When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things was pumpkin bread – I would look forward to the fall when my mom would make her famous recipe – it was so moist and delicious. I still love pumpkin bread – but I don’t eat wheat or gluten any more – so I can’t make my mom’s recipe exactly.
But I di use her recipe for inspiration! This recipe is based on the pumpkin bread that my mom used to make me when I was a kid – except this one is gluten and grain free. Instead of regular flour, this pumpkin bread is made with cassava flour – which is a root vegetable that is also known as a yuca root. Cassava is both grain and gluten free!! Learn more about cassava flour.
Although it does have organic sugar, this recipe has quite a bit less sugar than my mom’s original recipe (and most other pumpkin bread recipes) – and you could probably even reduce the sugar content by swapping some 1/2 cup of the sugar for 2 Tablespoons of stevia (I might try it next time).
This recipe even passed the kid test – my kids loved it and gobbled it up (and they are not always big fans of gluten or grain free recipes)!!
Prefer banana bread? You can substitute 3 ripe bananas for the pumpkin in this recipe to make banana bread!
Cassava Flour: The Best Grain-Free Baking Alternative?
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
I love it when I come up with a recipe that is healthy, and passes the kid taste test – this recipe hit it out of the ballpark on both accounts! Even my quinoa-hating daughter loved them – I only told her about the quinoa after she had decided that she loved them! My kids like to call them “meat muffins” because they are made in muffin tins – which makes them even more fun!
I have already made this recipe twice, and my kids regularly ask for it – so I plan to make it again this week. The leftovers make a great (hearty) after school snack, or a quick meal – but in my house, they don’t last for long!
Put the sugar into the vinegar and stir until it dissolves. Then add all the ingredients together, stir to combine – taste & adjust. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. This step can be done a day or two ahead.
This recipe is great with steamed broccoli with some grass fed butter and mashed potatoes. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days (they won’t last that long)!
*A note about quality – I always make sure to go for grass fed beef – to avoid hormones, antibiotics, and other additives – plus grass fed beef is higher in omega 3s and 500% higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional beef – which studies have found helps to burn fat (read this article to learn more). I also always choose organic for zucchini – because conventional zucchini is highly likely to be GMO, which I avoid because there is evidence that GMOs could be harming our gut health and even increase our risk of cancer. And finally – I always look for organic pastured or free range eggs – which also have a higher amount of omega 3s and no antibiotics or hormones.
It’s back to school time…and that means it’s time to get back to packing lunches again!! It is not always easy to come up with a healthy lunch…that your kid will actually eat! Does it frustrate you to pack up a lunch, and then have most of it come back home again? These are some solutions to ten of your common lunchbox dilemmas – to help you upgrade your kids’ lunch this year!
10 School Lunch Dilemmas Solved:
Dilemma # 1: Lukewarm & Icky lunch:
A recent study found that 90%(!!) of kids school lunches can reach unsafe temperatures, even lunches with an ice pack inside could get too warm! I wouldn’t blame a kid for not eating their lunch that gets all warm & icky. A lunch that has not been kept cold enough is not only unappetizing, it can also be downright dangerous – because it can breed food-borne bacteria that can make you sick. Plus a lot of California students keep their lunches outside in the hot sun, which raises the temperature even faster.
Solution: Keep it Cold & Safe with a Pack It! Last year, I was so excited to find Pack-Its. They fold down neatly so they can be stored in the freezer, and then in the morning, you pull it out, and they act like little portable refrigerators all day long! I love knowing that my kids lunch stays fresher and safer in the Pack-It. I even bought a bigger one that I bring to the grocery store, beach, and the park. I can shop for dinner items while my kids are in sports, and know it will stay cold and fresh until we get home. We love our Pack-Its!
Dilemma #2: Newly gluten-free, and not a fan of gluten-free bread.
