B is for Breakfast

Breakfast

Find out why breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

It shouldn’t be news that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and yet many of us are still skipping breakfast.  So we wanted to take this opportunity to talk about why breakfast is so important since September is National All-American Breakfast Month.

According to the USDA, the benefits of breakfast are clear, especially when it comes to our kids.  Eating a balanced breakfast:

  • Helps improve standardized scores
  • Helps improve reading and math abilities
  • Improves behavior and memory
  • Increases the ability to pay attention and solve problems
  • Decreases the chances of being overweight

Basically, breakfast gives your body the nutritional boost you need to jumpstart your day.  Here are a few other reasons to make breakfast a priority.

 

  1. Eating Breakfast Helps Manage Your Weight

Research indicates that skipping breakfast increases your likelihood of becoming overweight or obese.  Experts believe that when we don’t start our day off properly, we end up eating more calories over the course of the day by choosing high calorie lunches and lots of snacks.  Additionally, when you skip meals you send the message to your body that you are starving.  You body then goes into starvation mode which means it holds on to any extra fat and converts extra calories into fat because it thinks you are starving and wants to conserve resources to ensure your survival.

 

  1. Eating Breakfast Makes You Smarter

As the benefits listed above show, there are real, lasting benefits in our ability to learn, solve problems, remember, and perform other cognitive tasks.  Simply eating breakfast everyday can boost test scores and improve grades in kids.  By giving our brain the fuel it needs to function right at the start of the day, we are better able to concentrate and use our memory.

 

  1. Eating Breakfast Helps Manage Your Mood

Another benefit of breakfast that many people overlook is the affect it can have on our mood.  When our body gets hungry, it causes shifts in our mood.  Many people get grumpy when they are hungry and it isn’t unusual to find that you are quicker to anger when you need to eat.   But giving your body the boost it needs right out of the gate can do more than just make you better to be around, it can also improve your attitude and make you more motivated to accomplish the tasks you need to tackle.

 

  1. Eating Breakfast Elevates Your Energy Level

One other big benefit of giving yourself the breakfast boost is that it also elevates your energy level.  This means you will have the energy to tackle those tasks and all that extra motivation won’t wind up going to waste.

Of course, not all breakfast choices are created equally.    It is important to remember that a hasty meal packed with sugar won’t provide the same benefits as a breakfast high in protein and complex carbohydrates.  Focusing on a breakfast that is high in both fiber and protein and low in sugar is the best bet.

To fill your plate with some delicious breakfast choices, try one of these breakfast recipes from FillYourPlate.org.

 

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5 Ways to Bring the Farm to School

F2S (Photo courtesy of National Farm to School Network)

 

In 2010, Congress designated October as National Farm to School Month celebrate those who practice growing their own food and honor the farmers who provide food, fiber, and fuel to the rest of us.  The Farm to School Programs play a crucial role not only in helping children understand where their food comes from, but also as a means to improve child nutrition. Implementing this program is a great opportunity for us to educate children on where their food comes from while also helping to stimulate local economies.

What is Farm to School?

F2s1

(Photos courtesy of Manzo Elementary School, Tucson Unified School District)

Farm to School or Farm to Child Care programs enrich the connection that communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.

This initiative gives students access to healthy and local foods at meal times as well as providing innovative educational opportunities through techniques found in flourishing school gardens, creative cooking lessons and by experiencing farm field trips. Local farmers increase their ability to stay on the land through expanded distribution outlets and by building hands-on relationships with the communities that they serve.

What’s happening in Arizona?

(Photos courtesy of Manzo Elementary School, Tucson Unified School District)

(Photos courtesy of Manzo Elementary School, Tucson Unified School District)

Arizona has a lot to celebrate! Since 2011, the Arizona Department of Education, Health and Nutrition Services Division (HNS) has worked to connect school food buyers with Arizona producers by offering regional farm tours, regional buyer-supplier meetings and training to schools on topics such as local procurement, food safety, and basics in school gardening. The latest USDA Farm to School Census reported that 31% of Arizona public schools engage in some kind of farm to school activity. Related activities may include: building a school garden, visiting a farm, serving locally produced food in school meals, taste education with local foods, inviting a farmer to school, writing to a farmer, rancher or dairyman or learning about Arizona agriculture through classroom activities.

