Lunch Lady Blog



Grow your own food

posted May 17, 2018, 8:55 AM by Linda Hopey

Get the family involved with gardening. Start small with a window herb box or plant fruits and vegetables in a container or the yard.

Vary your Veggies

posted May 1, 2018, 9:15 AM by Linda Hopey

In general:

  • Buy fresh vegetables in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor.
  • Stock up on frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking in the microwave.
  • Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare. Pick up pre-washed bags of salad greens and add baby carrots or grape tomatoes for a salad in minutes. Buy packages of veggies such as baby carrots or celery sticks for quick snacks.
  • Use a microwave to quickly “zap” vegetables. White or sweet potatoes can be baked quickly this way.
  • Vary your veggie choices to keep meals interesting.
  • Try crunchy vegetables, raw or lightly steamed.
     

For the best nutritional value:

  • Select vegetables with more potassium often, such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
  • Sauces or seasonings can add calories, saturated fat, and sodium to vegetables. Use the Nutrition Facts label to compare the calories and % Daily Value for saturated fat and sodium in plain and seasoned vegetables.
  • Prepare more foods from fresh ingredients to lower sodium intake. Most sodium in the food supply comes from packaged or processed foods.
  • Buy canned vegetables labeled "reduced sodium," "low sodium," or "no salt added." If you want to add a little salt it will likely be less than the amount in the regular canned product.
     

At meals:

Carrots Image

  • Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a vegetable stir-fry or soup. Then add other foods to complement it.
  • Try a main dish salad for lunch. Go light on the salad dressing.
  • Include a green salad with your dinner every night.
  • Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, quick breads, and muffins.
  • Include chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna.
  • Order a veggie pizza with toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, and ask for extra veggies.
  • Use pureed, cooked vegetables such as potatoes to thicken stews, soups and gravies. These add flavor, nutrients, and texture.
  • Grill vegetable kabobs as part of a barbecue meal. Try tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.
     

Spring Food Fun for Kids

posted Apr 6, 2018, 7:42 AM by Linda Hopey

STEP 1: Collect your supplies

Kids are more likely to enjoy healthy foods if they have a hand in making them, so be sure to get kids involved every step of the way. Take a field trip to a local farmers market to gather your supplies. You can even sneak in a little geography lesson by encouraging kids to focus on foods grown in your state. Bonus points if you can incorporate foods from your own garden!

For our spring scene, we used cucumbers, carrots, fresh strawberries, navel oranges, low-fat cheese sticks, air-popped popcorn, and sunflower seeds. Feel free to incorporate some foods you have at home to personalize your spring scene. You’ll also need a cutting board, a knife for cutting up fruits and veggies, and a plate for your canvas. Remember to wash your hands and produce before you start chopping!

STEP 2: Chop up your fruits and veggies

Grab your cutting board and paring knife. To create blades of grass, we sliced a cucumber and halved the slices. Our sun is a slice of orange, and the flower buds and petals are made from sliced strawberries. We also sliced a carrot and cut the slices into quarters to create sunrays.

STEP 3: Create your spring scene

Now it’s time to get creative – grab a plate and have the kids design their own spring scene! Want to show a little spring shower? After all, April showers do bring May flowers! Form clouds with popcorn and turn sunflower seeds into rain drops.

Create flowers using cheese sticks (or celery sticks!) for stems, and additional cucumber slices as leaves. You can make the flower buds and petals out of any number of tasty fruits or vegetables. Not a fan of strawberries? Slice up an orange, peach, or red bell pepper.

Want to enjoy a sunny day instead? One option is to make a sun out of an orange slice and use slices of carrot, quartered, for rays of sunlight.

STEP 4: Enjoy your tasty treat

The best part of this activity is getting to eat it at the end! This tasty snack can include all five food groups and provides a hands-on demonstration with foods that fit a healthy eating style. Kids can try new foods – and might discover some new favorites!

