Nutrition in a Desk Drawer

Nutrition in a Desk Drawer

colethia-e1466193002249A busy schedule is the most used excuse for not eating nutritiously.  When pressed for time, it’s easy to fall into the habit of making unhealthy food choices.

For those who have no time to prepare meals during the work day, yet want to eat nutritiously, one solution is to plan ahead and prepare mini meals and snacks that can be eaten at any time.  Not only will this save money, it will help guard against that temptation of vending machines or fast food.  Several snacks spaced throughout the day can take the place of several meals.  Snacks also help curb between-meal hunger.  Snacking is a great solution as long as you don’t forget to make healthy choices.

Here are some tips for preparing nutritious on-the-go meals and snacks:

Planning Ahead

  • Your food choices will depend partly on the facilities available where you work.  If there is a refrigerator, food selection can be more varied and a microwave is a plus.
  • Plan a week’s worth of snacks.  Add these food items to your weekly shopping list.
  • Invent ways to use leftovers in snacks.  Be creative!
  • Prepare and pack the food the night before if your mornings are hectic.
  • Create a mess kit to keep at your desk.  Include a can opener, mug, plate, utensils, and napkins.  Paper plates and plastic utensils make clean-up easy.

Pack It Up at Home

  • Invest in a selection of small plastic containers that can be easily packed into an insulated lunch bag.  These are usually inexpensive.
  • Use insulated containers to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Purchase a selection of plastic bags with a variety of seals. Also, have aluminum foil and plastic wrap available.

Snacking by Food Group

  • Meat, Poultry, Fish and Alternatives – Try individual-sized cans of fish and chicken; hard cooked eggs; peanut butter; unsalted nuts; cooked, dried peas and beans in salads; and leftover cooked meats and poultry in sandwiches and salads.
  • Dairy – Include low fat-yogurt and yogurt drinks in convenient serving size containers, low-fat cottage cheese, skim milk, low- fat milk, and individually wrapped cheeses.  You can satisfy a sweet craving with individual servings of ready-made pudding or a flavored cheese.
  • Grains – For convenience, include individual serving size boxes of cereal.  Choose cereals low in sugar.  Select enriched whole grain breads, rolls, crackers, and pita bread. Whole grain or enriched cookies or muffins are a nutritious choice for something sweet.
  • Fruits/Vegetables – Fruits are a natural to pack since many come in their own package – for instance, bananas, grapes, oranges, apples and pears.  Dried fruits now are available in serving size packets.  You also can buy them in bulk and make your own packets.
  • Vegetables – Fresh vegetables make great crunchy snacks.  Serve with a yogurt- or cottage cheese-based dip, or tossed with a vinaigrette as a vegetable salad.
  • Munchies/Combos – Mix plain yogurt with fresh fruits or dry whole grain cereal.
    • Trail mix in individual serving size packets travels well.  Make your own with dried fruits, unsalted nuts, seeds, and cereals.
    • Stuff celery with peanut butter or farmer cheese mixed with raisins.
    • Mix salads with cottage cheese and chopped fresh fruits or vegetables.
    • Try individual serving size packets of whole grain chips, potato chips, and pretzels.
  • Snacks You Can Keep in Your Desk Drawer – Keep a supply of emergency rations such as peanut butter, whole grain crackers, nuts, dark chocolate, and raisins available for days when you forget lunch and just cannot get out.

Munching on this combination during the day may help you resist turning in at the first fast food place you pass on the way home!


Super Summer Snacks


It’s hard to believe that summer is almost here and the kids are out of school! Often times, when kids (and parents too) get away from their normal routine, poor eating and snacking habits creep in. It’s important for kids (and parents) to have a variety of go-to snacks that are tasty, healthy, and easy to prepare!

Put some thought into which snacks make the best choices, and get input from the kids. Children and teenagers are more likely to eat what you buy (and be excited about it!), if they help in the process.


watermelon snack.small1.)        PLAN: Sit down together and make a list of snack-type foods they might like, and can easily prepare themselves.

2.)        LIST: Make a list of the foods you’ll need to pick up at the grocery store.

3.)        SHOP: Take the kids with you shopping… let them help fill the cart with the foods you’ve agreed on.

4.)        PREPARE: Allow the kids to help wash, cut, portion, and prepare snacks. This will give them more confidence in the kitchen… now and as a future adult.

Stumped on where to get started? Your best bet is to stay away from processed, pre-packaged snack foods, and sugary drinks. These are typically high in unhealthy fats, oils, and sugar, and lack the vitamins, minerals, and fiber fresh and frozen whole foods have.

Try these super easy and healthy snacks:

  • Layer vanilla yogurt and mandarin oranges or blueberries in a tall glass. Top with a sprinkle of granola to make a “parfait”.
  • Put cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes on pretzel sticks to make “snack-kabobs”.
  • Top a banana with low-fat vanilla and strawberry frozen yogurt and sprinkle with your favorite whole-grain cereal for a healthy “banana-split”.
  • Use whole grain (flour or corn) tortillas and top with tomato sauce, cut veggies and shredded cheese. Eat it flat (like a pizza) or roll it up (like a wrap).

Keep your children, and yourself, on track this summer by remembering these main messages from ChooseMyPlate and The Dietary Guidelines:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
    • Focus on whole fruits.
    • Vary your veggies.
    • Make half your grains whole grains.
  • Move to low-fat and fat-free milk or yogurt.
  • Vary your protein routine.
  • Drink and eat less sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars.