How can YOU celebrate National Farm to School Month?

HNS encourages parents, teachers, food service professionals, administrators, and community leaders to be positive role models for our students. Here are suggestions on how you can celebrate National Farm to School Month:

1.    Remind teachers and nutrition educators to invest in Arizona Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom resources this October to help engage students in learning more about where their food comes from. Teachers should pay special attention to their Aggie Pen Pal Program, and can click here to register now.

2.    Learn about how to start a school garden, garden food safety and find peer written lessons to help teachers incorporate agriculture into their classrooms with the Agricultural Literacy Programfrom the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County. Look for the Locally Grown lesson located on their home page.

3.    Coordinate taste testing with something locally produced in your area for a classroom or after school program. Check out the Arizona Grown website for more information about Arizona’s seasonality, farmers’ markets, U-pick farms and nurseries near you.

4.    Visit your local farmers’ market. Buy something you’ve never tried before, cook it and share with your family and friends. For information about where the nearest market is and other locally owned and operated businesses, go here.  Or, go to Arizona Farm Bureau’s Fill Your Plate and select their Farmers’ Market listing, containing one of the most comprehensive lists of the state’s farmers markets that’s searchable by city and county.

5.     Win $1,000 for your community! Anyone who fills out a “Share Form” on the National Farm to School website during the month of October will be entered to win a drawing for $1,000 to spend on a farm to school project in their community! For more information contact Cindy Gentry, Arizona State Lead for the National Farm to School Network at cgentry2@cox.net.

For more information on Arizona Farm to School, please visit our Arizona Farm to School or School Garden pages, our Facebook page or contact ArizonaFarmtoSchool@azed.gov

 

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What’s in Season in September

In Season Arizona

Make sure you don’t miss out on these delicious in season fruits and vegetables this September (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

The long, hot, slow days of summer are gone which means the second part of the growing season is just getting started here in Arizona.  As families settle back into a school year schedule, farmers and ranchers are producing a whole new crop of fresh Arizona-grown products.   Take pride in all that Arizona has to offer and ask for locally grown produce, meat, and dairy products wherever you shop.  Here are some fabulous ways to make use of the fabulously fresh fall bounty available at your farmers’ market and grocery store.

Apples

Arugula

Basil

Black-eyed Peas

Chiles

Corn

Cucumbers

Figs

Green Beans

Okra

Pears

Potatoes

Pumpkins

Shelling Beans

Summer Squash

Winter Squash

Sweet Peppers

Tomatoes

Zucchini

Zucchini Blossoms

 

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Quick, Easy Tips for Work Lunches

healthy work lunch

Here are some healthy ideas to pack your lunch for work (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Whether you are looking to whittle down your waistline or your budget, one of the best ways to save both money and calories is to bring your own lunch from home every day.  You may not realize it but on average Americans spend $10 each time they go out to lunch  which means going out to lunch even two times a week will cost you almost $1,000 this year.  Additionally, research indicates that a meal in a restaurant often provides as many calories as you need for the entire day which is not good news if you are worried about your weight.

Unfortunately, many of us already feel like we are pressed for time and stressed beyond reason and the idea of having to figure out what to take for lunch and then actually making our lunch seems like a burden we just don’t have time to tackle.  But with these healthy lunch tips which are quick and easy to put together, you can cut back on your calories and your costs without causing chaos in your already hectic schedule.

 

  1. Salads

Odds are that you have some kind of salad at some point in the week with your dinner.  Simply make a little more than you normally would and package the extra into one or two servings that can serve as the base for a delicious and nutritious lunch.  Making a little more than you need won’t really take much longer and you have the start of one or two healthy lunch options.  Then, add some protein like left over grilled chicken, a hardboiled egg, or some chopped ham and your favorite dressing and you are good to go.

