Healthy Lunch Boxes for Kids and Adults

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when packing lunches. When we can’t cook or even warm up our food, our options are somewhat limited. But the standard lunchmeat and cheese on bread with potato chips doesn’t do much for our health.

Sometimes we just need to think outside of the box (or in this case, the lunchbox). With some creativity, we can pack healthy lunches for ourselves and our kids. Here are a few suggestions:

Main Dishes:

* Make some pasta salad. You can find kits with everything you need in the grocery store, or you can make your own to suit your tastes. Include vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers and onions to add flavor and nutrition. For the kids, try using pasta in interesting shapes.

* Roll up a fajita. Use leftover meat from dinner the night before, and add lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and some of your favorite light dressing or sauce. These make a great change of pace for kids, too.

* Have a turkey bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. This is healthy and provides a nice change.

* Toss up a grilled chicken salad. Grill some organic chicken breasts the night before, slice them up, and add them to some salad greens. Add some shredded cheese and cherry tomatoes to make a nutritious and filling dish.

* Put some homemade soup or chili in a thermos. It’s nice to have something warm for a change, especially in the winter.

* Make sandwiches with bagels instead of bread. Bagels are nutritious and filling, and they give you a break from plain old white or wheat bread.

Side Dishes:

* Pack some baby carrots, celery sticks or sliced cucumbers and a small container of hummus or vegetable dip.

* Send some yogurt with fruit and granola in your child’s lunch. It will provide protein, carbohydrates and vitamins that your child needs.

* Keep fresh fruit on hand. When you’re in a hurry, you can easily grab a piece and throw it in the lunchbox as a nutritious side dish.

* Whip up some fruit salad for an easy to make treat. Drain a can of fruit cocktail and add some chopped walnuts, marshmallows and sliced bananas soaked in lemon juice (to keep them from turning brown).

* Make your own trail mix. Mix your favorite kinds of nuts, raisins, dried bananas and cranberries, and granola.

Just because you eat your lunch out of a lunchbox, doesn’t mean it has to be boring and lack nutritional value. Using leftovers creatively and putting a new twist on your sandwiches will help you and your kids get over the packed lunch doldrums.

Kristy Lee Wilson

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March 25, 2009 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

Recipe: Potato & Carrot Casserole

This casserole is great because it is very low in fat, is packed with vegetables and contains healthy protein. It’s also easy to make and tastes great – even the kids will eat it. Enjoy with a side of steamed broccoli.

Yield: 6 servings

Here’s what you need…

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 3/4 cup fat free chicken broth
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 3 cups grated red potato, cleaned but don’t peel
  • 3/4 cup egg white (or egg beater)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a medium sized baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized frying pan, saute the onion in the water until well done. Add the garlic. Add the chicken broth, carrots, and potatoes and cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in egg whites.
  4. In a small bowl, combine flour, wheat germ, baking powder, salt and pepper. Add to the vegetables. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes.
  5. Serve with a side of steamed broccoli.

Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 143 calories, .5g fat, 28g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, and 8g protein.

February 23, 2009 at 3:05 pm 1 comment

Exercise for the Youngest Set

istock_000004405002xsmallKids have so much natural energy it’s sometimes hard to think of why they should be encouraged to exercise. But for the younger crowd, ‘exercise’ means something quite different than in the case of adults.
Adults interested in health and fitness can commit to a rigorous, heavy workout on a regular basis. Kids would often find that sort thing boring, if not outright risky. Routines appropriate for adults just don’t suit the growing bodies of younger kids.

Kids are also becoming increasingly sedentary with the growth of alternative forms of entertainment. TV has been around for decades, but 24 hour per day video, the Internet, and other distractions are relatively recent phenomena. That increases the challenge of finding the right kind of healthy activity for those developing physiques, one that will sustain kids’ interest.

Both common sense and numerous scientific studies agree on two points. Get involved with the kids and they’ll take to exercise readily. Second, make the activity fun and tailored to the child’s age and you’ll start them off right on the road to a healthy lifestyle that lasts a lifetime.

Infants and toddlers are often whisked from barely being able to crawl right into restraints. Car seats and playpens have their place. But a very young child needs, for both physical and mental health, to explore his or her environment freely. Nearly every child will eagerly explore the surroundings, touching and grabbing, manipulating and testing. That should be allowed and even encouraged for at least some part of the day.

Later, when the muscles and bones develop to the point that more vigorous activities can be engaged in safely, up the ante. Devise games and sports that have a goal, but also allow for plenty of undirected fun time.

Kids like to have a goal to strive for, but attaching adult-sized stress for prizes can hinder the basic purpose of the activity. Whether it’s soccer or swimming, gymnastics or just tossing a ball, keep it fun. Keep it focused on the child’s needs, not the adults’ wishes.

At a certain age, say past 8 or 10 years old, cycling to school can do double duty, as both transportation and exercise. Even walking is fine when the circumstances allow. They’ll thank you years later when they have the opportunity to tell their kids how they walked a mile to school. In the snow. Barefoot. Carrying weights.

As they get to those ‘tween’ years, the level of activity can increase accordingly. Whether it’s more rigorous gymnastics routines, tennis, or running the level should be something that stretches them but doesn’t cause harm. Simple ‘school type’ exercises can often be boring. Jumping jacks, push ups, and the like often look too much like a forced routine to kids. But they never tire of exercise disguised as fun. Of course, the disguise doesn’t have to look like a Halloween mask. It can be something that really is fun. Be creative.

The result will be higher self-esteem, a fit body, and the ability to carry out tasks safely that otherwise might cause harm. Obesity, poor focus, and other problems often start from lack of proper activity at an early age. But heart health, good eating habits, and a lifetime commitment to a wellness lifestyle are more likely when the right habits are established early.

