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

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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 mediarelations@nyit.edu. 

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

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Navigating Change: Paradise Valley Unified School Board Votes to Close Three Schools Amid Declining Enrollment

In a tough decision, Paradise Valley Unified School Board voted to close 3 schools due to declining enrollment, sparking community concerns.

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In a recent decision that has stirred emotions and raised concerns within the Paradise Valley community, the Paradise Valley Unified School Board has voted to close three schools due to declining enrollment. Sunset Canyon Elementary, Desert Springs Prep Elementary, and Vista Verde Middle School are the institutions that will be affected by this move, with the closures set to take effect on July 1, 2024.

The board members involved in this difficult decision emphasized the necessity of being fiscally responsible in the face of dwindling student numbers. Despite acknowledging the emotional weight of this choice, their primary focus remained on the financial sustainability of the district. As board member Tony Pantera succinctly put it, “In the end, they’re buildings. Some people say, ‘Well it’s not a building.’ It’s just a building.”

However, the response from the audience highlighted a deeper sentiment among community members. Their outcry, expressing that these schools represent more than just physical structures, underscored the vital role these educational institutions play in fostering a sense of community and belonging. As one can imagine, the decision to close these schools will have far-reaching effects beyond the mere physical closure of buildings.

While Pantera’s assertion that “the community can exist anywhere” may hold some truth, the emotional bond and shared experiences nurtured within these school environments are irreplaceable. The impact of these closures extends beyond mere logistics, touching the hearts of students, parents, teachers, and residents who have built their lives around these educational hubs.

As the Paradise Valley Unified School District navigates this period of change and transition, it is essential for all stakeholders to come together to support one another and ensure that the well-being of the students remains at the forefront of all decisions. While change can be challenging, it also presents an opportunity for growth, adaptation, and the forging of new paths forward.

In the wake of this decision, it is crucial for the community to unite, reflect on the values that these schools have instilled, and work towards creating a positive and supportive environment for all students, regardless of the changes that lie ahead. By coming together with empathy, understanding, and a shared commitment to education, the Paradise Valley community can emerge stronger and more resilient from this period of transition.

Source: KTAR News

https://ktar.com/story/5561735/3-paradise-valley-schools-to-close-as-enrollment-numbers-decline/

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Honoring Legacy: ARAC Scholarship Programs for College-Bound Seniors

“ARAC honors Tuskegee Airmen with scholarships for STEM and African American high school seniors. Apply by May 1 and May 31. Contact for details.”

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The Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter (ARAC), paying tribute to Tuskegee Airmen, is accepting applications for two scholarships. The William A. Campbell Memorial Scholarship, named after Col. Campbell, offers up to two $1,500 scholarships to STEM-bound high school seniors. Applicants must have a minimum 2.7 GPA and submit a 500-word essay by May 31.

The Ashby-Herring Scholarship, named after original Tuskegee Airmen, awards two $1,500 scholarships to African American high school seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and financial need. The deadline for the Ashby-Herring Scholarship is May 1.

Diana Gregory, ARAC Scholarship Committee coordinator, expressed pride in facilitating higher education through these scholarships, encouraging eligible seniors to apply promptly. For more information, contact rtoli@cox.net for the William A. Campbell Memorial Scholarship and scholarship@azfoundation.org for the Ashby-Herring Scholarship.

https://www.azfoundation.org/

https://q5i.09c.myftpupload.com/chapter-of-the-tuskegee-airmen-opens-scholarship-programs-in-arizona/
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Know as They Grow: How birth defects affect each stage of life

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(Family Features) Birth defects, structural changes that affect one or more parts of the body, are the leading cause of infant mortality. A baby is born with a birth defect every 4.5 minutes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

Birth defects most often develop during the first three months of pregnancy, when a baby’s organs are forming. Not only can they affect mortality, but they can also cause problems for a baby’s overall health and how the body develops and functions. Common birth defects include congenital heart defects, cleft lip, cleft palate and spina bifida.

