Bento boxes seem to be the hippest and hottest thing around when it comes to cool-kid lunches, making them a great addition to your back-to-school shopping list. Perfect for boys or girls, bento boxes originated in Japan and have been happily keeping lunches neatly packed for years and years. Along with being wonderfully eco-friendly, these boxes are designed to hold lots of goodies in a small space. And there are tons of ways to create tasty and adorable bento box lunches with the help of these contraptions. Click through for 10 of our favorites.
Try as we may, keeping school lunches fun, nutritional, and entertaining is no easy task. Get out of the midweek slump with these new takes on the classic lunchbox or bag — they give new meaning to the term happy meal!
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Let's eat! School lunch has become more that a simple matter of tots scarfing down some grub before returning to the playground. It's become a major public-policy debate with Michelle Obama making it her mission to see that American kids start eating healthier, more nutritious meals at that critical lunch hour. British import Jamie Oliver has also been vocal about reforming the dismal state of most US school lunches. Amid all the lunch debate, have you ever wondered what lil ones around the world are carrying in their lunch boxes? Take the following quiz and find out.
Somebody call Jamie Oliver, because US legislators need a quick lesson in nutrition. Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture introduced new school meal nutrition standards created in the wake of our childhood obesity epidemic. Among the lunch-line changes were new standards limiting the use of potatoes and sodium and increasing the use of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the cafeteria.
Congress, it seems, doesn't agree with the revised standards. This week, the legislative body put forth its latest spending bill — including budgets for the USDA — that will put tater tots back on school menus and consider pizza containing two tablespoons of tomato paste a vegetable. Yes, the simple presence of tomato paste allows a white flour, fat-laden meal to classify as a veggie. Congress argues that the USDA's recommendations were too expensive to enforce.
What do you think? Should cuts be made elsewhere to ensure that kids receive healthier meals in school? Or is it OK to consider pizza a vegetable?
Paging Jamie Oliver: the latest brouhaha in the school lunch debate is taking place in the Midwest, where a number of Chicago-area schools have banned parents from sending kids to school with brown-bag lunches.
As Chicago Public Schools have attempted to improve the nutritional value of their lunches, they've also witnessed a decline in the amount of food being eaten. To remedy this, administrators have handed down an edict against lunches brought from home.
Are the new bans a good idea or a bad one? See what Chicago's schools have to say about their new policy when you read the whole story on Slashfood.
Paging Jamie Oliver, stat! Considering the reputation of cafeteria food in school lunchrooms, it's no surprise that many tots opt for a packed lunch, over the version made on site. As we learned during the first season of the chef's Food Revolution, kids don't necessarily take to fresh, healthy meals when they're used to offerings that include candy colored milk, pizza, and chicken nuggets.
In Chicago, some schools have engaged in their own Food Revolution, banning packed lunches (except when a child has allergies or dietary restrictions) and requiring tots to eat the $2.25 a day lunch the school provides. Explaining her reasoning for making the decision, one principal said, "It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke." Despite the principals' best intentions, the schools are seeing similar reactions to what Jamie Oliver saw in West Virginia last year (and maybe the same one he'll see in Los Angeles when Season 2 begins tonight) – many kids are throwing their school-made food away and going home hungry. Would you support a similar program at your lil ones' school?
Photo copyright 2010 ABC, Inc.
It's a hot potato topic! School lunches have long been the butt of jokes, but now the meals are a point of national debate. Everyone from Jamie Oliver to the USDA has discussed the lack of nutritional value in the entrees served up. One of the biggest targets on the menu is the potato, which is usually doled out in the form of French fries. And, the student favorite will become a rarity if the USDA adheres to the Institute of Medicine's recommendation to limit white potatoes. Test your spud knowledge!Take the Quiz
A few coins can buy a kid lots of extra calories! A recent study found that more than half of American middle schools and 16 percent of elementary schools have vending machines. It found that on a typical school day, 20 percent of students consumed extra calories in the form of goods from the candy, chip, and soda dispensing machines. A child that eats these foods daily could pack on an extra 14 pounds in a year.
Should schools shut down their machines to improve student health?
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Besides getting a good dose of White House chef Sam Kass, last night's episode of Top Chef highlighted Let's Move! — Michelle Obama's campaign to end childhood obesity. For the elimination challenge, each team of four was given the task of making a healthy school lunch for 50 kids with a small budget of $2.60 per child. Sounds impossible, but it's exactly the same budget restraints that public lunch programs around the country work within.
While some of the dishes —like the sherry jus chicken and the banana pudding — were big time fails, others were big hits. Not only were they made with healthy, natural ingredients, they also went over well with the kids. Here are some of the standouts to inspire your own healthy swaps:
- Whole grain tacos with roasted pork. Knowing that kids love tacos, contestant Kelly Liken gave the dish a healthy twist by making tortillas from scratch with oats, then using a lean roasted pork for the protein. She topped that off with a bevy of fresh veggies. In fact, all of the side dishes that her team came up with were great: roasted corn salad, black bean cake with whole grain and sweet crispy potatoes, and caramelized sweet potatoes with sherbet.
- Melon kebabs with yogurt foam. Cut up fruit in fun shapes and stick them on a wooden stick, and suddenly they look appealing to everyone. What really got the kids excited was the addition of whipped yogurt. Contestant Kevin Sbraga turned a healthy serving of yogurt into whipping cream using a whipped cream siphon.
- Chicken burger with fiesta rice. Instead of using beef, contestant Tracey Bloom kept it lean by making a chicken burger instead.
- Barbecue chicken and coleslaw. A good barbecue sauce and coleslaw can be filled with tons of sugar and mayo. The chef-contestants on last night's challenge made their versions healthier by swapping out the majority of mayo and sugar and replacing it with yogurt and tangy apple cider vinegar.
What are your healthy swaps?
Photo courtesy of Bravo
Last night, the second episode of Top Chef: DC went down, and it was totally action-packed. First came the Bi-partisandwich Quickfire, in which the 16 contestants teamed up in pairs and tried their best to single-handedly pile ingredients between bread while attached at the apron. The challenge was painfully cheesy, but Angelo was the right one to win immunity.
For the Elimination Challenge — seriously, who didn't see this coming? — the chefs took part in Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and made a four-course school lunch for 50 on a public school budget of $2.60 per person. Standing in for new chef judge Eric Ripert was the extremely attractive and intelligent White House chef Sam Kass.
I wasn't surprised by the taco team taking home the win, or for someone being eliminated over dessert. So far, I think Kenny and Angelo are the season's front-runners. How do you feel about Top Chef: DC?
Photo courtesy of Bravo