Connect with us

child education

Nutrition Expert Shares Tips and Tricks to Beat Back-to-School “Lunch Box Anxiety”



girl in white sleeveless shirt glass tumbler
Photo by Yan Krukau on Pexels.com

For parents, getting back into the routine of packing their child’s lunch is one of the biggest stressors of the back-to-school season. In fact, a survey found that nearly three in five parents get stressed out just thinking about it.

Now, nutrition expert Mindy Haar, Ph.D., RDN, assistant dean at New York Institute of Technology’s School of Health Professions, shares simple tips and tricks for packing a healthy lunch. 

Haar is also available for interview/comment. Contact [email protected]

Why is a healthy lunch important?

As different foods contain different nutrients – even within the same food group – eating a variety of foods maximizes our chances of consuming a balanced, adequate diet. Every meal and snack is an opportunity for us to get what we need and thus, lunch, our midday meal, deserves attention and planning. 

What common mistakes do parents make in preparing their children’s school lunches? 

Not planning for the week in advance may leave parents to give lunches just based on what’s on hand. Drawing up a menu for the week with your child’s input can increase variety and nutritional value. 

What are some strategies parents can leverage to make preparing school lunches easier? 


Letting children help with shopping and food prep will assure that they don’t bring home lunch containers filled with uneaten food. Preparing for two days in a row saves even more time, and, whenever possible, save prep time by using dinner leftovers. 

What constitutes a well-balanced lunch?

Following the pattern suggested by My Plate, the lunch meal should include a generous amount of vegetables and fruit as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A portion of whole grains (about half a cup or one slice of bread) can provide fiber as well and checking the label for at least three grams of fiber/serving should be done. A portion of protein rounds out the meal with recommended animal-based protein such as fish, white meat poultry, egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese, or yogurt. 

However, moving to a more plant-based diet by including beans, tofu, edamame, hummus, nuts, or seeds as protein sources introduces even more nutrients and is eco-friendlier.

What are some basic nutritional elements that should be included? 

Ideally, a snack should contribute something positive to a child’s nutrition needs for the day. For example, adding a cup of fat-free or low-fat milk – or comparable non-dairy milk – to any snack significantly contributes to a child’s calcium needs. 

How are the nutritional needs of children different from adults? 


The need for nutrients is based on a person’s size and therefore calorie and protein needs, along with most other nutrients, are significantly lower than those for an adult. 

What are some healthy snack ideas parents can have on hand for their children? 

  • Cut-up fruits and vegetables 
  • Fruit kabobs: cut-up fruit on a toothpick or skewer 
  • Whole grain crackers and/or cut-up vegetables and hummus
  • Frozen grapes or canned pineapple rings 

Besides water, are there other healthy beverages parents can offer their children?

One idea: dilute fresh orange juice with water.  

Finally, what are some healthy lunch ideas for the workplace or adults on the go? 

Instead of rigid recipes, making healthful combinations from foods requiring little prep time will maximize the chances of brown-bagging a super-healthful lunch vs. buying something available.

Just choose one option from each column and pack it into a reusable container. Add a piece of fresh fruit and you’re all set! 

Vegetable Grain Protein 
Cut-up fresh vegetables Whole grain bread, pita, or crackers Tofu* 
Defrosted frozen vegetables (like broccoli, spinach, or cauliflower) Whole grain wheat products: Bulgur, couscous, farro, fekka, kasha, wheat berries, whole wheat pasta Hummus 
Canned tomato-ideally low sodium   Quinoa Beans/Edamame (soybean – fresh or defrosted frozen) Chickpeas (fresh or canned) 
Canned hearts of palm Brown rice Seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin 
  Barley Nuts 
  Amaranth Cottage cheese, plain yogurt 
  Corn (fresh or canned low-sodium) Fresh or canned fish 
    White meat poultry 

*To prepare tofu: 


A. Drain the cube of water and slice it into pieces on a baking dish. Cover with a towel and squeeze out excess water. Sprinkle with seasoning (try Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel or Chile Lime). Bake for 20-30 minutes.