 

  1. Sandwiches

One of the things many of us like for lunch is the specialty sandwiches made at our favorite deli or sandwich shop.  You can still have your favorite sandwich, just make it at home.  You won’t actually be using up any more time since you would have had to stand there at the deli while someone else made your sandwich and, since you won’t have to walk or drive from work to the deli, you can have your favorite lunch in less time this way.

 

  1. Leftovers

Another way to make delicious lunches without having to find any extra time is to make a little more when you cook dinner and package up the leftovers as ready-to-go meals.  Just like with the salad, you aren’t spending any more time making the initial meal and the cost for the additional ingredients can be minimal.  You can even freeze some of these leftovers so that you aren’t eating the same thing for days at a time.

 

  1. Make Ahead Meals

One thing that can save time and money is to make your meals ahead of time and freeze them for later use.  This works for home-cooked dinners and can work just as well for lunches.  Set aside some time on the weekend to prep and prepare your lunches for the whole week.  You will save time and money this way and there will never be a day where you are just too worn out to make lunch for tomorrow.

 

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Top 5 Healthy Snacks for Back to School

healthy snacks

Here are some ideas for back to school healthy snacks (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

With so much media coverage on the childhood obesity crisis, it may seem like after-school snacking is a thing of the past but before you deem snacking taboo, let’s look at the facts.  According to Parents magazine, many doctors agree that snacking is actually healthy and necessary for children who expend a lot of energy but have small stomachs.  However, in order to be healthy those snacks must be the right kind of snacks because not all snacks are created equal.

When most of us think of snacks, especially the afterschool kind, it is likely that we think of cookies, cupcakes, and the other sugary snacks that populated our childhood.  Unfortunately, these are the kind of snacks that need to be reserved for special occasions.  This means that the first step many parents need to make in order to improve their children’s snack situation is to change how they think about snacks.  Instead of looking at a snack as a reward for getting through the school day, think about it as the fuel young bodies need to get through their afternoon.

Here are some tips to help you pick the healthiest fuel for your child as they head back to school.

 

  1. A is for Apples

Whole foods like fresh fruit and raw veggies are nutrient dense, kid friendly, and an easy option for kids who are always on the go.  Sliced apples, sectioned oranges, bananas, frozen grapes, and cucumber sticks are all great snacks that kids will eat because they like them.  Cut them into easy to eat shapes and store them in the fridge so there is always a quick and easy snack within reach.

 

  1. B is for Berries

Berries of all kids are packed with nutrition for growing bodies and they are sweet enough to satisfy and cravings for sugary snacks.  Serve them up fresh or used dried versions to make your own granola bars or trail mix so that you can control the ingredients and the calories.  They also go great when blended into yogurt.

 

  1. C is for Crunch

Everyone loves a crunchy snack but reaching for the bag of chips can mean more calories than nutrition.  Give your kids a healthy crunchy option like whole grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, or carrot and celery sticks and it will satisfy any crunchy cravings without adding a bunch of extra calories. Unsalted nuts and home mail trail mix are other great options for crunchy snacks.

 

  1. D is for Dairy

Low-fat yogurt, string cheese, sweet fruit-filled smoothies, these are all great dairy-based snacks that give your child a pop of protein to help fuel the rest of their day.  Dairy products are one of those snacks that can either way in terms of nutritional content per calorie which is why it is important to consider the calories contained in each snack and pick those that offer the most nutrition for the lowest calorie count.

 

  1. E is for Eggs

Lean protein options like eggs, sliced turkey, and tree nuts are also a great source of protein that will handle your child’s hunger without weighing them down.  Hard boiled eggs, snack-size bags of unsalted nuts, and mini-wraps made with lettuce and a slice of turkey are all great make-ahead snacks that provide healthy grab-and-go options.

 

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