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Tag: Dirty Dozen

Stocking the Back-to-School Pantry

This is a guest post by Cindy Santa Ana, CHC. Know of a food blogger, nutrition guru, farmer or passionate storyteller who may be interested? Contact us or provide details in your comment.

As summer winds down, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to be packing in those lunch boxes, snack bags, and what you’ll be feeding the kiddos when they come bounding off the bus. First and foremost is to feed them a nutritious, protein-packed breakfast to start their day. And, no, a Pop-Tart doesn’t count. Those tasty pastries are essentially a giant candy bar filled with sugar, HFCS, trans fats, artificial colors and sodium. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them growing up, but the over 50 ingredients inside can lead to a myriad of health problems down the road and a sugar crash before they even finish first period.

A great start to the day could include a scrambled egg with whole grain toast, whole grain waffle with peanut butter, oatmeal with berries, or a protein smoothie (blend berries, whey protein powder, nut butter, spinach, yogurt, milk or milk alternative).

There are many prepackaged options out there for lunches, but be careful of dangerous preservatives, trans fats, excessive amounts of sodium and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that are often laden in those foods. The worst offenders are Lunchables, 100-calorie snacks, packages of chips, cheez-its and juice boxes. The winner for worst offender is the Uncrustable sandwich. It contains 38 ridiculous ingredients (5 of which are sugar and more than a dozen are chemicals) like HFCS, trans fats, sorbates, sulfates, and phosphates. A simple PB & jelly takes 1 minute to make – please make them from scratch. I’m disgusted that my children’s school offers these as alternatives to a hot lunch.

So, here’s my shopping list for the Back-to-School Pantry:

  • Lots of whole fruits – bananas, organic apples, organic peaches, pears, watermelon slices, organic grapes, organic berries or melon balls/cubes, orange slices, small boxes of organic raisins. Make a fun fruit kebab! Whole fruits provide fiber, potassium, antioxidants and tons of vitamins that they need for fuel during the day. (I suggest the organic option of those fruits listed on the Dirty Dozen). Remember to shop/eat seasonally – some of these fruits won’t be available this fall and winter.
  • Trail mix – make your own with raw, unsalted nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, chopped pitted dates, small amount of chocolate chips & dried apricots. (NO M&M’s!!)
  • Wraps – I like whole grain options to wrap up turkey slices, PB& jelly, cream cheese and veggies, chicken salad, tuna salad
  • Whole grain English muffins (make mini-pizzas or slather w/ PB & jelly)
  • Organic string cheese
  • Newman’s Own High Protein Pretzels
  • Gluten-free? Buy large lettuce leafs and wrap over creamy chicken salad, tuna salad with lots of crunchy pickles, turkey slices (not deli meat)
  • Make extra for dinner. Leftovers make for a great school lunch. Pack hot items in stainless steel or a thermos to retain their heat. My kids’ faves are homemade chicken strips, leftover quinoa spaghetti and ravioli.
  • Unsweetened organic apple sauce
  • Plain organic yogurt – place in a blender with berries, kale, nut or sunflower butter, process and freeze in a flexible popsicle mold
  • Organic ham and cheese roll ups
  • Veggies – sliced cucumbers with hummus, organic celery with nut butter and raisins, carrots with hummus or homemade ranch dip, red & yellow pepper slices with hummus or dip, kale chips
  • Whole grain crackers, like Triscuits or Multi-Seed (Goldfish don’t make the cut)
  • Brown rice cakes, real popcorn (not microwaved in a chemical-filled bag)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Roasted chickpeas with honey & cinnamon
  • Whole grain waffles (great for after school snacks topped with PB)
  • Reusable bottle of ice cold water – no sugary juice needed

It’s important that lunch contain a protein item, a whole grain carb option, fruit and lots of water. Kids don’t need a sugary treat or cookie for lunch. Between all the treats and birthday parties at school, they get enough sugar! They need a highly nutritious meal that can carry them through the rest of the day for optimal learning.

Some of my favorite containers:

Top photo by o5com via Flickr


About the author:
Cindy Santa Ana, CHC

Cindy Santa Ana is a Certified Health Coach dedicated to helping clients discover the healing properties of real food. Successfully healing her own allergies, high cholesterol and migraines with health-promoting foods and exercise was the catalyst that transformed Cindy’s life, health and profession, and she is passionate about sharing this information with others. www.UnlockBetterHealth.com




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I keep seeing articles claiming that many organics are a waste of money. Even health guru Dr. Mercola (whom I tend to agree with on most issues) wrote an article on it. The advice is to buy conventional (non-organic) for the EWG’s Clean 15 list or for fruits & veggies with thick skins/those you peel to save money. What this advice says is that the rate of pesticides found on produce should be the ONLY determining factor when deciding between organic and non-organic. While pesticide levels are extremely important, it is concerning that people may automatically choose conventional for the “cleaner” foods. The writers, many of whom are nutritionists, are failing to point out the OTHER reasons why organic makes sense.

Contemplating between organic and conventional?  Here are 6 OTHER reasons why organics make sense:

ONE:  More Vitamins & Minerals – There is evidence suggesting that conventionally grown produce may be less healthy than it once was due to the “dilution effect.” Why? Produce is grown with fertilizer for desirable traits (firmness, color, increased size, etc.) instead of optimal vitamin & mineral content. Essentially, produce is larger with more “dry matter,” but doesn’t proportionately contain as many nutrients. You have to eat more to get the same amount of nutrients.
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Image: slave2thetea via Flickr

Remember the old Popeye cartoons? Popeye always ate his spinach when he needed super strength. The benefits of spinach are no cartoon story. This leafy star is often referred to as a “superfood” and has more demonstrated health benefits than almost any other food. It is amazingly high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants making it a food you should be consuming regularly.

Spinach contains lutein, beta-carotene, glutathione, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, polyphenols, betaine, calcium and vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, & K to name a few.  Aside from all the individual nutrients, it is the combination and the way the nutrients work together that makes spinach so powerful. In studies, high spinach consumption has been shown to lower almost every type of cancer. Spinach is highly beneficial for eye health and prevention of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.  This heart-friendly vegetable is packed with carotenoids which help protect the artery walls.

Markets generally carry spinach year-round making it a perfect daily staple. There are three different varieties of spinach: Savoy (curly leaves), Semi-Savoy (slightly curly leaves), and Flat or Smooth Leaf (smooth leaves). One can purchase spinach fresh,
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