Archive | School Lunch RSS feed for this section

Bananas in a Bag: Freeze-Dried Crispy Fruit

9 Dec

Bananas in a Bag: Freeze-Dried Crispy Fruit

Fiber fans know, fruit is a great go-to snack. Whole, intact fruit is a nice option for naturally occurring fiber packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

But when plain old fresh fruit won’t duo, there’s a whole slew of packaged and processed fruit snacks available to today’s consumer. The problem is, most fruit snacks are packed with added sugar, stripped of fiber, and in their finished form they end up hardly resembling anything even remotely close to fruit.

But there’s a better fruit snack out there: Crispy Fruit from Crispy Green. Thanks to samples provided by Crispy Fruit’s PR company, I was recently able to try the freeze dried crispy bananas.

Crispy bananas have one ingredient: bananas. And not surprisingly, they taste like…bananas. If you’ve ever had astronaut ice cream, the crispy fruit has a similar texture. It’s a tad on the chalky side, but that’s what you get when you remove all of the water from a high water-content food group like fruit.

For the ultimate in taste-tester feedback, I tried the crispy bananas out on my one-year-old daughter, aka the Banana Bandit.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 9.59.18 AM

This girl can put down a whole banana in no time flat, so I appreciated that the crispy bananas kept her entertained for a bit longer than the full fruit. She can’t talk yet, but I’m pretty sure she liked those crispy bananas, since she polished off the whole bag….and tried to eat the bag too.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.00.46 AM

The crispy bananas come packaged with 6 individual serving bags, which would make a great addition for school lunch or snacks on the go. Each individual serving bag contains 1/2 cup of bananas (about 1/2 of a whole medium-sized banana), as well as:

  • 55 calories
  • 13 g carbohydrate
  • 2 g dietary fiber
  • 1 g protein

There’s no added preservatives and (as one would hope if just eating bananas) the snacks are gluten free, dairy free, vegan, peanut and tree-nut free and kosher. They are also non-GMO project verified.

Crispy Green’s 7 Crispy Fruit flavors have all undergone a freeze-drying process to remove water and sterilize the product:




You can pick up crispy fruit at your local retailer (store finder here) or purchase online directly from Crispy Green.

Disclosure: I was provided with free samples of Crispy Fruit for this post; thoughts and opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated for this post.

Stack a Smarter Sandwich

3 Nov

Stack a Smarter Sandwich

Today is National Sandwich Day; but America’s favorite handheld meal isn’t always the greatest go-to when it comes to nutrition.

According to one study, 49% of Americans age 20 and older eat a sandwich every day. And sandwiches account for roughly 1/5 of daily sodium intake.

If you stack it wrong, your next sandwich could set off a hypertensive crisis.

Here’s how to build a better sandwich working your improvements from the outside in:


Beware of Your Bread

The salt in cheese and processed meat is low hanging fruit in the sandwich sodium conundrum. You should actually be more afraid of your bread and the sodium that it’s sheltering.

A typical slice of bread can have 250-400 mg sodium – and that’s per piece. Considering that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2,300 mg per day, it’s not worth it to suffer so much sodium in sliced bread.

A few rules of thumb for selecting better breads:

  • Go for whole – look for the word “whole” in the first ingredient & avoid products “made with” while grains; “made with” just usually means white bread batter with a bit of whole grain thrown in at the end
  • 3 g fiber rule – a bread with whole grain in the first ingredient will usually have 3 g dietary fiber or more per slice; 3 g fiber per slice is a good bet when you’re picking your pan
  • For sodium sleuths – look for around 150 mg sodium or less per slice

Some best bets for lower sodium whole wheat breads are:

For a good read on sodium sneaking around in your breads, check out this CSPI article “Finding the Best Sliced Bread”.


Get Choosy with Your Cheese

Cheese and salt are synonymous. You can’t eat low salt cheese because a.) there’s no such thing and b.) it would be revolting if there were.

Instead, choose naturally lower-sodium cheese selections, such as:

  • Mozzarella
  • Cream cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Swiss
  • Monterey Jack
  • Ricotta
  • Parmesan

When it comes to lower sodium cheeses that actually taste legit, I like Alpine Lace – they cut the saturated fat and salt, without compromising taste.


Lower Lunch Meat Sodium at Home

One surefire way to curb the sodium in your sammies is to select meat or cheese, but not both. Luncheon meats and cheese are naturally higher sodium choices, and to be honest, you don’t need both.

But if you must maintain meat in your lunch, look for lower sodium versions of old standbys like turkey, ham and roast beef.

Another easy (and cheaper) option is to just rinse your standard lunch meat under running water. This is estimated to reduce sodium by about 30%.

When it comes to firing up the faucet, keep in mind you are also rinsing away the preservatives, so be sure to eat your rinsed lunch meat right away vs. re-storing in the refrigerator.


Cool it on the Condiments

If you cut the sodium in bread, meat and cheese, you’ve got the most serious salt problems out of the way. But sodium lurks in condiments too.

