Monthly Archives: August 2010

How to Make School Lunches Your Child Will Eat

Many parents these days are concerned with the quality of lunches provided by public schools. To put it mildly, many schools offer extremely unhealthy foods for lunch. As parents who want their kids to eat better, how can you help them?

Packing a healthy lunch for your child is one of the simplest things you can do to help them eat better. The challenge is making a lunch they’re more likely to eat than to trade away to friends.

Pay Attention to Their Likes

The first thing to do is know what your child likes to eat. This may change from year to year and even in the middle of the school year. Keep talking to your kids about what they like to eat for lunch and find healthy ways to provide that.

School lunch packing is not the best time to experiment or challenge your child’s food preferences. It’s easy for them to trade away unliked foods, or even to just throw it away uneaten. Push their interests at home where you can see the results.

Leftovers

Sometimes leftovers are great for lunches. You may need to provide a thermos to keep the food warm, but other leftovers taste great cold.

If there’s a meal your kids really love, make extras that you can separate into easy lunches and freeze. You can save excess for dinners for the whole family as well, of course. Providing them with favorite home cooked meals to eat at school may increase the chances that your child will eat what you’ve given them.

Wraps

Don’t stick to the traditional sandwiches for every meal. Wraps are a great alternative, so long as you pick healthy whole grain tortillas, not just white flour tortillas.

Wraps are easy to make. You want to cover most of the tortilla, but leave a little distance from the edges to keep things neat. Lunch meats, vegetables and spreads work well. Mix them up and find out which your kids love the most. Do let your kids try hummus sometime, first at home, but if they like it, hummus is a great wrap ingredient.

Healthy Sides

Know what your kids love in terms of fruits and vegetables. Most will have a few favorites. Try to provide these in their school lunches.

My kids love bell peppers and cucumbers, for example. Put these in their lunch and they’ll usually be eaten.

Keep it Simple

Kids don’t need a feast at lunchtime. They need simple, filling foods and not a big selection. They’re usually as interested in chatting with their friends as they are in eating their food. Sometimes more interested in chatting with their friends. Give them too many choices and a lot of it will end up in the trash.

Dessert Doesn’t Have to Mean Sugar

Kids love getting a dessert item in their lunches. An occasional cookie or other treat isn’t going to ruin them either. But the dessert doesn’t have to be cookies or candy.

Berries work great. Granola bars usually have a lot of sugar, but have other healthy ingredients. Try to balance sweetness with good for your kids.

Variety May Not Be the Spice of Life

Don’t feel bad if you’re packing the same lunch over and over. Most kids like consistency. If they complain, that’s the time to mix things up.

Why Don’t People Buy Environmentally Friendly Products?

Lots of people want to be more environmentally friendly. Not everyone; in fact, some are downright opposed to the idea, and strongly. But even those who want to be more eco friendly in their homes won’t buy the products. Why is that?

Confusion

Confusion may be a large part of the problem. The various claims are confusing and often misleading. People don’t always know which products are really eco friendly versus merely being greenwashed.

Uncertainty About Quality

Many people aren’t at all certain that eco friendly products are going to be as good as conventional products. Conventional products are comfortable to use, and people know what they do. They’ve been using them after all.

Eco friendly products, on the other hand, are less well known. Many people don’t have a friend familiar enough with the products to share success stories or to say to avoid particular products that don’t work so well.

Many eco friendly products are not advertised in the same way conventional products are. You don’t see them on television so much unless they’re made by one of the big brands. While some don’t like to admit it, such advertising has a big effect on how products are viewed.

Hard to See Personal Benefit

Telling someone that a product benefits the environment is great. Lots of people like to hear that. But it’s hard to get people to take action without a quickly obvious personal benefit.

That’s much harder to demonstrate, as the basic benefit of using an environmentally friendly product is about the same as using a conventional product. The potential long term personal health benefits and benefits to the environment are much harder to see.

Cost

Eco friendly products are perceived as more expensive. That’s because many of the most visible products do cost more. Organic cotton products cost more. Hybrid cars cost more. Solar panels are expensive.

Yet many eco friendly products are easily affordable. Vinegar and baking soda work very well as cleaning products, but many people aren’t aware that they can be used in this way or that they do such a good job. Other eco friendly products can also be affordable.

“One Person Can’t Make a Difference”

Many people feel that what they do personally doesn’t make a significant difference. They’re both right and wrong about that.

Choosing eco friendly products can be better for your health, and while you can’t define that difference much of the time, it can be a difference.

But even more important is that as each individual makes the choice of buying eco friendly products shows businesses that it’s worth their time and money to provide eco friendly products. Choosing to do business with companies with eco friendly practices makes it worth their while to continue to improve those practices. It takes more than one to make that difference, but if individuals don’t make those choices, the pressure never builds up on the businesses to make the change.

Can Disposable Diapers Ever Be the Green Choice?

