As you gear up to start packing lunches for your kids after the summer break, think about packing your own lunch too using a Bento Box! Whether you are heading into the office, working from home or running errands, packing your lunch to bring with you (or to have ready to grab & eat if you are home for the day) is a great way to fuel yourself with nutrient-dense foods that can support your energy so you can perform at your best through the afternoon. To help you pack more “efficiently”, consider a Bento Box lunch box with 3 compartments and these meal ideas that are great for kids and adults:
Greek Pita Bento Box: Makes 4 Bento Boxes
Sliced leftover grilled chicken or use store-bought pre-cooked chicken
1 cup Tzatziki
6 inch whole grain pita bread (cut into triangles or ripped into small pieces)
Salad: 1 cup grape tomatoes + 1 cucumber, diced + ½ bell pepper, sliced +2 Tbsp feta cheese + a few black olives
Square of dark chocolate
- Mix all Greek salad ingredients together and then divide between four bento boxes.
- Divide all remaining ingredients between bento boxes
Chickpea Salad Bento Box: Makes 4 Bento Boxes
2 cups red or green grapes
4 celery stalks
6 GG Bran, Wasa or Ryvita Crispbreads
Chickpea salad: 19 ounce can chickpeas (drain & rinse) + ¼ cup mashed avocado + dash black pepper + ¼ diced onion + 1 celery stalk
- In a medium bowl, mash the chickpeas with a spatula or potato masher
- Mix the chickpeas with the remaining ingredients for the chickpea salad until completely combined and divide between 4 Bento Boxes
- Divide the grapes, vegetables & Crispbreads among the 4 Bento Boxes
Vegan Bento Box: Makes 2 Bento Boxes
12 mini bell peppers, cut in half & seeds scooped out
½ cup hummus
½ pint blackberries
1 cup strawberries
Trail mix: ¼ cup raw almonds + ¼ cup vegan chocolate chunks + 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds + 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
- Stuff the peppers with hummus
- Mix the trail mix ingredients together
- Divide all ingredients between 2 Bento Boxes
Try some of our other healthy meal and snack ideas below!
As the Marie Kondo craze makes its way through your house, don’t forget about your pantry and refrigerator! As you work through these important kitchen spaces, keep in mind that some pantry staples may actually stay fresher and last longer in the refrigerator. Here are tips on what foods to store in your refrigerator (or freezer)…and not in the pantry!
Keep whole grain foods & flours in the refrigerator or freezer
These include: quinoa, brown rice, cornmeal, barley, whole grain flours, etc. Other grain related foods to store in your refrigerator include: wheat germ, wheat bran and rice bran.
Coconut flour and coconut flakes should also be stored in the refrigerator
The natural oils in nuts and seeds go rancid faster at room temperature. But, if you store these foods in your refrigerator, they’ll stay fresh for a year or more (and up 2 years in the freezer). Any type of nut flour, nut butter, nut oils (ex. sesame oil), nuts and seeds (ground flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, etc.) are all foods to store in your refrigerator.
Other oils like olive oil should be stored in the refrigerator if you won’t use up an opened bottle within a month (if not stored in the refrigerator, at least keep it away from the heat of your stove & out of direct sunlight). Refrigerating oils may cause them to become cloudy, but this does not impact the taste.
Keep condiments in the refrigerator too: mustard, ketchup, soy sauces, fruit spreads, etc.
Some surprising foods to store in your refrigerator include vanilla extract, molasses, maple syrup, instant coffee and active dry yeast.
If not in their own bottle/air tight container, before you store these foods in your refrigerator, place each food in an airtight container or sealed Ziploc bags to keep them from absorbing moisture and odors from other foods.
Some more helpful tips on what foods to store in your refrigerator:
- Storing avocados in the refrigerator will slow ripening; this can come in handy if you like to buy a few for the week.
- Storing ripe bananas in the refrigerator can disrupt the ripening process (the peel will turn dark brown, but the banana will be perfectly ripe).
- Although, they can be stored at room temperature, oranges, lemons & limes will last 4 times longer when stored in the refrigerator.
- An opened bottle of red wine should be stored in the refrigerator (corked) for up to 5 days; bring to room temperature before serving.
A food safety tip: While you are stocking your refrigerator, check the thermometer; the temperature in your refrigerator should ideally be between 34 and 40°F.Read More
A growing numbers of Americans use vitamins and supplements to help protect their health and Fish Oil supplements are one of the most popular. A recent survey by ConsumerLab.com showed Fish Oil use second only to Vitamin D. Fish Oils contain omega-3 fatty acids that have been touted as offering protection against everything from Alzheimer’s Disease to cancer to arthritis. But it’s Fish Oil’s possible link to preventing heart disease that been the biggest reason for its popularity. But does Omega-3 actually protect against cancer and heart disease? A new study seems to indicate “NO” but a closer look at the data reveals some pretty strong evidence that there may actually be a protective effect that was missed in the overall analysis.
The Evolution of Omega-3 Supplementation
The idea that omega-3 supplements may help to protect against heart attacks had its origins in studies of Inuit tribes in the 1970’s. Living in the Arctic meant they didn’t farm fruits or vegetables and there were not may plants available to forage. So, their diet consisted mainly of whales, seals and fish. Yet despite having a diet made up mainly of fatty meats and fish, the Inuits had relatively low rates of heart attacks. The researchers concluded that high levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish were somehow protecting
the Inuits and this eventually led to the recommendation that the rest of us should start including Fish Oil supplements in our diets.
