Produce For Kids: Yummy Meal Ideas For Your Family + $100 GIVEAWAY!

I first discovered Produce For Kids Ideal Meals cards last spring when I was shopping in my local Kroger supermarket. The fun, colorful display caught my eye and before I knew it I had picked up nearly every recipe card there to take home and share with my kids. They were excited about the yummy looking snack and meal ideas and couldn’t wait to try them.

Since then I’ve become a big fan of Produce For Kids. I mean, who doesn’t need more ideas to help our children (and ourselves) eat more fruits and veggies? I know I do! Their philosophy is simple: promote healthy lifestyles for children by educating kids and parents about the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables while also supporting worthy children’s causes.

This spring they kick off their annual Get Healthy, Give Hope campaign which will not only help your own family eat healthier this year, but it will also raise money for Children’s Miracle Network-affiliated hospitals.  Working with 16 supermarket grocery store chains across the United States, from May through July, participating fresh fruit and vegetable companies will make a donation to local children’s hospitals based on sales of their fresh produce items at participating grocery stores.

Starting this week and in the coming weeks, look for the Ideal Meals cards in your local grocery store. The free cards provide quick and easy healthy meal ideas to shoppers in the produce departments at participating grocery stores. The chef created and nutritionist approved cards include ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

New this year, Produce For Kids will feature cutting edge technology with new QR codes (the square bar codes) on the in-store point-of-sale display units and specially marked Ideal Meal cards. The Ideal Meal codes immediately link a shoppers’ Smartphone to cooking demos featuring PFK Chef Marshall O’Brien preparing each meal. Codes on point-of‐sale displays link shoppers to the Get Healthy, Give Hope Sweepstakes, to enter for a chance to win a full‐motion, interactive gaming systems, cookware sets and grocery store gift cards.

Since its creation in 2002 by Shuman Produce Inc., Produce For Kids has raised more than $3.1 million for local Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and PBS KIDS® to educate parents on healthy eating and raises funds for public broadcasting. To learn more, visit www.produceforkids.org or www.childrensmiraclenetwork.org.

I hope you’ll keep your eyes peeled (yes, pun intended!) for the Ideal Meal Cards. Then get into the kitchen with your family and whip up some delicious new ways to get your family eating more fruits and vegetables!

THE BEST PART- A $100 GROCERY STORE GIVEAWAY!

Produce for Kids is sponsoring a giveaway here at Meal Planning Magic. You can enter to win a $100 grocery store gift card from your local participating supermarket!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

PRIMARY (MANDATORY) ENTRY

1. Click on this link to visit Ideal Meals page then come back here to leave a comment with your favorite Ideal Meal.

 ADDITIONAL ENTRIES:

2. Share your own idea, tip or recipe for feeding your family more fruits and vegetables.

3. Vote for my blog at Babble’s Top 100 Food Mom Blogs (to find me, click on Alphabetical, then go to page 4 to find me and click to vote!)

Remember, leave a comment for each entry. Only one entry per person per method listed above. Good luck!

Giveaway Rules:

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Congratulations to #4, Heather! She is the winner of this giveaway!

Supermarket partners participating in the Get Healthy, Give Hope campaign include: AcmeMarkets; Kroger’s Texas division, King Soopers and City Market stores; PriceChopper (New England area), GIANT and Martin’s Food Stores, Giant Landover, Stop & Shop; Meijer Stores; Publix Super Markets; Homeland and other Independent Grocers of Oklahoma.

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for this promotion and all the opinions expressed here are my own honest feelings about the product.

Web Bytes: January inspiration!

I had planned to jump on the “let’s get organized in the new year” bandwagon by posting some tips for organizing your freezer but I got sidetracked surfing the net too much instead. The freezer tips will come, I promise, but for now here are some links to keep you inspired. Enjoy!

–Girl Scout cookie sales began this weekend here in Texas (and I think all over the U.S.). The Thanks-A-Lot cookies are coming in new packaging which are meant to be more environmentally friendly (a test program for possible change for all the cookie boxes). Here are some more tips on what the Girl Scouts is doing to increase awareness about not only sustainable practices but what’s in the iconic cookies we buy and eat. Plus there are links to more Girl Scout cookie FAQs and recipes!