Exercise, in the right form, is one important pillar of that structure.

Kristy Lee Wilson

January 7, 2009 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

Stuffed Beet Treats

What You Need:

  • 8 whole beets, cooked
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped fine
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp sweet pickles, minced
  • 1 ½ TBSP mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp. mild salsa

How to Make It:

  • Begin by removing a section out of each beet with a melon baller to form a cavity to fill.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the eggs, dry mustard, pickles and mayonnaise.
  • Stir well to combine.
  • Fold in the salsa and blend to desired consistency.
  • Fill each beet with the mixture.

You can substitute pickle relish for the sweet pickles and salad dressing for the mayonnaise. If using a salad dressing hold back a little on the sweet pickles or relish or the mixture may be too sweet for some tastes.

Kristy Lee Wilson

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December 18, 2008 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment

Vegetables in Marinade

What You Need:

  • 1 C cold water
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C white vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. fresh mushrooms
  • 2 C broccoli florets
  • 2 C cauliflower florets
  • 2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1 inch strips
  • 2 C carrots, cut diagonally into strips

How to Make It:

  • Place the water, sugar, vinegar and salt in a large bowl.
  • Mix until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Add the vegetables and stir well to coat.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.

The longer these set the better they taste. The sugar makes this a slightly sweet treat. Cucumbers and onions also work well in this marinade.

December 14, 2008 at 12:52 pm Leave a comment

Teaching the Basics of Movement – The Key to Youth Fitness

Brian Grasso is the CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association and is considered one of the premier authorities on youth athletic development in the world. Access Brian’s free database of articles and exercises at

istock_000000807230xsmall1In the initial phases of training with a young athlete (technically referred to as General Preparatory or GPP), the undeniable key and focus (outside of fun!) should be aptitude development. This aptitude should transcend to both movement-based skills in their basic elements (balance, jumping, throwing, linear and lateral motion progressions etc) as well as strength-based exercises. I have always firmly believed that basic squatting techniques, for example (along with squatting variations and unilateral efforts), should be introduced into the training sessions of young athletes.

That being said, how does one begin the process of teaching movement habits?

When working with truly young athletes (6 – 7 years old), you need to adopt a progression template within which to work. No template can ever be applied to 100% of your athletes 100% of the time – that is the beauty of coaching; understanding what to apply, when and for how long (i.e. knowing when to progress or regress on an individual basis). Trust me when I say that no system is foolproof and that any strength coach or trainer that claims to ‘have all the answers’ is completely full of crap. For that exact reason, one of my industry hero’s is Mike Boyle.

He is a) straight to the point with no fluff and b) bold in his assertion that he is still developing and evolving as a coach himself.

After 10 years of working with young athletes, I have reached one undeniable conclusion – the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know and the more I want to change my methodologies.

Having said that, these are the first three progressions I use in teaching a movement habit –

Skill: Lateral Deceleration

Firstly, break key points down into skill sets that are easy to remember so that kids can recite them both to you and to themselves (this makes teaching and cuing much simpler). I have four points I want my athletes to learn/know/commit to memory with respect to lateral deceleration:

  1. Bend your knees and drop your hips
  2. Be on a flat foot or slightly on the ball of the foot
  3. The toe/foot of the decelerating leg should be square to the angle of the body (i.e. not out)
  4. The foot placement should be outside the box (the ‘box’ is a reference to an invisible line drawn from the shoulder to the floor. Any placement outside of that line is good; within or too close to the line will result in a poor deceleration and potential injury).

Have the kids understand each of these items individually and then in conjunction with each other.


These represent the first three of my progressive steps:

1. Repeat Statically – have the athletes assume an athletic position or stance. From here, they will ‘hit’ the decelerating position upon command. Be patient with this step and make sure all your athletes are comfortable and competent with the motion. Add fun to this by calling out different legs unpredictably.

2. Repeat Dynamically – when you feel your athletes are ready, have them perform one or two moderately paced side shuffles prior to ‘hitting’ the decelerating position. The side shuffles should be slow and easy. At this point, you will begin to ascertain if further teaching is necessary (it likely will be). With the additional movement prior to the deceleration, a common mistake you will see is athletes not planting their foot outside of the box far enough. This results in a poor alignment and a less than satisfactory deceleration (even at these slow speeds). My colleague, Lee Taft, calls this a shoulder sway (because the shoulders lean towards the decelerating leg rather than sitting back in a ‘braking’ type position). I love this term and reflects what the actual concern looks like.

3. Repeat Randomly – Now that the athletes are comfortable with the motion, create games and situations within which they react to a particular signal and move (unpredictably) different directions. On your ‘point’ for example, the athlete will take one or two moderately paced side shuffles and then ‘hit’ a deceleration. Have them hold the position so that both you and them can ascertain what is right and wrong with their posture.
Learn more about Brian’s complete system of developing young athletes –

December 12, 2008 at 2:25 pm Leave a comment

Creamy Cheese and Asparagus Toppers

What You Need:

  • 12 asparagus spears
  • 1 TBSP water
  • 2 (3 oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 2.5 oz. (½ pkg.) Parmesan and Romano cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • Assorted crackers

How to Make It:

  • Clean and trim the asparagus spears.
  • Cut each spear into 1 in pieces.
  • Place the asparagus in a microwave safe bowl.
  • Add the water and cover.
  • Microwave on high power for 4 minutes or until the asparagus is fork tender.
  • Drain off any excess water.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, shredded cheese and lemon juice.
  • Mix together well.
  • Spread the cheese mixture on the crackers.
  • Top with the asparagus pieces.

To make this even easier use a flavored cream cheese such as chive, garden vegetable or roasted garlic and leave out the shredded cheese.

December 10, 2008 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

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