Coming up with ideas for healthy lunches that kids will eat can be a challenge. How about if your child is going gluten-free for the first time this year? That just ups the ante! According to the Journal Pediatrics, food allergies are on the rise, so more and more kids will likely be needing gluten-free lunches this year.
Solution: Good Gluten free sandwich options!
Gluten is a protein that can wreak havoc on an increasing number of people’s digestive system and overall health. But gluten also gives bread and other products a soft and chewy texture. So when you remove the gluten, some of the softness and chewiness is not there. I have got to admit, the gluten-free bread options are decent and getting better and better, but day-old gluten-free bread is not going to be very soft and chewy. Do not fret, going gluten-free, does not mean you have to give up sandwiches, you just need a little creativity:
Dilemma # 3: Struggles with Focus & Attention Issues.
Everyone talks about breakfast as one of the most important meals of the day, but school lunch is extremely important too! Teachers tell me all the time that they know which students had a healthy lunch and which ones did not – because the kids that didn’t often are sleepy and have a hard time focusing in the afternoon.
Solution: Pack some “brain food” in the lunchbox!
Packing healthy choices that will boost kids’ brains is really important if we want them to excel in school. Omega 3s are essential fatty acids that the body can not make – so we need to consume them. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is deficient in these important nutrients. Found in foods like fatty fish, chia seeds, and nuts – omega 3s are important brain and mood food. Here are some easy ways to introduce omega 3s in the lunchbox:
Note: artificial colors and other chemicals have been linked to hyperactivity and attention problems – so avoid sending foods with those ingredients in the lunchbox if your child has issues with focus & attention.
Dilemma #4: My kid crashes and burns after lunch:
I hear from a lot of clients that they need to eat every couple hours, otherwise they just crash and burn. Sugar and simple carbs cause a bloodsugar spike followed by a crash, this can lead to an energy and mood crash. Making sure your child gets protein, fiber, or a healthy fat EVERY time they eat will help to keep their bloodsugar levels more even, and give them longer lasting energy.
Solution: Pack them protein!
Many “snack foods” are lacking protein, fiber, or healthy fat – in fact, they are lacking in nutrients in general – that is why I call things like pretzels and Goldfish “filler foods.” They fill you up, but not for long. Protein, fiber and healthy fats help to keep blood sugar levels from spiking and crashing – they keep your energy and moods more level. Proteins are also important building blocks for neurotransmitters – so getting protein in the lunch will help keep the bloodsugar stable, and help to boost brain function. Here are some good ways to get protein into the lunchbox:
Dilemma # 7. My kids want a sweet treat in their lunchbox!
If your child likes a little something sweet in their lunchbox, but you are trying to avoid artificial colors, flavors and high fructose corn syrup.
Solution: Look for sweet treats that are made from natural sugars, and don’t have all that artificial stuff that can take away from focus & attention:
Dilemma #8. Help! My child wants Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or Cool Ranch Doritos in her lunchbox – every day!
This is a very common one – because most kids just love those Flamin’ Hot and flavor-enriched snacks. And the thing is – the more flavor they add to them, the more addicting they are. So it is no wonder that kids want to eat them every day! But these are full of junk – they have several different artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, and MSG – which is an obesogen (a chemical that tells the body to store fat). So these are definitely not good for our kids’ health, attention, focus or energy. They are not good for their waistline either – with 160 calories and 11 grams of fat for every 28 pieces consumed. Some schools went so far as to ban them last year.
Solution: Just choose a better chip.
You want to avoid chips that contain MSG (which is an obesogen – tells the body to store fat), and preservatives and artificial colors (yes, you’d be amazed how many do!). There are so many different options of better chips out there – just read the labels. You could go with a simple ingredient list – potato, oil, salt. Or if you want to more closely match the Flamin’ Hot chips, you will have to go with a little longer ingredient list – but one that still avoids the worst of the ingredients (MSG, preservatives, artificial colorings, and the like). These are just better options:
Dilemma #9: My son has sports right after school and I am worried he will get dehydrated!
