September 2010

Bento-a-Go-Go

by Sally on September 21, 2010

After the nightly wrangling of kids into the bath, into their PJs, onto the potty, into bed, back into bed, and under the covers, I typically collapse into a useless heap on the couch. And the last thing I want to do is pack a lunch.

I’d welcome anything that made this task less tiresome. But something has come into my life that fills me with geeky-mom glee: Henry’s new bento lunchbox.

When I spotted this bento with its own camouflage carrying case (camouflage carrying case!), I seriously couldn’t type in my credit card info fast enough. Thankfully, Henry greeted its arrival with as much delight as I did. We marveled and fussed over the little compartments, matching stainless steel water bottle, and tiny dry-erase board (for love notes from mom, natch).

My husband hoped Henry wouldn’t get laughed out of the elementary school lunch room.

So far, he hasn’t. And I’m having a ball scurrying around the kitchen finding ways to fill it. I’m well aware of the art form that is bento, and I’ve spent more time than I have on sites like this one. But for now, I’m packing Henry’s bento with his usual favorites, so as not to rock his world too much. The poor kid just started first grade and is riding a bus for the first time in his life. Cheese cut into the shape of airplanes and a hard-boiled egg with a face might just put him over the edge.

Here are some of my first cracks at it. Main courses have been PB&J, whole wheat banana bread, string cheese and Wasa crackers, and ham and swiss. There’s always a fruit and a yogurt and usually a little sweet treat like a granola bar or a few M&Ms or recently, pieces of candy corn mixed with nuts. But that’s the beauty of bento: Food in little compartments just looks cute and delicious (Guess who already knew this? The evil genius who dreamed up Lunchables.)

bento1 bento2
bento3 bento4

I love that I don’t have to mess with multiple plastic containers or worry about stuff getting crushed. What I don’t love? The high-maintenance care instructions (Remove the lid’s five silicone rings and hand-wash them daily? Um, no.) This bento is also probably a bit large for little Henry, looking more like a young executive’s briefcase than a lunchbox. If this becomes a problem, I’ll simply snag a smaller box for him. And make my husband carry the camo one to work.

Want your own? Try Laptop Lunches or Lunchboxes.com.

If you’re looking for bento ideas, you can read my story for Parents magazine here.

Want to see some amazing cheese turtles and cucumber flowers? Check out this cool site.

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Making the Grade?

by Sally on September 14, 2010

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month Blog Carnival

This article was written for inclusion in the blog carnival hosted by Littlestomaks to promote awareness of childhood obesity as part of the National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Please read to the end of this article to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Henry making sushi

Henry learned to make sushi at kindergarten through a program called Local Matters, which the school discontinued due to lack of funding.

Last summer, in the months before Henry started kindergarten, the reality of him being away all day was sinking in. And because I’m a dietitian and think about food for a living, I thought about lunchtime.

Henry would be eating lunch there without me—to give him more dip for his carrots, to ask if he wanted peach or strawberry jelly on his PB&J, to see if he ate his banana. I could ask him to buy white milk instead of chocolate, but he made the choice. I could no longer shield him from learning about Lunchables. I couldn’t give him another 10 minutes of playtime to burn off extra energy.

It was Henry’s first taste of independence (and I’m pretty sure it tasted a lot like chocolate milk). It was my first glimpse at how much influence school can have on a child’s physical health—and even their attitudes about food. Kids spend 32-plus hours at school every week, and that’s time that could make a real impact on childhood obesity.

When it comes to helping or hurting that cause, here’s how I think Henry’s school is doing:

A+ (The Good)

  • They’re given time to run. Henry has two recess periods a day, and extra recess time (not candy) has been used as a classroom reward for good behavior.
  • They’re challenged to eat well and move more. Each year, the school holds a Health Challenge. It’s similar to a read-a-thon but challenges kids to make positive changes to what they eat and how they spend their time. They get points for trying new fruits, helping with meal prep, playing outside, and extra-double-bonus points for skipping screen time and are awarded prizes that encourage activity, like passes to the skating rink and an indoor rock-climbing party.

