June 2011 | Hotlunch.com | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 2, Issue 5]

Fathers and Children’s Eating Habits

It’s no secret that children (especially the little ones) look to their parents and emulate the behavior they see.  Children can become confused when they are told to eat their vegetables while moms or dads munch on a bag of potato chips.

Have you ever given any thought to the role that parent gender may play with children’s eating habits?  I bet many of use assume moms have the most influence, but maybe dads influence foods and eating patterns more than moms.
Dear Old Dad: Fathers May Influence Kids' Eating More Than Moms



This article examines a study that looked at how often children ate at restaurants, especially fast food restaurants.  There was a stronger correlation with fathers’ behavior when it came to frequency of fast food visits.  In families where dad didn’t care much about family meals at home, there was more time spent dining out.


But why is that?
Maybe because working dads spend more time away from kids and want to make their time together special, so they prefer to go out.  The problem is the vast amount of junk food available at fast food restaurants.

What can you do to help?

  • Teach kids how to make healthier choices at fast food restaurants..
  • Have a family night with talks about how parents can learn about making healthier choices.
  • Stress healthful eating habits for kids – it’s okay to eat fast food once in awhile if the rest of your diet is good.
Picturing Kids’ Foods

We all want our kids to eat healthy at lunchtime and it might be interesting to track what (and how much) they eat. One way you can do that is to ask the kids to keep track of what they eat and what they throw away. The problem is that a lot of kids don’t remember exactly what or how much food they consume. Maybe there’s another way….

In Texas, a Picture’s Worth 1000 Calories

Schools in San Antonio, Texas have installed small cameras to track the foods kids order and how much they throw away. I’ll admit it sounds a little creepy at first, and many of the websites and newspapers that write about the cameras, make the situation sound like it is a major invasion of privacy.

But, it probably isn’t. Parents make the decision to allow their children to participate and the kids themselves aren’t photographed – just the food. Software programs examine the pictures to determine which foods are eaten and how much. There are bar codes on the trays and parents are given the information. The hope is that eating patterns will change both at school and at home. We’ll see.

Looking at School Initiative to Reduce Obesity

We know that obesity is a problem – both with children and adults – and we want to do what we can to change the behaviors and conditions that lead to obesity. But how? We can offer programs to help kids and their parents, but can we really change the way they think about foods and physical activity?

Still Battling Weight in Arkansas

This article looks at the initiatives that started in Arkansas back in 2003. The schools changed – fewer bad choices in the vending machines and many started doing Body Mass Index screenings – but it looks like the rates of obesity for both kids and adults have stayed the same. Did something go wrong? Or do these types of programs take a lot of time to show results?

Eating a Rainbow

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet, right?  Absolutely!  Then why do less than 15% of Americans eat the minimum requirement of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day?  And what are the most popular vegetables?   French fries and iceberg lettuce.

Maybe fruits and vegetables are boring – and boring does not go over well, especially with kids.  Perhaps we can make them a bit more fun by focusing on the colors.

Take a Spin on the Nutrition Color Wheel

This article takes a look at colorful fruits and vegetables.  Those colors are important because the pigments that give the fruits their color also work as antioxidants in our bodies.  They also contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, plus they’re low in calories.

It’s never easy to get your kids to eat their fruits and vegetables, but why not use the colors to your advantage:
  • Find some fun foods to bring to class – blue potatoes, purple carrots.
  • Spend some time on creating salads in your Foods classes.
  • Have kids make posters or presentations focusing on their favorite color and a fruit or vegetable of the same color.
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Summer Salads - Superfood

Summer is just around the corner so I’ll be taking a couple of months off from the newsletter.  I want leave you with a few ideas for making healthy summertime salads

A salad with greens, vegetables, fruits and nuts is the perfect cool beginning to a summer meal, or a salad can be the meal if you make it big with lots of healthy ingredients.  When you use lots of fruits and vegetables, a salad can also be loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. The key to keeping salads interesting (and healthy) is to change the ingredients each time you make one. Don't just think of the simple garden salad, but imagine adding fruits, nuts, and lean meats to your salad to make a great low-calorie, highly nutritious meal.

Since green leafy vegetables are low in calories and are a good source of fiber, it's a great way to add volume to your meal without adding a lot of calories. The darker lettuces offer more vitamins and  minerals than pale iceberg, for example

Almost any raw vegetable can be cut up and added to a salad. Green beans, snap peas, carrots, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, artichokes, avocados, tomatoes, and cucumbers are all great suggestions.

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apple slices and raisins add vitamins and antioxidants. The delicious burst of flavor and sweetness they add can also help you cut back on, or eliminate, high-calories salad dressings

Meat and Cheese
To make a meal of a salad, you may wish to add some healthy protein sources like chopped or sliced hard-boiled eggs, lean beef, cooked shrimp, tuna, chicken breast, or strips of cheese.

Sprinkle a few nuts like walnuts, pecans, almonds, or cashews for a nice crunch. Just a few nuts will do. Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, and all of the nuts add protein and heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Salad Dressing
One tablespoon of regular commercial salad dressing will add 50 to 80 calories, so be careful to measure how much you use. Low fat dressings are available, which offer fewer calories, but they may not taste as good. A salad with a variety of fruits and vegetables really doesn't need any dressing; some freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice will likely be enough to suit your taste.

More About School Lunches and Healthy Kids

Restrictive Diet for Kids May Backfire

Calorie Intake Rises When Fast-Food Restaurants Nearby: Study

A Balancing Act for Vegetarian Teens

Obese Teens Lack Vitamin D, Study Finds
Whether raising levels would mitigate risks of being overweight remains unclear


About Shereen Jegtvig

Shereen Jegtvig is a health and nutrition writer with two decades of experience counseling people on nutrition and diet. She has a master’s degree in human nutrition and is a member of the American Dietetic Association and the Association of Health Car Journalists.   Shereen writes about nutrition for the large website About.com (http://nutrition.about.com), is co-author of Superfoods for Dummies (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470445394.html), and teaches Evidence Based Nutrition to nutrition graduate students at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.