Everything you eat and drink over time matters.  The right mix can help you be healthier now and in the future.  Start with small changes to make healthier choices you can enjoy.   Find your healthy eating style and maintain it for a lifetime.

Find more great ideas with additional resources from MyPlate Snack Tips for Parents

and The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 25 Healthy Snacks for Kids.

Sweets for Your Sweetie

Sweets for Your Sweetie

ChocolateValentine’s Day and chocolate just go together! Can you really have one without the other? I crave chocolate all year round and with some of the recent research I have read, I can feel all right about giving in.

A recent study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested the effects of dark and white chocolate on healthy adults to determine whether either type played a role in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. They concluded that dark chocolate can indeed help reduce blood pressure and insulin resistance. White chocolate did not provide these health benefits.

Keep in mind that although dark chocolate has health benefits, most chocolate bars are high in saturated fat, so moderation is key. Eating dark chocolate cannot substitute for everyday healthy food choices. Nor can chocolate replace regular exercise or medications that have been prescribed by your physician. It is so nice to know you can indulge in your Valentine’s Day chocolate, in moderation, without feeling guilty about it if you choose the dark.


A Win-Win Super Bowl Party

A Win-Win Super Bowl Party

A Win-Win Super Bowl Party

A Win-Win Super Bowl Party

Get defensive about your health. These easy-to-tackle recipes are just as tasty, but lower in fat and calories than typical game-day fare. It’s a Win-Win situation.

Skip the six-foot-long sub sandwich usually drenched in mayonnaise. Instead, serve a soup and sandwich smorgasbord with a variety of low-fat cheeses, whole grain breads, fresh, low-sodium cold cuts, and lots and lots of fresh vegetables. Serve soups that are hearty and full of vegetables or grains.

Swap calorie-laden soft drinks with 100% fruit juice or vegetable juice. Prepare mock cocktails using half juice and half seltzer water for a healthy, refreshing beverage.

Set up a make-your-own sundae bar. Use low-fat, protein-rich Greek yogurt and add low-fat granola and fresh or frozen fruit like strawberries, blueberries, even dried fruit. Top off yogurt sundaes with nuts.

Replace chips with vegetable sticks or fruit, or try making your own tasty pita chips. Recipe follows and it only takes a few minutes. Serve a store-bought salsa or a homemade bean dip (see recipe) with carrots, celery, red pepper strips, and cucumbers instead of high-fat dips and salty chips.

If you are going to serve dessert, opt for fruit—fresh, frozen, or canned in its own juice, or there are sugar-free options.

These game day decisions will help you develop a winning game plan!


Garlic & Herb Pita Chips

4-6 whole wheat pitas

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Coat 2 large baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray.

Cut pitas into 8 wedges each and separate each wedge at the fold.

Place the pita wedges in an even layer on the baking sheets.

Brush wedges with oil and sprinkle with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt.

Bake at 350°F for 6 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

May be baked ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


Pinto Bean Salsa Dip

1 (approximately 15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed, or

1½ cups cooked dried beans

1 cup shredded cheese

½ to 1 cup chunky salsa

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped onion (optional)

¼ to ½ teaspoon chili powder or to taste (optional)

Mash beans with a fork. Mix in cheese. Stir in enough salsa until mixture is desired consistency for dipping. Add onion and seasoning as desired. Serve cold or cook, stirring, over medium heat until the cheese melts and the mixture is well-blended and hot (about 5 minutes).


For further information contact:

Dorothy C. Lee, C.F.C.S.

UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

3740 Stefani Road

Cantonment, FL 32533-7792

(850) 475-5230


Kids: After-School Snacking and Food Safety Tips

Kids: After-School Snacking and Food Safety Tips

washing berriesAre your kids famished when they get home from school? Kids often hit the kitchen right when they get home and begin the search for something to eat. After being at school all day, it’s inevitable they will bring a host of germs into the house (and into the kitchen). These germs, or microorganisms, can contaminate your kitchen and make your child sick if they are not kept in check.

How can kids prepare after-school snacks in the safest way?

Establishing good habits and putting good practices in place can help keep your kids from getting a foodborne illness. The USDA recommends the following:

  • Keep all items such as books, backpacks, and sporting equipment on the floor and off of kitchen counters and tables.
  • Wash hands first when coming home from school, and again before making and eating a snack. Hands carry lots of germs and can easily contaminate everything they come in contact with.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water before eating them.
  • Read more about “Food Safety After School”

What are some good after-school snacks?

Choosing easy and healthy snacks for kids can be a real challenge, especially when dealing with picky eaters. Typically, kids feel more independent when they have options and can control what they eat. Parents can set their children up for success by having a variety of healthy snack choices that are easily accessible. Find some great snacking ideas here. Keith Williams, PhD, director of the feeding clinic at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, recommends having plenty of fruits and vegetables already washed, cut up, and within easy reach of children. Keep the “sometimes” foods out of reach so you can control when your child eats them. “The goal is to make it easier to obtain the healthy snacks you want your child to eat and more difficult to obtain the foods you don’t want him to eat,” says Williams. Read more about “Breaking Your Gradeschooler’s Unhealthy Food Habit” here.

Establishing healthy habits from an early age can transition children into healthier adults. Learn more about making smart choices by visiting