older.

It’s important for parents to understand how much calcium their kids need. 1-3 year olds need 500 mg per day, 4-8 year olds need 800 mg and 9-18 year olds need 1300 mg.  Check these charts for dairy and non-dairy sources of calcium so you can make sure your kids get the calcium they need to build strong bones.

non-dairy calcium sources
Referenced from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.

diary source of calcium
Referenced from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005.

4. Choose satisfying meat or meat alternatives: Every lunch box needs some protein.  The IOM recommends at least 2 ounces of meat or meat alternatives daily. When choosing meat stick with lean options (3g fat or less) like turkey, chicken or ham.  Fish or canned tuna make great additions and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids DHA & EPA.  Don’t forget to go meatless with beans, cheese, edamame, eggs or tofu.

Remember that 1/2 cup of beans, edamame and tofu or one egg, 3/4 cup cottage cheese, 2 Tbsp. peanut butter or 1 ounce of cheese all are equal to one ounce of meat.

5. Watch for Extras. The IOM guidelines recommend limits for certain foods and nutrients such as saturated fat, sodium, calories and sugar.  The idea is not to eliminate them but to watch how excesses can creep into lunch boxes.  Let’s go down the list.

Fat: The IOM guidelines focus on the type of fat instead of total fat restrictions.  Fat is a rich source of calories that is important for kids growth.  So include plant sources of fat including nuts, seeds, olive and canola oil and avocados.  Go easy on saturated fats contained in high fat meats, full fat dairy, butter and processed foods.

Sodium: Sodium can become problematic when adding salt to foods, using packaged/canned items and utilizing cured meats in sandwiches.  IOM recommends limiting sodium to <636mg (5-10yo), <704mg (11-13yo) and <736mg (14-18yo). So check your labels.

Calories: I don’t recommend counting calories in your kids lunch but it’s good to have a general idea on calorie limits as you read labels.  IOM recommends no more than 650 calories for students in grades K-5, 700 for children in grades 6-8, and 850 for those in grades 9-12.

Sugar: According to a report by the American Heart Association, the average intake for sugar is 22 teaspoons per day with 14-19 year olds having the highest intake (34 teaspoons!).  Soft drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages are the main source of added sugars.  So stick with water or 100% fruit juices instead of “fruit drinks” and read labels on packages to keep added sugars to a minimum.  There’s nothing wrong with including a sweet treat in some of your kid’s lunches.  Moderation is key.

So there you have it.  Some guidelines to help as you plan nutritious lunches for your kids.  But knowing what to do is one thing, making it happen in a way your kids will like is another.

Stay tuned for tasty lunch box ideas from Stephanie. And let me know any nutrition worries you have in the comment section.

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen is a registered dietitian, mother of two and creator of Raise Healthy Eaters, a blog that provides parents with simple and sound nutrition advice.

Check out Maryann’s latest series on how to turn picky eaters into healthy eaters.

Lunchbox Menu Ideas For Everyday of the Week:

Monday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a lunchbox made by PlanetBox.
Tuesday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a lunchbox made by LapTop Lunches.
Wednesday’s Lunch Idea was provided by Super Healthy Kids.
Thursday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a lunchbox made by GoodByn.
Friday’s Lunch Idea is featured in a divided container made by LunchBot.

Jul 31 2010


This all-in-one Goodbyn lunchbox has some great features.

–       easy-to-open ears

–       built-in handle

–       5 food cubbies

–       water bottle

–       stickers for personalization

Mom Review: I love the fact that this lunchbox has one cubby large enough to hold a whole apple, banana or a yogurt cup.  This all-in-one lunchbox also has a built in handle used to transport your lunchbox to school, so no extra carrying case needed.

Child Review: My son picked the Goodbyn lunchbox as his first choice of carrying his lunch to school.  He spent at least an hour personalizing the lunchbox to make it his own by decorating it with stickers (stickers are included with the lunchbox).  He also added stickers to spell out his name on the water bottle that is included inside the lunchbox.

Teacher Review: Tammy Mydlinski, 1st Grade Teacher, Frances Hazel Reid Elementary: This lunchbox is definitely appealing to younger students! Parents will appreciate the affordable price, and their children will enjoy decorating their lunch box with the hundreds of stickers that come with it. There are 5 compartments that can easily be filled with healthy snacks. This is a great alternative to a more traditional lunch box.

To learn more about Goodbyn lunchbox click here.

Jul 24 2010

Laptop Lunches

Laptop Lunches:

– are eco-friendly (ideal for packing waste-free lunches)
– are convenient for packing fresh fruits and vegetables
– encourage portion control
– enhance food presentation
– allow for a balance of food groups

Mom Review: This eco-friendly lunchbox has many great compartments and three containers with lids. It has a nice niche that contains a fork and spoon. It also comes with a water bottle which fits nicely inside the case. Feel safe with this product, as it contains no phthalastes, BPA or lead.

Child Review: My daughter took the Laptop lunchbox to school to try it out. She reported that she liked the individual box compartments. She was also impressed with the water bottle because it was easy to add lemon or fresh mint to the bottle to create her own flavored water. She seems most excited about the shoulder strap because it was easy to carry to the lunch room “hands free.” Remember, she is in 1st grade!

Teacher Review: Tammi Mydlinski, 1st Grade Teacher, Frances Hazel Reid Elementary: I loved this lunchbox. I really liked all the little compartments – they are convenient dip containers – perfect for dipping vegetables and encouraging healthier eating. I love to see my students eating “clean” as opposed to prepackaged snacks. This is a great economical choice and I would use it for my own children!

Did you know…
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservations estimates that one student taking a disposable lunch to school every day will create 45-90 pounds of garbage per year?

Click here to learn more about Laptop Lunches.

Foodie-isms fan will receive a 10% discount on all orders through October 1, 2010.  Use the coupon code listed below when placing your order.