Saturday, May 30, 2009

Strategies for Reading Food Labels

The following is a list of suggestions for reading ingredients labels. To get a better idea of what you're buying at the grocery store, check every item before placing it in your cart or basket. If it doesn't meet your criteria, consider finding an alternative. If your supermarket doesn't carry the food you want to buy, it may be time to look for one that offers a healthier selection.

* Remember that ingredients are listed in the order of quantity present. The first few ingredients on the list are present in the greatest quantity.

* Check to make sure that the first few ingredients are the ones you would hope to find in this type of product. For example, on a grape juice label you expect to see grape juice listed first. If, instead, you see corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit pectin and then grape juice concentrate, you know that this product is less nutritious than a product made of 100% grape juice.

* Beware of misleading food groupings. For instance, breakfast cereal manufacturers often group flour ingredients together so that sugar will not appear as the first ingredient. A label of this type might list the first two ingredients as flour (corn, wheat, and oat), and then sugar. If the flours had not been grouped together, sugar would have been listed as the first ingredient.

* Beware of products that contain multiple sweeteners. A product may contain, for example, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and dextrose. Although sugar does not appear first on the list, when added together, the total sugar is present in the greatest quantity.

* When evaluating foods, think twice about purchasing products with the following red flag warnings on the label.

--The ingredients list seems long compared to what you’d expect to find in a particular product.

--The ingredients are unrecognizable and hard to pronounce.

--The product contains FD&C artificial colorings.

--The product contains hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oil.

--One of the first few ingredients listed is sugar (or other sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, granular fruit sugar, sucrose, lactose, isomol, malitol, mannitol, sorbitol, maltose, xylitol, malt, honey, maple sugar, maple syrup, molasses, or rice syrup).

--The product contains the artificial sweeteners aspartame or saccharin.

--The product contains modified food starch, which is often used as an inexpensive filler.

--The product contains a large amount of salt. The human body needs no more than ¼ teaspoon of salt daily. Try to limit intake to 2,400 mg (1 teaspoon) of total sodium daily.

(Excerpted from: The Laptop Lunch User's Guide: Fresh Ideas for Making Wholesome, Earth-friendly Lunches Your Kids Will Love, by Amy Hemmert & Tammy Pelstring, Morning Run Press, 2002. Available online at

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hungry Travelers Turn to Laptop Lunches for Their Next Meal

In their rush to reduce in-flight food service, many airlines have left passengers scrambling for creative ways to carry meals on board. Laptop Lunches, manufactured by Obentec, Inc. (, provide a convenient, low-cost, healthful solution. This stylish line of lunchware, originally designed for school and work, has become indispensable among savvy travelers.

The Laptop Lunch System

Inspired by the Japanese bento box, the Laptop Lunch System features an insulated carrying case, resembling a laptop bag, a hinged outer container, four inner food containers, a small dip container, utensils, and The Laptop Lunch User's Guide, a book of wholesome menus and recipes. It all fits comfortably on a lap or airline tray table.

Airline Travel

"The last time we flew," explains Obentec president, Amy Hemmert, "we went 'no-frills.' At dinnertime, we set our Laptop Lunches on our tray tables and devoured our delicious home-cooked meals-with envious fellow passengers looking on. That's when I understood that Laptop Lunches could fill a need."

According to the American Obesity Association, 64.5% of U.S. adults are overweight and 30.5% are obese. 30.3% of American children ages 6 to 11 are overweight and 15.3% are obese. This puts Americans at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, stroke, diabetes and more.

"When I flew back East last month, I was offered a snack--cheese-filled crackers, cookies, and candy," says businessman Steve Chipman. "I took one look and said, 'Where's the food?' No wonder Americans keep getting heavier. No wonder we're having heart attacks and strokes. These 'meals' just don't cut it."

Family Car Trips

Laptop Lunches are popular not only for airplane flights but for road trips as well. "I always pack Laptop Lunches for car trips," says Monica Van Natta , mother of two. "That way I don't have to stop for fast food. Before we leave, I hand the kids their Laptop Lunches. This gives them control, and my husband and I can have a decent conversation."

The Laptop Lunch System is available online at and through select retailers nationwide. For a complete list of Obentec retailers, visit

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Apple Cinnamon Bulgur Salad

This delicious salad makes about 8 servings.