C (The Not-So-Good)

  • Lunch and breakfast have a long way to go. I like that string cheese and bagels are served at breakfast. I don’t like that blue Jell-o and Pop-Tarts are given equal billing. I love that the kids are offered salad and fresh fruit at lunchtime. Not so much that some sort of breaded chicken—in nugget, tender, or “popcorn” form—appears on the menu twice a week.

F (The Ugly)

  • They lost Local Matters. Last year, educators came into every kindergarten and first grade class each week and taught the kids about food and nutrition. They talked about the Food Pyramid and made cuisines from around the world—like sushi, tabouleh, and salade nicoise. The kids loved it—even the pickiest eaters asked for second helpings of Jamaican black beans and rice. But alas, the program was pulled from the school this year due to lack of funding.

What grade would you give your child’s school—and why?

***

Say NO to Childhood Obesity

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

7 Things Parents Say That Cause Eating and Weight Problems in Kids Michelle May, Physician and author of Eat What You Love Love What You Eat, highlights a few things parents say which can have unintended consequences (@EatWhatYouLove)

Childhood Obesity Kia Robertson of Today I Ate a Rainbow suggests that prevention of childhood obesity should start with education and educating parents about basics of healthy eating by breaking it into achievable parts (@eatingarainbow)

Childhood Obesity: A Reality Check Dr Susan Rubin, founder of BSF, suggests we change our approach to looking at childhood obesity (@DrSuRu)

Childhood Obesity: Prevention Starts in Infancy Nutrition expert Sarah Fennel reminds us that prevention is the best cure and offers a few tips to raise healthy eaters (@FoodFunHealth)

Giving Our Children a Chance at Health Registered dietitian Susan Dopart offers tips to parents for taking charge of their child’s health in the world of over-processed “kid foods” (@smnutritionist)

Healthy School Campaigns Works on Creating Healthy Food Environments A report on Chicago’s Healthy School Campaigns (HFC), a non profit dedicated to creating a healthy food environment in schools

How to Prevent and Manage Childhood Obesity Registered dietitian Jessica Levinson offers practical tips to prevent and manage childhood obesity (@JLevinsonRD)

Lessons I have Learned as a Mom Registered dietitian Alysa Bajenaru shares some of the lessons she has learned that have helped her develop a good understanding of what it takes to feed her kids (@InspiredRD)

Looking for a New Trend in Childhood Obesity? Registered dietitian Elizabeth Rahavi of the IFIC brings the focus back on family in the debate about childhood obesity (@FoodInsight)

Losing Weight: It Starts in Your Head Registered dietitian Cindy Williams reminds us of the power of attitude and mindset in losing weight and controlling obesity (@nutritionchic)

Making the Grade Registered dietitian Sally Kuzemchak evaluates her son’s school programs on healthy eating and physical activity (@RMNutrition)

Obesity and GERD: A Family Affair Jan Gambino, author of Reflux 101, writes about the link between overweight and GERD

Parents, Let’s Take a Positive Approach to Childhood Obesity Registered dietitian Ashley Rosales from the Dairy Council of California encourages parents to take a positive approach in helping their kids build healthy habits

Revolutionize the Way Your Kids Eat in Five Easy Steps Sociologist Dr Dina Rose suggests we shift our focus from nutrition to eating habits if we are serious about solving childhood obesity (@DrDrRose)

Surprising Easy Solution for Preventing Childhood Obesity Research shows benefits of extended breastfeeding in reducing risk of childhood obesity (@TwinToddlersDad)

The Problem Behind Childhood Obesity Ken Whitman, Publisher of Organic Connections, points out that our national priorities concerning childhood obesity are misplaced and calls for a renewed focus on the health of our nations kids.

Yoga Gets Kids Moving Registered dietitian Danielle Omar has an interesting suggestion for solving childhood obesity – get your kids into yoga! (@2eatwellRD)

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