Many kids are just not drinking enough water throughout the day, which can lead to chronic dehydration. All kids should be encouraged to drink water throughout the school day. But it is especially important for kids that head off to sports practice after school to prevent dehydration.
Solution – Plan ahead and talk to your son or daughter about staying properly hydrated during the day and their sports activities. Make sure they bring a water bottle – and are allowed to bring it into class. Some teachers don’t encourage water bottles in class because it can lead to more bathroom breaks – but make sure your child’s teacher does not restrict bathroom breaks, because kids will then restrict their fluids throughout the day. Encourage them to drink their waterbottle and refill it at school or at the field. I also encourage kids to carry an electrolyte replenisher in their sports bag – because if they lose a lot of fluids, they will need to replenish electrolytes with the fluids. Here are some alternatives to the sports drinks with artificial colors, flavors, that are portable – just pop them into your sports bag, and pop them into a waterbottle:
Dilemma # 10: My child didn’t eat because he had a tummy ache…again!
Kids who frequently complain of a tummy ache could have digestive troubles like chronic constipation, or an undiagnosed food sensitivity or allergy. But another common reason for recurring stomach aches in school-aged kids is – anxiety. Whether it is first day jitters, or worries about taking a test, or more generalized anxiety…stomach pain that is caused by anxiety is not all in their head, it is very real. And there are some things that you can do to help.
Solution: Soothe their tummies and their minds.
The gut is often referred to as “the second brain” – not only can anxiety cause an upset tummy, imbalanced gut bacteria can also cause anxiety. So improving the health of the digestive system is critical for helping to resolve anxiety and chronic tummy troubles.
If you ever catch yourself about to say, “it has been a while since the kids have been to the doctor.” Or ” We haven’t been sick in a while.” Stop yourself, just resist the urge. Because the minute you do, someone will get sick. Murphy’s Law.
‘This week it happened to us – both my kids got that nasty upper respiratory thing. One is still home sick – on day three now. So in addition to the Olive leaf, Elderberry, Vitamin C, and zinc (read more tips for Cold and Flu prevention here)- it was time to pull out the serious medicine – and make s big pot of Homemade Healing (gluten free) Chicken Noodle soup! My son is a big fan of soup – so there was nothing he would like better on any given day, especially when he is sick.
Sara’s Mexican Style Chicken Soup
If you have never made chicken soup at home before – do not worry, it is really easy – I promise! I will walk you through it, and even give you two different flavor options: traditional chicken noodle, and Mexican style. Until we moved to San Diego, I had never even heard of Mexican style chicken soup. But now it is one of my favorites! So you can make one broth – and turn it into two soups!
First: Make your chicken broth.
If you want to make some Mexican style – while the broth is cooking, chop the following:
Store leftover broth in airtight container in the refrigerator (store the rice noodles in a separate container).
Wow! Thanks to TheLunchbox.org for naming me a “Lunchbox Hero!”
A hero, me? The word “Hero” conjures up images of firefighters saving people from burning buildings. Heros are the soldiers who put their lives on the line to fight for our freedom, and the doctors or EMTs that provide life-saving medical care. My dad was an organ transplant surgeon, he gave people new pancreases and kidneys to cure their diabetes. My dad was definitely worthy of the title Hero, he had peoples lives literally in his hands every week.
So when I heard I was going to be named a “Lunchbox Hero,” I was taken aback. I am not a Hero, I certainly don’t put myself in harms way. And I am not saving lives. But then I remembered an email that Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary received after the assembly and launch of the new salad bar from Lets Move Salad Bars to Schools:
“You are my heros. I really appreciate your hard work and efforts! My kids loved it. Thank you!!” – Gwenna S.
I started to think that if there was one child that connected with my lessons and improved her health for the better, then maybe I could reluctantly and humbly accept the title.