–Want to know if the food you’re eating is real or not? Check out this fun flowchart from TakePart.com to help you figure it out (and have a chuckle along the way)

–Bananas are my go-to fruit for just about any meal. They’re so easy to just peel and eat. As a matter of fact, when I was in college I did an ad campaign for bananas as part of a class assignment. I pulled it out the other day to show the kids (because they could not believe I would have done something like that!) I think we all wanted bananas for snack that day. Fruits & Veggies More Matters has their top 10 picks for enjoying bananas. I think I’ll try the banana salsa.

–I’m not especially trendy in general but apparently I’ve hit on one of the projected food trends for this year with one of my New Year’s Resolutions: eat more vegetables. Who knew?

–Do you think you eat pretty healthy? Maybe not. A new survey by Consumer Reports Health suggests otherwise. Of course it’s much more complex than this but it just reminds us that we must continually educate ourselves about what is good food for our bodies.

–And last but not least, thoughts on the family dinner and how the holidays are not the only time to be sitting down for meals regularly with your family. Studies show that it’s can be about so much more than just the food! How often does your family eat meals together?

I hope you’re inspired a little too!

Super Healthy Kids Plate {Giveaway!}

Amy of Super Healthy Kids has offered one of her fun plates as a giveaway in conjunction with her guest post. She created a child’s plate to help kids (and their parents) remember that half of every meal should contain fruits and vegetables and we want to give one away! The giveaway will last one week, until Friday.

Here’s How To Enter:
1. Leave a comment with your favorite way to get more fruits or veggies onto your family’s plates.
2. Become a follower of my blog (link is on the left of this page)
3. Like Meal Planning Magic on Facebook
4. Email subscribe to my blog.
5. Blog about the giveaway and leave me a link to your post.
6. Update your Facebook status with a link to this post.
7. “Tweet” about this post.
8. Vote for my blog at Babble.com’s Best Mom Food Bloggers (I’m currently on page 2, #60 but hopefully your votes will move me up!)

Remember, leave a comment for each entry. Only one entry per person per method listed above. If you are already a follower or subscribe to my blog, you can still have an extra entry–just mention that in the comment. Good luck!

Giveaway Rules:
THIS GIVEWAY HAS ENDED!

Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation for this giveaway. Check out Giveaway Scout’s listing of blogs with giveaways for more chances to win great prizes (seen link to the left).

{Guest Post} Don’t Forget The Vegetables!

I’m not sure what has sparked my recent interest in adding fruits and veggies to our menu this week but maybe it is my subconscious voice speaking to me. You see, there have been a lot more sweets creeping into our diets and they seem to be pushing out the healthy foods. With the holidays upon us it will be even more challenging to keep offering the healthy options. So when Amy of SuperHealthyKids contacted me about doing a guest post, I happily agreed! I know I sure can use all the help I can get on this front. Amy offers some great (and easy!) tips that will hopefully help you too. And to wrap things up, she provides some terrific suggestions on how to handle the holidays and continue healthy family eating habits.

Welcome Amy!

As you know, planning our meals is the best way to save money, time, and help our family eat better. However, how often are we forgetting to plan for the most important part of the meal, the fruits and vegetables? It’s easy to forget to plan for the fruits and veggies. When meal time is eminent, we see what’s in the fruit basket, or check our vegetable crisper to see if there is anything that hasn’t turned brown yet. This last minute approach to planning for the fruits and vegetables is a dangerous habit, as sometimes it leaves us without a vegetable at all!

The best way to ensure your family is eating enough fruits and vegetables for every meal are to add it to your meal plan. This is how we do it:

Check What Is In Season. Use your store ads to find what is seasonal and what is on sale. If you see there are great prices on cabbage, add coleslaw to your meal plan. If watermelon is down to 10 cents a pound, you can be pretty sure it is in season, and you can have watermelon salsa with your chicken.