Keep these high sodium condiments on the minimum:

  • Ketchup (150 mg sodium in 1 tablespoon)
  • Relish (160 mg sodium in 1 tablespoon)
  • Barbecue sauce (175 mg sodium in 1 tablespoon)
  • Steak sauce (280 mg sodium in 1 tablespoon)
  • Low fat salad dressings

If you want to slather your bread with lower sodium condiments, why not try making your own? Check out these home made lower-sodium condiment ideas from Cooking Light. They whip up in no time and taste so much like the real deal that you won’t miss the salt.


Sandwich Day at SUBWAY

If you want to get in on celebrating National Sandwich Day – Subway is offering a buy one, give one sandwich deal at participating SUBWAY restaurants. They’re launching this along with their “exclusive” SUB Emoji on Twitter.






You can get in on the game by tagging your tweets with #savelunchbreak. And if you want to really soup up your SUBWAY, ask your Sandwich Artist to “run it through the garden“. Piling your SUBWAY high with all of the fresh vegetable offerings in a footlong can net you up to 4 full servings of vegetables.

Is An Apple a Day Overdoing It?

22 Sep

Is An Apple a Day Overdoing It?

When it comes to fiber, fruit is your friend. Fruit generally has 3 or more grams of fiber per serving – not to mention it comes bundled with a bevy of other important nutrients.

But are we under sampling seasonal offerings of fruits? According to a study recently published in Pediatrics, American kids are agog for apples…and that’s about it.

Apples account for 20% of all fruit consumed by US kids and young people. If you pair that with apple juice, the number rises to 30%.

Not that anything is wrong with apples – but only 40% of US kids meet the USDA recommendations for 1-2 cups of fruit per day.

Could it be that a lack of variety is lessening our ability to meet fruit intake recommendations? If so, here are a few tips for firming up your fruit findings:

  • Check out seasonal availability of produce calendars like this one from
  • Explore what constitutes a serving of fruit at and add 1-2 new options per week to your routine
  • Eat the rainbow: make a concerted effort to add more colorful fruits (and vegetables) to grace your plate
  • If you have kids or feed kids, set a snacking example by making fruit your go-to snack, aiming for 2-3 serving of fresh fruit between meals if you’re not getting that at meal time
  • Eat your fruit, don’t drink it: whole, intact fruit is your best bet for fiber and calorie control; watch out for dried fruits that can have added sugar and high calorie juices without the fiber benefits.

To find out how many servings of fruit per day you should be consuming based on your age and gender, check out’s “Daily Fruit Chart” in the All About the Fruit Group page.

And if you’re fearful of fruit…forget that! Americans are often misguided about fruit – although fruit does have sugar (naturally occurring fruit sugar called fructose), it’s a great, low calorie source of other vitamins, minerals and fibers – making fruit definitely worth your while.

Whole Grain Food Fight

23 May

Whole Grain Food Fight

How hard is it to cook whole grain pasta?

Well for some school districts, implementation of the new school lunch nutrition standards has proven to be a “significant challenge”.

With their cleverly worded euphemism “School Meal Flexibility”, the USDA this week announced they will allow some schools to delay adding whole grain pastas.

Currently the USDA requirement is that 50% of grain foods be whole-grain rich, with that number rising to 100% by next year. Schools cite difficulty obtaining compliant foodstuffs, declining revenues, and low acceptability by kids as primary barriers.

Adding fuel to the whole grain fire, the USDA announcement comes on the heels of this week’s Republican-led House chastisement of the Obama administration’s efforts to improve school lunch.

Who knew whole grains could feed this much political pushback?!

In a public statement, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) Nutrition Policy Director Margo Wootan laments, “I miss the days when school lunch nutrition used to be a bipartisan issue, as it was for decades after the school lunch program was established under President Truman.”

But this the only starch-fueled fight going down in government. The potato processors are feuding with Congress to keep their spuds in the WIC program. More on that next week.

Childhood Obesity: Some Good News

26 Feb

Childhood Obesity: Some Good News

A new study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association shines a bright light on a pretty dismal topic: childhood obesity.

Analysis of this data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that obesity rates among 2-5 year olds dropped 43% from 2003-2004 to 2011-2012.

Childhood obesity was 13.9% among 2-5 year olds in 2003-2004 and dropped to 8.4% by 2011-2012.

It’s not all chocolate roses for the bigger picture outside of this age range though: obesity among 2-19 year olds dropped just 0.2% from 17.2% to 17.0% over the same time period.

And don’t forget that parents (who direct the majority of 2-5 year olds’ food choices) still have obesity rates topping 30%.

While the nutrition world is scrambling to explain this unexpected drop in early childhood obesity, a few important points have emerged:

  • Kids who are overweight as children are more likely to become overweight adults – this study bodes well for the future of adult obesity if poor health habits can be curbed earlier in life
  • Preventing obesity is easier than treating it – getting early childhood obesity rates down is a step in the right direction for our entire population
  • While there has been no significant changes in overall obesity rates – hey, at least things aren’t getting worse!