Genetics, behaviors and social and environmental factors can impact the risk for birth defects, and not all birth defects can be prevented. To help improve the lives of people living with birth defects, consider this information from the experts at March of Dimes, who aim to provide knowledge about what birth defects are, how to prevent them and their impact across all stages of life.

Pregnancy
Although not all birth defects can be prevented, people can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by managing health conditions and adopting healthy behaviors before becoming pregnant.

When planning a pregnancy, see a health care professional and start prenatal care as soon as possible. Talk about taking any medications you’re currently taking (or might need during the pregnancy), including vitamins. Most doctors recommend women take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects.

Also discuss vaccinations (including COVID-19, since pregnant women are at elevated risk for severe COVID-19 illness) and other medical concerns, such as how to manage diabetes. Avoid overheating and treat fevers and infections promptly. Avoid alcohol, smoking cigarettes and marijuana or other drugs during pregnancy.

Infancy
If your baby is diagnosed with a birth defect during pregnancy, or born with a birth defect or other health condition, he or she may need special care to aid growth and development. Many children with birth defects lead long and happy lives. However, birth defects remain critical conditions that can cause lifelong challenges.

Advancements such as improved newborn screening and early detection of birth defects can help pinpoint potential problems and ensure the baby begins receiving supportive care for better survival rates and quality of life. Examples include newborn screenings for critical congenital heart defects and monitoring bladder and kidney function in infants and children with spina bifida.

Childhood
Meeting the complex needs of a person with birth defects involves the whole family and can be challenging at times. Finding resources, knowing what to expect and planning for the future can help. Early intervention services and support include special education, speech therapy and physical therapy. These can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills, overcome challenges and increase success in school and life.

Some babies born with birth defects may also have physical and intellectual disabilities. The exact ages of developmental milestones are different for each child. Families, educators and health care providers can work together to set meaningful goals and create a plan to help children living with birth defects reach their full potential.

Adolescence
Adolescents and young adults living with birth defects may face unique challenges as they transition from childhood to adulthood. They may need to navigate changes in insurance and transition from a familiar pediatric specialist to a new adult doctor. It’s important for people with birth defects and their families to begin planning for this transition during childhood so they can lead healthy, independent lives as adults.

Other areas of focus might include medications, surgeries and other procedures; mental health; social development and relationships within and outside the family; physical activity; and independence.

Adulthood
With every pregnancy, a woman starts out with a 3% chance of having a baby with a birth defect, regardless of underlying health conditions or lifestyle factors, according to the CDC.

Many women with birth defects and other health conditions have healthy, uneventful pregnancies. However, women with birth defects may be more likely to have a baby with a birth defect. People living with birth defects should talk with their health care providers before becoming pregnant about how a pregnancy might affect them and their baby.

Having someone in your family with a birth defect also increases your chances of having a baby with a birth defect. To learn more about your genetic risk of having a baby with a birth defect, talk with a clinical geneticist or a genetic counselor.

Learn more about birth defects by following #EveryJourneyMatters and #BirthDefects on social media and visiting marchofdimes.org/birthdefects.

Tips to Prevent Birth Defects
Not all birth defects can be prevented, but you can help reduce the risk and increase your chances of having a healthy baby by following these steps.

  • Get a preconception checkup before you start trying to get pregnant.
  • Ensure your vaccinations are up to date. Some vaccinations protect you from infections that can cause birth defects and updating certain vaccinations may mean you need to wait before trying to become pregnant.
  • Take a vitamin supplement that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
  • Learn about your family health history. If you, your partner, your children or someone in your families has a birth defect, you may want to see a genetic counselor to learn more about your risk.
  • Work with your health care provider to manage chronic health conditions, such as diabetes.
  • Talk to your health care provider about medicines you take, including any prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, supplements and herbal products. Certain medicines may increase your baby’s risk of a birth defect.
  • Reach a healthy weight. Being obese can increase your baby’s chances of having birth defects like neural tube defects, heart defects and cleft palate.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
March of Dimes

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