Not every family wants to use cloth diapers. I strongly prefer them to disposables, having used both types, but washing cloth diapers isn’t something that all families are up for.

What are the chances for a disposable diaper to be a green choice? Does that ever happen?

Green and eco friendly are hard words to define. In general, something that creates waste and cannot be reused is not going to be as eco friendly as something that can be used over and over, and even handed down when you’re done with it.

There are times, however, that a disposable diaper makes sense.

That would be when water usage matters. If you’re living in an area with a severe drought, having water available for drinking is far more important than using water for washing diapers. That’s a place you can cut back on your water use.

When that kind of situation happens, the important thing is to pick the most environmentally friendly disposable diaper you can buy. Don’t be fooled by the eco claims of major brands – they’re usually too vague and use words that don’t have any legal meaning to make themselves sound good.

The trouble is that even the more environmentally friendly disposables aren’t that much better than the traditional disposables. They don’t use bleach, they use renewable resources for parts of the diaper, they don’t use latex or fragrances. But they cost more than traditional diapers as a rule, making this as much a budgetary decision as a green one for most families. There’s usually a limit for how far we can vote with our wallets while raising a family.

Biodegradable diapers are another option. You can throw these into your compost pile, although due to the human waste involved the compost should then not be used on food plats. Safe enough for anything you aren’t going to eat, however.

Some come as covers with biodegradable liners that you dispose of in your compost. Biodegradable doesn’t work so well in a landfill, as they get covered too quickly to properly biodegrade. If you just throw them in the trash, you aren’t taking advantage of their biodegradability.

When it comes right down to it, I still have to recommend cloth diapers over other diapering options. Preferably organic cloth diapers.

But if it happens that you must use some sort of disposable, don’t reach for the easiest solution or the greenest looking package. Take a better look and find the balance between caring for the environment and being kind to your wallet. Sometimes the answer you want isn’t the one you can afford.

Stop Throwing Money Away Book Review

I can be a pretty disorganized person. I’m getting better at repurposing things I already have, but it would be nice to do better.

That’s where Stop Throwing Money Away comes in. It’s about organizing, repurposing and shopping in your own home when you need things. And it encourages you to take action, not just read the book and ignore the advice given.

One of the amazing things is how many things you will discover that you can reuse, sell or trade with someone else to get something you need.

“Shopping at home” is what Jaime Novak calls it when you go through the things you already have to find what you need. It’s too true that many people don’t realize how much they already have, and buy a new version of something they already own because they can’t find it.

She also notes how many things people hold onto that they’ll never use but don’t think they can part with for one reason or another. Often these things can be sold for money needed elsewhere. Given how tight times are for many families, this is a great tip.

She’s a great fan of repurposing. The glass jar that gets thrown into the recycle bin is one of her examples as something that can easily be reused. I really get this one, as I already repurpose my glass spaghetti jars, keeping several on hand so that when I need one, it’s there. Organized, not clutter, though. They have a place that’s not in the way of anything else around here.

You’ll learn about the “one in, two out” rule that can really help you decrease clutter. This is a great way to decrease the number of things you own and is a huge help in decluttering.

This book will help you to get organized without telling you to buy new stuff to organize the old stuff. More repurposing comes from figuring out which items can be stored in which containers you already own. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it needs to work.

I have to love how she discourages storing things in a rental unit. If you need something so little that you can store it away from your home is a point I’m very much on board with. Once in a while you’ll wish you could have something back you got rid of for lack of space, but not that often, and the savings on storage fees will make up the expense of replacing most things.

If you’re suffering from clutter, Stop Throwing Money Away is very much worth checking out. I think you’ll enjoy it.

How Much Does Buying Local Food Really Matter?

I came across an article in the New York Times over the weekend about the real costs of food transportation. The overall point is that eating local foods may not be making as much of an impact as you think, because transporting it from one state to another can be more efficient in terms of energy use than growing it locally, especially if a heated greenhouse is needed to grow it.

The article makes some very good points, such as the fact that the energy to grow the produce is a bigger part of the energy cost than transporting it to the store. The energy cost from the store to your home is also usually one of the bigger costs – depending on where you live in relation to the store and how you get there, of course.

Then there’s refrigeration and preparation. Having food and preparing it to eat can add quite a bit to the energy used in dealing with that food.

I can’t say all of it works for me. The argument about the greenhouse simply points up that you should eat foods in season. Produce in season won’t need a greenhouse. There’s energy saved right there.

I’ll grant that cutting back on food miles is only a small impact. The size of the impact isn’t the point. It’s decreasing the environmental impact of your food in the ways available to you. That it’s small doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

The article says that transportation is about 14% of the energy used in the American food system. Why shouldn’t we try to decrease that number? It’s one of the areas where a decrease is possible.

Fortunately, the article does admit that there are some benefits to eating locally. Not very specifically, but at least the author isn’t entirely against it and just wants people to really think before they eat local. That’s a good thing.