Incorporate Vegetables Into Already Planned Dishes. If spaghetti is on your meal plan, make sure you buy some carrots and mushrooms to add to the sauce. If you are having tacos, don’t forget to add tomatoes, lettuce, and avocado to your shopping list.

Prep Your Vegetables In the Morning! When you know what vegetables you are going to serve for dinner, you can get them ready in the morning. This practice alone has helped me put vegetables on the table at night more than any other tip. If we are going to be having salad, I will wash and chop the lettuce in the morning. If I know we’ll have stir fry, I get the broccoli, onions, and carrots all chopped and put in a bowl, ready to throw on the skillet.

Stock Up On Frozen Vegetable Kits. We always have bags of frozen vegetables. As we plan our meals, I consider what vegetable kits are already put together for me. The corn and peas frozen bag is great for chicken pot pie. The stir fry kits are great for exactly that–stir fry. Even the frozen bags of chopped potatoes are a great meal extender for a quiche.

Healthy Holidays. As the holidays are approaching, making sure your family gets at least five fruits and vegetables a day will be vital. With all the goodie plates, classroom parties, and holiday get-togethers, the sugar consumption goes way up the next two months. If you are getting the produce in at least 80% of the time, then it’s okay for you and the kids to indulge on special occasions. Before going to parties, have a plate of salad at home. Before you send your kids to school on party days, fill them up with a fruit and vegetable smoothie for breakfast. And make sure those goodie plates from the neighbors are reserved for after you all fill up on a healthy meal. As you are planning meals for your family, don’t forget the most important aspect of their meal. Fruits and vegetables are meant to be the star of dinner, not the forgotten side!

Menu Plan Monday! (on Tuesday)

It finally got cold here in Texas so it’s time for some comfort food! Here’s what’s on the menu at our house this week:

Monday: Chicken Pot Pie (from freezer exchange group)
Tuesday: Shrimp Scampi Linguine (using Wildtree spice blend from recent order)
Wednesday: special activity–dinner-on-the-go/leftovers
Thursday: Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup (a favorite for our whole family–despite the fact that kids always seem to forget they like it–read about THAT here!)
Friday: leftovers
Saturday: out to eat
Sunday: leftovers/TBA

What’s on your menu this week?

Web Bytes-Halloween Edition

This week’s Web Bytes update is all about Halloween! First off are some thoughts on candy and how to deal with all the candy our kids might be getting on Sunday while trick-or-treating:

The New York Times takes on candy with it’s feature on Studying Candy as a Guilty Indulgence.

Real Mom Nutrition has a unique approach to getting rid of the candy in her post Oh Candy Corn, I Hate You! (Don’t Leave Me)

And then there are these super creative ideas with some really fun and healthy Halloween snack ideas!

Snack Girl offers her Top Ten Healthy Halloween Tips

Or check out this week’s Muffin Tin Monday’s Halloween Edition snack ideas.

And lastly, one of my favorites this week! Another Lunch’s contribution to the Halloween themed Muffin Tin Monday (I love the Frankenstein–you gotta check it out!)

So hurry up, quick! Get to the store so you can make up some of these healthy Halloween snacks before the weekend is over!

Web Bytes (with a couple of Halloween themes too!)

It’s been super crazy around my house lately with the big fundraiser I’m coordinating coming up this Saturday, school projects, class assignments (for me!) and just general life! So I haven’t been blogging as much but I have been surfing the web a bit. I’m starting a new series here called Web Bytes (yes, it’s a play on words!). Every so often I’ll gather up some links of articles on other sites or blogs that I thought you all might find interesting too. So here goes:

–Just in time for Halloween, Maryann at Raise Healthy Eaters has some great tips for dealing with all that candy in her post 5 Ways to Help Kids Eat Smart This Halloween

–Shannon over at What’s For Lunch at Our House blogs about fun Halloween themed bentos…check out her latest creation!