B. Drain the water and stir-fry tofu chunks with cut-up fresh or frozen vegetables. 

Source: New York Institute of Technology, New York Tech

child education

Set Children Up for Day Care Success: 6 ways parents can prep little ones for child care

Long days of school, first trips to day care or even a return from a period of at-home care can be difficult or downright nerve-wracking for parents and children alike.



(Family Features) Long days of school, first trips to day care or even a return from a period of at-home care can be difficult or downright nerve-wracking for parents and children alike. This new adventure can bring challenges from keeping children healthy to supporting their nutrition and more. Sending a little one to day care can even result in maternal separation anxiety.

To help alleviate some of the anxiety and parental concerns, the childhood nutrition experts at Gerber teamed up with Dr. Whitney Casares – a board-certified practicing pediatrician and creator of “Modern Mommy Doc” – to share these tips for families preparing their little ones for child care.

Keep Important Factors Top of Mind
As part of appreciating the milestone of the first time at day care, Casares encourages parents to remember that, while daunting, day care means new experiences, new friends and opportunities for growth, fun and healthy development. As part of the transition, she suggests paying attention to critical factors like sleep, nutrition, illness prevention and emotional development.

Support Their Immune Systems
Offer little ones a diverse array of nutritious foods during the transition to day care. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is essential for building immune systems. Additionally, iron-rich foods like iron-fortified baby cereals, eggs, beans and meat are critical for a strong body. Caregivers should frequently wash hands and focus on good sleep hygiene.

Put Nutrition on the Menu
When packing lunch boxes for a day of care, it’s important to keep nutrition in mind. Once children transition to finger foods, Casares recommends snacks from Gerber like Peach Puffs, Fruit and Veggie Melts and Wonderfoods Superfood Hearts, which come in a variety of flavors and include vital nutrients to optimize health.

Be Prepared for Separation Anxiety
Not all infants and toddlers experience separation anxiety, but many can, so it’s good to be prepared. Casares encourages parents to pack a familiar swaddle blanket in infants’ diaper bags to help ease those anxieties. Some toddlers benefit from having a beloved stuffed animal or blanket with them. Try introducing these transitional objects to little ones early so they smell and feel familiar when drop-off comes around.

Pack the Essentials
While nutritious foods, like Gerber Fruit and Veggie Pouch Blends, are certainly near the top of the list, there are plenty of other essentials to pack for each day. Don’t forget to add breast milk or formula, bottles and extra nipples alongside snacks and meals. Also remember to pack extra sets of clothes, diapers, wipes and those anxiety-soothing must-haves like blankets and stuffed animals.

Prepare for Appetite Changes
It’s common for children’s appetites to decrease during their first few days of child care as they may eat a little less while growing accustomed to their new environment and surroundings. There’s no need to worry – parents can adapt to these changes by understanding they’re often a natural part of the transition. While you may find little ones are hungrier before and after day care, this behavior should ease over time. If it doesn’t, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to be sure babies stay on track.


To find more childhood nutrition advice, visit Gerber.com.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images


Continue Reading

child education

Taylor Taylor: Spreading Pickleball Passion in Memphis

Taylor Taylor: Professional pickleball player and founder of PickleMania, spreading the love of the game in Memphis. #PickleballPassion



Pickleball, a quirky fusion of tennis, ping pong, and badminton, has taken the sports world by storm. In recent years, it has emerged as America’s fastest-growing racquet sport. Even with its peculiar name, pickleball has captured the hearts of people across all skill levels and age groups, with its popularity skyrocketing during the pandemic. According to the United States Pickleball Association, a staggering 4.8 million Americans played pickleball in 2021. With courts springing up in public parks, schools, clubs, and driveways, this fun and social game offers remarkable accessibility and a low entry level compared to other racquet sports.

In Memphis, one individual has been instrumental in fostering the pickleball revolution. Meet Taylor H. Taylor, a former tennis instructor at prestigious clubs and a highly regarded junior tennis player. Five years ago, Taylor discovered pickleball and immediately recognized its immense potential. As a skilled competitor, she has participated in national pickleball tournaments, but her aspirations for the game extend beyond personal success. In 2019, she founded PickleMania, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing pickleball programming for under-resourced children, families, and communities.