* Place 1 cup bulgur in a bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water. Cover and let sit until the water is completely absorbed (about 15 - 20 minutes).
* In a large bowl, combine the following ingredients, stirring after each addition:

2 large apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped well
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup apple juice (or until moist)

* Add the bulgur and mix well.
* This dish can be served as a side dish, a condiment, or healthy dessert.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quinoa & Black Rice Salad

Recipe makes about 8 servings.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is high in protein, calcium, iron, phosphorus, B vitamins, and vitamin E. It's delicious, easy to prepare, and can be served instead of rice or cous-cous. Give it a try! Here's a favorite quinoa recipe from our kitchen:

* Prepare 1 cup black rice as directed.

* Rinse 1 cup quinoa in warm water to remove the natural (bitter) coating called saponin. Place the quinoa in 1 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Then simmer until the water has been absorbed (about 15 - 20 minutes).

* In a large bowl, combine the following ingredients:

2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped scallions
cooked quinoa
cooked black rice

*In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing by combining the following ingredients:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 - 3 cloves minced garlic
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp cumin (or to taste)

* Garnish with steamed broccoli spears and/or feta cheese.

* Serve warm or cold.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer Soba

Summer Soba
Originally uploaded by SV Mama

Soba (Buckwheat Noodles)
Fresh Cherries
Spinach Rolls
Dipping Sauce
Carrot Chips

Preparation Notes

Cold Japanese soba hits the spot on a hot summer day. Top with sliced scallions, sesame seeds, and/or shredded nori. When you're ready to eat lunch, pour the sauce over the soba. Like an extra kick? Add some wasabi to the sauce before eating.

Boil the soba noodles and cool.

Prepare the sauce: combine 3 Tbs Japanese dashi stock, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp rice vinegar, and 1 tsp mirin.

Add the cherries.

Steam the spinach until tender but not mushy. Place on a sushi mat and roll tightly to form a roll, squeezing out the excess liquid. Remove the mat and cut into bite-size lengths. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Enjoy with the dipping sauce.

Add the carrot chips.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My First Organics

In today’s high tech world, we’re searching for ways to get back to basics. My First Organics seed starting kits are a simple way for the whole family to learn how to grow fresh, organic produce in the ground or in containers.

* Grow and harvest kids favorites
* Save money on produce.

According to the USDA, every $100 spent on vegetable gardening yields up to $1,700 worth of produce. That means one $15 kit will produce about $250 worth of organic produce!

* Learn where food comes from
* Get outside and connect with nature
* Taste the difference of fresh, organic produce
* Help the environment using organic methods
* Support public schools with each purchase
* Recycle, reuse, biodegrade – everything in the kit is Earth-safe
* Give as a gift! Kits are good for 1 year from date of purchase

Check it out at

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Laptop Lunch User's Guide Giveaway

Looking for a free copy of The Laptop Lunch User's Guide?

Lori Babineaux, the Book Lady, is giving away three of them on her blog at Here's an excerpt from her Earth Day blog post:

"These things [Laptop Lunches] are wonderful. The goal of the organization, which was started and is run by some concerned moms, is to reduce the waste caused by all of the "throw away" containers used for kids school lunches. That is a goal worth supporting, in my opinion."

Even better than the goal, though, in my opinion is the boxes themselves. they are colorful, compact, well designed and fun. My husband takes lunch to work every day. Before our laptop lunches bento box, we used 5-6 sandwich sized disposable zip top bags per day, or one box of 100 per month...[Now] there is absolutely no waste in this box, nothing to throw away. I love this!"

While the boys and I don't work or go to school every day, I did get boxes for us, too. We travel at least once a week during the lunch hour and these are so nice for packing a lunch that we can either picnic at the park or that the guys can eat while I drive. And I love that they eliminate the temptation to run through the drive thru or buy "lunchables" type products, eliminating both expenses and waste."

Thanks, Lori, for the great review!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Strategies for Smart Shopping

Below is a list of practical suggestions for buying better quality food for your family. Start by incorporating just one or two. Then continue to make changes, starting with the ones that are easiest for you to accomplish.