–And back to eating healthy after all that Halloween candy…check out the Salad Bar Project and your school still has time to apply for a grant to get a salad bar at your school–elementary schools too! (application deadline is November 1st)

–Joy Bauer, a nutritionist correspondent for the the Today Show, highlights what to look for to choose a healthy yogurt (and avoid extra sugar and fat!)

–If you’re still not convinced that packing your or your kids’ lunch is for you, check out Lunch Money: The Cost Of Convenience. Your wallet will thank you.

Enjoy!

Search for the Perfect Mac n’ Cheese

I thought I had mentioned it this summer: I was on a quest to find a better macaroni & cheese recipe than the kind we were used to having (a.k.a. the kind in the yellow box). But I guess I just hopped on that train all by myself and have been testing out some recipes.

These are the recipes I’ve made so far:

Stovetop One Pot Macaroni & Cheese. I liked this one, the kids did not.

Stove Top Mac N Cheese (from Food Network) I liked it okay, but will cut the spice a little more next time.

Emeril’s Bacon and Three Cheese Macaroni & Cheese (from Everyday Food Magazine-Oct. 2010). I couldn’t find the recipe online so you’ll have to get the magazine for now (no, I don’t get anything for saying that…I bought the magazine this week). Seriously, this was our favorite so far. The kids ate everything on their plate. And I cannot stop eating it and snitching some from the fridge! It is just the right amount of creamy and cheesy. Yum!

In my testing there are a couple of things I discovered:

–It’s a whole lot easier than it seems to make your own. Okay, certainly not easier than cooking the noodles, opening up that silver package and squeezing out the “cheese” but still way easier that I thought.

–If I use the whole wheat pasta my kids can’t tell the difference. I consider that a little victory because they are getting more fiber and not complaining about it.

–Homemade macaroni and cheese tastes like real cheese. Yup. And that was weird for my kids. They often said it was “too cheesy”. How anything can be too cheesy, I’m not sure but there you have it.

–We still prefer the creamy stovetop versions to the baked ones but I’m coming around on those.

–Macaroni & cheese taste really good cold too.

These are the recipes I’ve found that I’m planning to try next:
Easy Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese
Martha Stewart’s Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese

Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult. Find out how easy it is to make homemade chicken nuggets too in last year’s Search for the Perfect Chicken Nuggets post. And be sure to let me know if you try any too or have some mac ‘n cheese recipes to recommend.

Happy eating!

{Guest Post} How to Handle Negative (Food) Peer Pressure Kids Get at School

I’m not sure how I originally came upon the blog, Raise Healthy Eaters, but from the moment I found it I was hooked! Blog owner, Maryann, is a registered dietician and a mom who speaks from practical experience on both sides–professional and parent–about how to feed our children healthy foods. Every time I read one of her posts it’s as though she’s reading my mind! Each topic has such relevance to our family in some way and offers suggestions and ideas that are practical and doable. She’s done several series on topics like managing sweets or addressing picky eaters and many more.

As part of my Back-To-School series, I’m glad to welcome her as she addresses a challenge that many of us face with our children–peer pressure when it comes to food! As my children have gotten older, the influences about the types of food they are around are many (and not always healthy) and I know that will only continue. Maryann offers some great tips on how to overcome those challenges so that everyone is a winner!

Welcome Maryann!

The school year is upon us. It’s time to pack lunches and plan dinner meals to help our kids eat well. But another not-so-pleasant reality comes along with food and eating during the school year.

Cookies. Empty-calorie snacks. And all the negative peer pressure your kids seem to get about diet.

Maybe your son starts asking for the same Lunch-ables his best friend eats everyday for school or the same colorful chips he gets when he plays over there. You might even hear your children mimic one of their friends by saying a healthy food, one they used to love, is “gross.”

You certainly can’t hide your child from food choices you don’t particularly like, but you can handle it in a way that helps your child make better food choices.
Let’s take a look.

1. Stay Neutral: When your child comes home and tells you he ate something you find appalling at his friends house, say Cheetos, it’s easy to react with disgust saying something like, “You ate what? I can’t believe you ate that!”

