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School Cafeteria Food Makeovers You Should Work Back into Your Adult Diet

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It is back to school time for just about everyone now, which also has me thinking about all my first days of school and how we ate in school. I was a public school kid. Some kids had bag lunches they brought from home but most kids were ‘hot lunch kids’ and we ate what the school made us for lunch each day.

Some days were obviously better than others. I think in just about every school’s pizza day was the favorite. Much of the food was lacking taste and some was even unidentifiable (like a block of ‘cheese’ that we cleverly found could also be used as a pencil eraser – more functional than tasty).

Here is a list of some old cafeteria staples that with a little grown up TLC can be updated to fit back into your grown up diet and provide lots of nourishment and maybe some fond memories…

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Secret Weapon Bread Dough

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Well, it’s back-to-school time, and parents are feeling the pressure of the school lunch routine. While it seems like it should be so easy, it causes so much stress and anxiety that it almost offsets the relief we should feel when summer vacation is over and the kids are back to their school schedule. After witnessing this issue dominating my friends’ discussions over the last few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that packing lunches is one of the biggest stressors parents face during the school year.

But the truth is, it’s just not that hard, and my opinion is that there are two reasons parents have problems with school lunches– the same reason they have problems with breakfast and dinner: portion size and rigid expectations about what constitutes an “appropriate choice.” Kids don’t like many of the same things we do—and they don’t like change very much either—so any attempt we make to impose our own desires on them is met with resistance, leading to more frustration and culminating in increased resentment. Eventually, to cope, parents often lean on pre-packaged and sugar-laden options just to stem the complaints. But I think that once we stop foisting our own desires about what foods and how much of them onto our kids, our lives get much easier…

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Carbohydrates: Too complex?

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Carbohydrates include sugars, starches and fiber. Sugars are simple carbohydrates and starches and fiber are complex carbohydrates. In general, you should consume more complex carbohydrates and eat fewer simple carbohydrates. Um, so how does this translate into which foods are best?

In my last blog, I mentioned the more nutritious foods that have simple carbohydrates that are important to include in a healthy diet: fruits, and low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy foods.

Where this gets complex is that many starchy foods have been stripped of their nutrients either during processing or during food preparation and cooking. We’ve become a nation that abhors the texture and flavor of whole grains and whole foods, in favor of processed or ‘refined’ foods where the hull, bran, germ, skins, seeds, etc. have been removed.

For example, let’s take wheat bread. Many people are surprised to find that white bread is actually made from wheat…

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Exercise Excuse-itis: Finding A Cure

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We all know that there are many excuses why people don’t exercise or don’t exercise enough. Are they valid? I polled colleagues to come up with a top ten list of excuses. Let’s explore them David Letterman-countdown style:

#10 You’re Too Embarrassed to Start

Really… it’s surprising how often we’ll hear “I’ll go to the gym after I lose some weight.” People can be very worried about what other club members are thinking about them. In fact, whatever shape you are in, by going to the club, you draw admiration because you chose to come in and change it. See Priscilla’s story on Fit at Five.

#9 You Have No Motivation

Change in behavior takes two beliefs: you must believe you can change and you must believe it’s worth it to change. There’s your motivation question: Is it worth it? Specifically, how would you feel differently if you reached your goals? How would your life be different? Your health? Now, is going to the club, working out, watching what you eat, worth it?

#8 You Don’t Know What to Do/How to Start

As with anything new, from ballroom dance, learning to play an instrument, to using a new computer program, get professional instruction. In this case, hire a Personal Trainer or take a group exercise class.

#7 Exercise is Boring/Don’t Like to Exercise

This is usually because people hold a stereotypical view of what exercise is. Yes, it can be the gym/club activities, but it is also all forms of dance, sports, yard work, and more importantly, physical play. If you’re bored or don’t like to exercise, you just haven’t found the right activity yet…

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Carbohydrates: Not so simple…

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What is a carbohydrate? What’s the difference between one that is simple and one that is complex? Shouldn’t I be on a low carbohydrate diet? Carbs are just breads and pasta, right? Oh, there is so much to share and so little time. Think of the word carbo-hydrate. Carbo means containing the element carbon, one of the most abundant elements in the universe, the chemical basis for life. Hydrate means water, which is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, good old H2O. So, carbohydrates are those foods with a chemical makeup that includes carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (CHO).

Carbohydrates include sugars, starches and fibers and are found in most of the food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and beans and legumes. The fact that carbohydrates are in most of the food groups and are our main source of energy is why we need half of our daily calories to come from carbohydrates. Keep in mind that most foods are mixtures of macronutrients.

For example, vegetables are mainly carbohydrates with small amounts of protein and sometimes even a bit of fat (think avocados). Milk and dairy foods are great mixtures of carbohydrates (lactose), proteins (casein and whey) and fats (saturated milk fats). Fruits are pure carbohydrate (fructose and fiber). This brings us to the term simple carbohydrate which means sugar. I was watching The Dr. Oz show one day and he mentioned the term simple carbohydrate. When he said it, I wondered how many people understood what he meant by it…

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The Wildcat

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He says he has “an appetite for destruction.” UNH senior Lance Mailloux lends his protein-rich diet loads of credit for his success on the football field.

This year, Lance’s football coach has given him “weight goals” that guide him to gain a certain amount of weight to become a better defender. Being a former weight-conscious wrestler, Lance decided to gain his weight “in the healthiest way possible.” And so begins his hulk-a-licious diet description:

“I get in extra calories through drinking lots of fruit juice…

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Hummus

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My friend Jeannie’s kid is 2 years old, and he’s obsessed with hummus and has been since he started eating solids. He dips everything in it, from Goldfish™ to veggies to his finger. He doesn’t really like meat and isn’t really a fan of cheese, so it’s a main source of protein for him. Jeannie goes through tubs and tubs of hummus a month, and while it’s not prohibitively expensive, buying a pre-packaged processed food—granted a natural one—gets old, I’m sure. Last month my kids discovered the Goldfish™/hummus combo when visiting Jeannie’s house, and sure enough, I found myself in the refrigerated section buying up tubs of hummus as well.

Around the same time, the garden started to ripen, and distracted by the beet greens and lettuce we were happily harvesting, we neglected to notice that buried beneath a super healthy and blossoming squash plant lay two of the hugest zucchinis I’d seen in a long time. Tender young zucchinis are one thing: hard, mature, two foot-long zucchinis are something else entirely. They’re the running joke of all home gardeners, as we’ve all forgotten to harvest and been surprised by fruit so large they might attain consciousness.

Now, when I’m blessed (or cursed) with these things, generally I’ll scoop the seeds out and shred one or two up to freeze for future baking; of course, one large zucchini provides enough shreds for two years of breads and muffins. Sometimes we put diapers on them and Mr. Potato Head parts and show them to our visiting friends. Some people are known to seek out unlocked cars in parking lots and leave anonymous gifts; but generally speaking, large starchy zucchinis are not considered a delicacy to say the least…

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What the heck is a calorie?

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We hear so much about calories when it comes to our body weight and how much food we should have. The importance of calories is underscored by the amount being prominently displayed just under the serving size at the top of the Nutrition Facts label on food packages.

Simply put, a calorie is a unit of measure of energy. Purely scientifically, a calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise one cubic centimeter (think of a little box with half-inch sides all around) of water one degree Celsius…

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