The flaw in that conclusion was that this was merely an observational correlation that didn’t prove a cause and effect relationship between high omega-3 intake and the low rates of heart disease. And subsequent studies published in 2015 showed that the ancestors of the Inuits had evolved unique genetic adaptations that changed the way they metabolized omega-3 fatty acids. So, rather than getting a protective advantage from their high intake of fish oils, they may have needed to change their metabolism just to cope with their fatty diet and some other factors may be the reason why they have lower heart attack rates than other populations.Read More
It has been a central tenet of dieting that a calorie is a calorie, whether it comes from chocolate or kale. Eat 300 calories of something naughty and it should have exactly the same effect on your weight as eating 300 calories of something completely virtuous and devoid of fun. It’s a proposition that has gotten me through many late nights when a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey seemed so much more appealing than yet another meal of grilled skinless chicken breast and salad. From a purely thermodynamic perspective, it should work. Except that a recently published study shows that we might be missing one important part of that equation: what you eat might change how many calories you burn each day.
The Science Behind Losing Weight
One pound of fat contains about 3,400 calories of energy. (Strictly speaking it is actually 3,500 kilocalories, but for diet purposes everyone refers to them as just calories). If your calorie intake
averages 2,000 calories per day and your body burns an average of 2,000 calories per day, your weight should remain exactly stable. You can decide to go on a weight-loss diet and decrease your calorie intake to 1,500 calories per day. With a net deficit of 500 calories per day you should lose around 1 pound per week since you are now short by 3,500 calories each week. Note that achieving that goal has required you to drop your calorie intake by 25%. That is not an easy regimen to maintain and accounts for why losing weight is generally not easy.
The flip side of this is even more depressing. Add just an average of 10 calories a day to your diet and by the end of a year you have taken in 3,650 calories more than you burned. So from just 10 calories a day, your weight could increase by about one pound. Enjoy a glass of wine with dinner each evening? Well, that’s about 125 calories in a glass. So that glass of wine could be worth about 12 pounds a year.
But all of this assumes that your body burns exactly the same number of calories every day if your activity level remains constant. We have all had the experience of starting a diet and losing weight for a while only to reach a plateau where further weight loss seems to practically stop. If your calorie intake is still lower than before your diet, it could be that your metabolism has slowed down and now you are not burning as many calories per day as you were before your diet. So, your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn each day exclusive of physical activity) may not be such a fixed number after all.
Are you like many looking to lose weight this year? Perhaps you’ve already started a new diet or workout program. If so, congratulations on taking steps to better your health. In addition to your personal goals, research suggests that changing your eating speed may also support weight loss.
Slow or Fast?
In a recent study, researchers who studied nearly 60,000 people found a correlation between slow eating speeds and body weight. When compared to fast eaters, those who consumed food at a slow speed were less likely to be obese. The study also suggests a correlation with lower BMI levels and smaller waist circumferences for slow eaters compared to fast eaters.
Previous research also supports the idea that slow eating speeds contribute to weight loss. One possible explanation being that slow eating allows the body to recognize internal cues for fullness earlier, which could contribute to eating smaller portions. Alternatively, fast eaters may be more likely to consume larger portions despite having consumed adequate calories which can lead to weight gain.
Applying the Research
For fast eaters looking to lose weight this year, consider trying a practice called mindful eating. In doing so, focus on each bite of food you consume at your next snack or meal. Identify your level of fullness, and any thoughts or feelings you experience after each bite. Experts also recommend eliminating distractions, such as televisions or smartphones, to help enhance the practice of mindful eating.Read More
Celery, like cucumbers and lettuce, is often considered a “negative-calorie” food. Meaning the the calories burned from eating and digesting celery are greater than the calories it contains. Despite this widely believed diet myth, there is no evidence to support this claim. Nonetheless, celery is still a low-calorie, high fiber food that is unlikely to halt any weight loss plan.
Nutrition Profile of Celery
Celery may be low in calories, at around 6 calories per medium stalk, but its not lacking in nutrients. Celery is a good source of vitamin K and fiber. It’s also rich in water, and contains a modest amount of vitamin A and potassium. Furthermore, celery contains phytochemicals, which may have antioxidant and anti inflammatory effects. In addition, some researchers believe that eating celery pre-workout may help improve endurance and enhance strength training. While not a concern for most people, those on a low-sodium diet should be aware that a medium stalk contains about 35 milligrams of sodium.
The majority of Americans consume celery raw (usually with dips or nut butters) or cooked in soups or roasts. Celery leaves have a bolder flavor than the stalk and may also be used in cooking, along with celery seeds. When choosing celery, look for stalks that are straight and rigid with fresh leaves. To clean, first slice off the stalks from the base. Then strip the leaves off of the stalks and cut the stalks in half. Next, add the cut celery to a glass bowl or container for storage. Finally, add clean water to cover the stalks and fill the container. Seal the container with a lid or plastic wrap and be sure to change the water every day to keep the celery fresh.
Simple Celery Apple Salad
In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil with 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper. Add 2 cups of thinly slices apple (recommend honey crisp or granny smith) and 2 cups of sliced celery. Top with 1/3 cup sliced red onion and fresh parsley and serve.Read More