Through partnerships with the Boys & Girls Clubs, charter schools, and generous donors, PickleMania has empowered over 250 kids to participate in pickleball camps, with plans for further expansion. Equipped with their own facilities, staff, and equipment, these camps offer more than just sports training. Taylor has developed a unique curriculum called “Pickleball With Purpose” that not only imparts on-court skills but also instills vital life lessons such as communication and impulse control, fostering confidence and personal growth.

Taylor’s passion for pickleball knows no bounds. She believes that this remarkable sport can bring people together, transcending age, race, size, experience, and athletic ability. As an accomplished player herself, she understands the therapeutic potential of pickleball, both mentally and physically. Taylor’s infectious enthusiasm has left an indelible mark on her campers, their families, and the volunteers who have witnessed the transformative power of pickleball.

Pickle Mania Is How Pickleball Changes The World!

Recently, Taylor appeared on Sleeve’s Senior Pickleball Report, where she engaged in an in-depth discussion about Pickleball Mania with host Mike Sliwa. Her dedication to sharing the love of pickleball with everyone on the planet is unwavering. Taylor Taylor’s commitment to pickleball and her tireless efforts to expand its reach are shaping the future of this dynamic sport in Memphis and beyond. With her game-changing vision, she is turning pickleball into a force for positive change, one swing at a time.

To learn more about Taylor Taylor and Pickleball Mani, follow these links:




Continue Reading

child education

5 Tips to Be an After-School Mealtime Hero



(Family Features) It’s one of the busiest times of the year, meaning managing mealtimes can be tough as families navigate the school year hustle. Between school, work, extracurriculars and social activities, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to eat and when.

Put your worries aside and become a true after-school hero with these timesaving, delicious meal planning strategies while giving back to communities in need.

Conquer Your Next Grocery Trip
When it’s time for a grocery run, write down everything you need, perhaps on your phone’s notetaking app, being sure to take inventory of ingredients you already have on hand. Keeping the list handy can make your trip to the store efficient while helping you stay on track, avoid multiple trips and prevent buying excess or unnecessary items.

Champion Your Inner Meal Planning
One of the first steps in meal planning should be making a list of all the meals you and your family enjoy on a regular basis. Compiling this list can help simplify weekly dinner plans and reduce stress at the grocery store. Include simple recipes like sandwiches, tacos or chili. If you want to make an easy, tasty dinner to save the day, consider something simple like chicken fried rice. All you need is 15 minutes and Ben’s Original Ready Rice, chicken breast meat, peas, carrots, reduced sodium soy sauce, garlic powder and eggs. As you try new recipes, add any family favorites to the list and consider reinventing classics by bringing in a different side dish like rice and grains to give them a whole new spin.

Come To the Rescue with Simple Prep Hacks
Before you plan your meals for the week, take a look at your calendar. On days that include evening activities, opt for easy-to-prepare meals or slow cooker- or air fryer-friendly recipes to save time. Leave more complex meals for less busy days or weekends, and don’t be afraid to schedule a weekly leftover night to empty out the fridge before your next trip to the grocery store.

Take Advantage of Pantry Staples
Turning to your pantry for after-school snacks and quick meals can help keep busy nights from getting even more hectic. For example, the entire portfolio of Ben’s Original Ready Rice – Whole Grain Brown Rice, Jasmine, Spanish Style and more – can help provide tasty, convenient meal options that are ready in just 90 seconds. Plus, until Nov. 12, for every $1 spent on participating products, $1 will be donated to No Kid Hungry through the “Be an After-School Hero” program, which can help provide 2.5 million meals to those who need them most.

Be a Prep Day Warrior
Setting aside some time – maybe a couple of hours on the weekend – to prep food for the week’s meals can help stretch your time and allow more moments to enjoy meals around the table as a family. This time can be used to cut, brown and divide proteins into portions; chop or slice fruits and vegetables; prepare one-pan dishes; make sauces; and more.

Fight mealtime fatigue and make school night meals a cinch with more ideas and recipes at BensOriginal.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Ben’s Original

Continue Reading