Check the MyPlate Facebook and Pinterest pages throughout April for additional ideas for spring food fun. You can find other spring resources and more activities to do with kids on ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Be an Active Family

posted Mar 30, 2018, 7:11 AM by Linda Hopey

10 Tips: Be an Active Family

Physical activity is important for children and adults of all ages. Being active as a family can benefit everyone. Adults need 2½ hours a week of physical activity, and children need 60 minutes a day. Follow these tips to add more activity to your family’s busy schedule.

 

  1. Set specific activity times 
    Determine time slots throughout the week when the whole family is available. Devote a few of these times to physical activity. Try doing something active after dinner or begin the weekend with a Saturday morning walk.

  2. Plan ahead and track your progress 
    Write your activity plans on a family calendar. Let the kids help in planning the activities. Allow them to check it off after completing each activity.

  3. Include work around the house 
    Involve the kids in yard work and other active chores around the house. Have them help you with raking, weeding, planting, or vacuuming.

  4. Use what is available 
    Plan activities that require little or no equipment or facilities. Examples include walking, jogging, jumping rope, playing tag, and dancing. Find out what programs your community recreation center offers for free or minimal charge.

  5. Build new skills 
    Enroll the kids in classes they might enjoy such as gymnastics, dance, or tennis. Help them practice. This will keep things fun and interesting, and introduce new skills!

  6. Plan for all weather conditions 
    Choose some activities that do not depend on the weather conditions. Try mall walking, indoor swimming, or active video games. Enjoy outdoor activities as a bonus whenever the weather is nice.

  7. Turn off the TV 
    Set a rule that no one can spend longer than 2 hours per day playing video games, watching TV, and using the computer (except for school work). Instead of a TV show, play an active family game, dance to favorite music, or go for a walk.

  8. Start small 
    Begin by introducing one new family activity and add more when you feel everyone is ready. Take the dog for a longer walk, play another ball game, or go to an additional exercise class.

  9. Include other families 
    Invite others to join your family activities. This is a great way for you and your kids to spend time with friends while being physically active. Plan parties with active games such as bowling or an obstacle course, sign up for family programs at the YMCA, or join a recreational club.

  10. Treat the family with fun physical activity 
    When it is time to celebrate as a family, do something active as a reward. Plan a trip to the zoo, park, or lake to treat the family.

Kitchen time savers

posted Mar 22, 2018, 7:53 AM by Linda Hopey

Try these kitchen timesavers to cut back on time and make less work for you. By taking the stress and hassle out of cooking, you’ll have more time to enjoy it and to spend with your loved ones. 
 

  1. Organize your kitchen. Keep frequently used items such as cooking oils/sprays, spatulas, cutting boards, and spices within easy reach. This will save you from having to search for them later.

  2. Clear the clutter. Before you start cooking, clear off your counters. This allows more room for prep space.

  3. Chop extra. When chopping up veggies for a meal, chop more than you need. Take the extra, place in a reusable container and freeze. Then next time you need it, you can skip a step.

  4. Have everything in place. Grab all ingredients needed for your meal – chopped vegetables, measured spices, and thawed meats. It will be easier to spot missing items and avoid skipping steps.

  5. Double your recipe. For your next casserole or stew, try doubling the recipe and freezing the extra. You’ll save time and make cooking next week’s dinner a snap!

  6. Clean as you go. Fill up the sink with soapy water and wash the dishes as you cook. It’ll make clean up go much smoother!

  7. Save some for later. Freeze leftover soups, sauces, or gravies in small reusable containers.

Freezing and Food Safety

posted Mar 19, 2018, 6:42 AM by Linda Hopey

Foods in the freezer — are they safe? Every year, thousands of callers to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline aren't sure about the safety of items stored in their own home freezers. The confusion seems to be based on the fact that few people understand how freezing protects food. Here is some information on how to freeze food safely and how long to keep it.

What Can You Freeze?
You can freeze almost any food. Some exceptions are canned food or eggs in shells. However, once the food (such as a ham) is out of the can, you may freeze it.