* Shop in stores that carry the most nutritious foods.
* Buy locally grown organic produce at farmer's markets if you have them in your area.
* Before you put an item into your shopping cart, read the food label and ingredients list carefully, even when considering products you've been buying for years. Make sure you're buying the healthiest product you can afford. If you don't like your choices, consider shopping at a different store.
* Buy nutritious foods in bulk. (Read nutrition labels carefully before buying.)
* Buy foods that remember where they come from. For example, choose corn-on-the-cob over corn chips. Choose fresh fruit instead of fruit bars or fruit-flavored roll-ups.
* Buy organic products whenever you can. To keep the cost down, buy seasonal produce and non-perishable products in quantity when they are on sale.
* Don't let your children convince you to make unhealthy purchases at the store. Provide them with nutritious choices instead, and let them choose from among them. If, for example, your child asks for a candy bar, tell her she can pick out a basket of berries instead.
* Don't let your children convince you to purchase unhealthy foods they've seen advertised on TV. Keep in mind, also, that children choose foods with attractive packaging. (Younger children may not even know what's inside the package!) Talk with them about how to make wise choices, provide them with a healthy snack before going to the grocery store, and stand firm.
* If your children follow you through the store begging for one item after the next, say "If it's not on the list, we're not buying it," and stand firm. Divert their attention by engaging them in food selection. If they're old enough, give them an item on the list to find.
* Keep a shopping list in the kitchen to keep track of what you need to buy. When you see that you're running low on a particular item, make a quick note. Take the list shopping with you so you'll remember to pick up the nutritious foods that keep your kitchen well supplied.
* To encourage participation from everyone in the family, try having a family "cupboard cleaning party." Throw out (or donate) all of the food that you have deemed unhealthy. Replace these foods with more nutritionally acceptable choices.

(Excerpted from: The Laptop Lunch User's Guide: Fresh Ideas for Making Wholesome, Earth-friendly Lunches Your Kids Will Love, by Amy Hemmert & Tammy Pelstring, Morning Run Press, 2002. Available online at

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lunch Date for Auction

Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School is auctioning off a designer Lunch Date (valued at $125). The current bid is only $38! If you've had your eye on this stylish lunch-packing option, consider placing a bid at

Monday, May 18, 2009

Make-your-own Trail Mix

Make your own trail mix by trying various combinations of the following:

sunflower seeds
dried cranberries
sesame crackers
dried apricots, apples, peaches, pineapple, pears
dried mango, papaya
date pieces
semi-sweet chocolate chips
yogurt-covered raisins
yogurt-covered pretzels
unsweetened stredded coconut
healthy cereal

Purchase in bulk to reduce packaging and to keep the cost down.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cinnamon Spice Muffins

This delicious recipe makes about 24 small muffins. Love them!!!

1. Combine and stir well:

* 2 cups whole wheat flour
* 3/4 cup oatmeal
* 3/4 cup oat bran
* 2 tbs sugar
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 tbs baking powder
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp nutmeg
* 1/4 tsp ground cloves

2. Beat:

* 2 cups nonfat milk, lowfat buttermilk, or soy milk
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 1/2 cup molasses
* 3 tbs canola oil

3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients with a few swift strokes.

4. Gently mix in 1-2 cups fresh fruit (apples, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, or mashed bananas)

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until firm.

6. Serve plain or decorate tops with low-fat cream cheese.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Laptop Lunches on ABC News

Did anyone catch this great segment on budget lunches that Eating Well Magazine's food editor, Jessie Price, did for the New York ABC affiliate? It has aired on the nightly news in more than 100 major media markets! It seems that a lot more people are choosing to save money by packing lunch from home. Love it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Avocado and Mango for Lunch

This Week's Photo


* Mango
* Avocado
* Italian Dressing
* Cubed Tofu
* Whole Grain Crackers

Preparation Notes

This cool lunch is perfect for hot summer days. It can be prepared quickly, which not only saves time, but allows you to get in and out of that hot kitchen in record time. Refreshing and delicious!

Peel and cube the fresh mango.

Slice the avocado in half.

Pour the dressing into the dressing container.

Cube the tofu.

Add some whole grain crackers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Purple Travel Flasks on Sale!

We've discontinued the purple travel flasks, but we've still got a few left for sale on our site. If you've been waiting to purchase one, this is your last chance. Check them out at While supplies last.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bento Sleeves on Sale!

We've got a handful of discontinued bento sleeves on sale for only $8--while supplies last. Click on "On sale this month" for more information.