I decided that I am still a little uncomfortable with the title Hero, and that is a good thing. Because I will work harder to prove that I am worthy, and it will help me to stay focused on my goals of helping to increase awareness about nutrition, and provide kids, families and schools with the tools they need to take action.
This week I am teaching some Healthy Lunchbox classes at Whole Foods to get kids excited about making healthy food fun! Next week, I will be appearing on San Diego Living to share some healthy lunchbox tips. School is going back into session, I hope to be scheduling more Food is Your Fuel assemblies. It is my hope that every week this year I can be doing something to help improve the health of kids in this country.
For more information about Food is Your Fuel assemblies and more: www.rebalancelife.com
Article written by Clinical Nutritionist Sara Vance with ReBalance Life, find her on Facebook.
Worry no more! Its almost Back to School time – so here are some tips and product ideas to make packing a healthy lunch easy and fun!
A working mom myself, I know how hard it is to juggle it all. These products and tips can help us think outside “the box” and make packing a healthy lunch easy and delicious – and fun! If you can bring your kid into the kitchen to pack it – they will be more likely to eat it.
Veggies & Fruit
Fill Up Half the Lunchbox!
The USDA recently replaced the Food Pyramid with MyPlate, which shows that half of all of our meals should be fruits and veggies. Most people could benefit from eating more plant based foods – MyPlate gets us thinking about increasing our fruits & veggies! The good news is there are so many great products out there now – that make fruit & veggies easy, yummy & fun for lunchboxes:
Kids Love to Dip!
Another great way to incorporate more fruit & veggies is to send in dips! Laptop Lunch containers (or bento buddies) are perfect for sending dips, because they have a really cute dip container! Also great for sending salads too – put the dressing in the mini bento buddy so the salad does not get all soggy.
Remember – if you are sending anything perishable, make sure to include a cold pack, or you can freeze some items the night before, learn more from this Today Show segment.
Buh Bye Boring Sandwich.
So many kids just get bored of the same old sandwich, so why not surprise them with:
The Chip Rule of “Thumb”
Kids like a little “crunch in their lunch” so it is no wonder that chips are a favorite. My chip rule of “thumb” is if they turn your thumbs orange, or are flavor “blasted” – we can make a better choice! We don’t even think about chips having artificial coloring, and forget about those ‘flavor blasted’ ones – that just is extra artificial flavoring! I like these options better:
Don’t Drink Your Sugar!
I am not a fan of juice boxes – I think kids already get too much sugar each day in the foods they eat, they don’t need to drink it. But it is important for kids to stay hydrated at school, especially if they head right to sports afterschool. Here are some cool alternatives that are super-hydrating:
To Dessert or Not Dessert, That is The Question.
So what about a little something sweet for dessert, you ask? Is that allowed? Yes – I like to follow the 90/10 rule that the Obama’s follow, if 90% of the diet is healthy, then 10% can be treats. Here are some fun yet healthier alternatives that are treats – but without going overboard with tons of sugar or fat; and no artificial coloring:
Most people like to buy a fresh new lunchbox every year – why not “Go Green” this year? The Go Green Lunchbox is not only ECO-friendly, but it really can make lunch fun again for your kids. No more plastic wrap needed – it has lots of fun compartments, and a little white board to write notes! Your kids will be so excited to open their lunchbox everyday to see the message. Top rack dishwasher safe, so clean-up is a snap! I suggest getting 2 liners – so one can be in the dishwasher, while the other ones is heading off to school.
If you already have a lunchbox for your child and want to make that more eco-friendly, get some bento buddies to fit inside. I especially like the mini-container the bento kits offer – perfect for dips. You can also buy the whole Laptop Lunches system. Check out this video to see what Laptop Lunches has to offer:
I know there are a lot of other great lunchbox ideas out there. Would love to hear from you…what are your favorite products and recipes for the lunchbox?
For vegan lunchbox ideas, check out these vegan kid-friendly lunchbox ideas.
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© copyright 2018 Sara Vance