The same goes for requests from your kids. If they ask for something you don’t approve of for their lunch, you might go into “we never eat foods like that!”

The problem with these types of reactions is they give too much attention to these foods. Kids, being kids, will zero in on what they can’t have. And this will increase their desire for such foods more than it will decrease desire.

Instead, act neutral. When you hear they had Cheetos don’t react at all. There’s nothing you can do to change what they have already eaten so don’t even try.

2. Give them permission: After a child starts eating something outside the house, they may start asking you to buy and serve it in your home. As a parent you need to consider whether or not it is something you feel okay with serving.

If it’s a food item you don’t want to bring in your home, explain the why behind it carefully to your kids.

International feeding expert Ellyn Satter recommends the honesty approach. She suggests telling your children it’s okay for them to try different foods at other people houses but that you personally don’t feel comfortable with including those foods in your home. This erases the taboo around the items while letting yourself off the hook.

3. Create teachable moments: As much as this negative peer pressure about food gets to you, it really is a good way to teach your child about making wise food choices. Just think, when they go to college they’ll have complete freedom around food without you there telling them what to eat.

So when your child asks you why they can’t have packaged food tell them you prefer to serve fresh foods not only for health but because they taste better. Ask them to think about this the next time they have packaged cookies vs. homemade ones. Show them the ingredient lines in packaged and processed foods. You want to focus on taste and quality as much as health.

Make sure you steer away from categorizing food as good/bad or healthy/unhealthy. Instead talk about the roles different foods play in the diet. For example, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are eaten more often because they help children grow. Items like cakes and cookies are eaten less frequently. Let them know all foods can fit into a balanced diet.

This teaches your child how to eat a variety of foods without feeling “bad” for eating foods that also tastes good.

4) Emphasize manners at the table: It can be disheartening when kids turn on healthy foods as they declare to everyone that peas are now “gross!” And with a little digging you realize that their new opinion comes from a friend at school.

Resist the temptation to reason with your child about how they liked this same food just last week. This simply makes a bigger deal out of what is likely a passing phase. If a child truly enjoys a food they’ll start eating it again even if they are taking a temporary hiatus.

Instead of focusing the fact that they don’t like a food, teach them how to voice their displeasure in an acceptable way. In her books, Satter recommends teaching proper table manners when it comes to kids disliking certain foods. So instead of “this is gross” they should say “no thank you.” It is not fair for them to ruin the meal for the other family members who like what’s offered.

Kids often try to push parents buttons when it comes to food. Once they realize that you are not participating, they will stop too.

There’s a big wide world of food out there that kids learn about. But if we as parents stay neutral, give them permission to experiment and gently guide them in a balanced direction, they will be less likely to rebel against the healthy eating habits we are trying to establish.

After all, the most important aspect of raising healthy eaters is providing a foundation of pleasant, consistent and nutritious meals at home. Most often kids will return to this foundation even when they are influenced by how their friends’ eat.

Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen is a registered dietitian, mother of two and creator of Raise Healthy Eaters, a blog that provides parents with simple and sound nutrition advice.

Check out Maryann’s latest series on how to turn picky eaters into healthy eaters.

Menu Plan Monday! (on Tuesday)

A power outage from some crazy Texas storms last night and procrastination kept me from getting my blog posts done yesterday! School has started for us here in Texas and it’s time for me to get back to planning my meals a bit more regularly. Here’s what’s on our menu this week:

Monday: Crunchy Beef Tacos (ok, so I didn’t use this recipe because I used a homemade taco seasoning mix and fixings that we like…but this one looked like a good one if you don’t have the seasoning on hand!) This is our back-to-school traditional meal!

Tuesday: Pork chops with Apples and Stuffing; steamed veggies or garden salad

Wednesday: Beef Empanadas; garden salad or fresh carrot sticks

Thursday: Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo (trying this recipe–I’ve got some shrimp in the freezer to use up); garden salad

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: out to eat

Sunday: leftovers/TBA

What’s on your menu this week? Make it a great one!