Being able to freeze food and being pleased with the quality after defrosting are two different things. Some foods simply don't freeze well. Examples are mayonnaise, cream sauce and lettuce. Raw meat and poultry maintain their quality longer than their cooked counterparts because moisture is lost during cooking.

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Is Frozen Food Safe?
Food stored constantly at 0 °F will always be safe. Only the quality suffers with lengthy freezer storage. Freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage. Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.

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Does Freezing Destroy Bacteria & Parasites?
Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts and molds — present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness. Since they will then grow at about the same rate as microorganisms on fresh food, you must handle thawed items as you would any perishable food.

Trichina and other parasites can be destroyed by sub-zero freezing temperatures. However, very strict government-supervised conditions must be met. Home freezing cannot be relied upon to destroy trichina. Thorough cooking, however, will destroy all parasites.

Move more at work

posted Feb 21, 2018, 8:56 AM by Linda Hopey

Fit more activity into the workday. Stand during phone calls, use a printer farther from your desk, and get up to stretch each hour.

Plan your meals

posted Jan 31, 2018, 7:58 AM by Linda Hopey

Plan Your Weekly Meals

Before making a grocery list, write down meals you want to make this week. Buying for the week means you’ll make fewer shopping trips and buy only the items you need. 

Here are some basic tips for creating your menu and grocery list:

  1. See what you already have. Look in your freezer, cabinets, and refrigerator. Make a note of what you currently have on hand. You can save money by using these items in the upcoming week’s meals.
     

  2. Use a worksheet to plan your meals. The Create a Grocery Game Plan Worksheet is great for planning your week and figuring out what items you may need to buy.
     

  3. Create a list of recipes to try. Find new ideas for healthy and low-cost meals based on what you have on hand, foods your family enjoys, and foods that are good buys.
     

  4. Visit What's Cooking? for recipe inspiration. Search recipes by ingredient using What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl -- an interactive tool to help with healthy meal planning, cooking, and grocery shopping. Be sure to include some family favorites along with the new recipes.
     

  5. Think about your schedule. Choose meals you can easily prepare when you don’t have a lot of time. Save recipes that take longer for days off. You also can prepare meals in advance to heat and serve on your busiest days.
     

  6. Plan to use leftovers. Think about larger recipes with enough servings for multiple meals. This can reduce the number of ingredients you need to buy, and save you time preparing another meal. 

 

Monthy Newsletter

posted Dec 8, 2017, 5:31 AM by Linda Hopey

Here’s to a HEALTHY New Year!

We want to share our resolution with you... along with a happy holiday, we also want to have a healthier new year. All across the country, people are coming together to rethink what school meals should be. 
Today, we’re serving more delicious and nutritious meals—with at least 51% whole grains, featuring lean meats, reduced-fat dairy, and more fruits and vegetables than ever before! We hope you’ll agree that is something to really celebrate!

A Fact Check on Fats
We hear all the time that fats are bad—but that’s not necessarily true! Studies show that incorporating a mix of good fats into your diet actually helps maintain a healthier body weight and boosts brainpower! Healthy fats you can incorporate in your home cooking include oils like olive and coconut, avocado, and Omega-3s from fish and flax. And we keep bad fats in check in school meals—serving less than 10% in saturated fats and never trans fats.
Healthy Starts with Happy!

Holiday meals are often a time we splurge, but a couple small changes could keep everyone happier and healthier this season:
• Before you start cooking, put some pep in your step with a family walk or run.
• Start with a healthy appetizer like fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Enlist some helping hands... get the kids involved! This could be prepping vegetables or making desserts.
We’re rethinking school meals!
Join us as we celebrate the good work in schools across the country.
rethinkschoolmeals.com
DECEMBER 2017

School Nutrition Association article with NES Manager, Jennifer

posted Dec 6, 2017, 9:00 AM by Linda Hopey   [ updated Dec 22, 2017, 7:14 AM ]


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