Sept is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month #GuestPost



by Carmen Johnson, BCHC


President Obama has declared September National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, but as kids across America head back to school, there’s an ongoing controversy around school nutrition policies that may not be putting the health of our children at the forefront.


Despite increased awareness, education and intervention programs, childhood obesity in the United States has actually increased since 2000 from 14.5 to 17.3 percent of American kids, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In fact, the current rate of childhood obesity in America is three times higher than it was just a generation ago! As a result, today’s youth face an alarmingly high risk for such life-threatening conditions as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and cancer.


The First Lady’s Let’s Move! program is slowly getting lawmakers and regulators to realize that their policies, though well-meaning, lead to wasteful spending and often poor nutritional value in the food we serve our kids at school. Ironically, the children at greatest risk are those from low-income families who may be getting most or even all of their daily food intake from school meals.


As a mom who also happens to be a Certified Health Coach, I knew positive changes were happening in various schools across the country and I set off to find out how other schools were making positive, healthy changes. This is the beginning of a solution revolution, arming parents and educators with the know-how and resources to combat childhood obesity by sharing replicable models of success in The Healthy Schools Revolution, a virtual summit to be held online this October.


I’ve gathered 18 game-changing experts to share their exact steps for getting made-from-scratch meals on the lunch line, getting grass-fed beef added to their school’s menu, getting school gardens incorporated into the classroom and lunchroom, weaving physical activities into each class period and so much more.


Best of all, this solution-packed, resource-filled summit also includes an opportunity for schools and organizations to raise much-needed funds for implementing these great ideas. It’s a “Learn and Earn,” with half of each $10 registration fee going back directly to the participant’s school by Nov. 14 to help fund their own healthy-school initiatives.



From Oct. 6-31, summit participants will have exclusive online access to a series of video interviews where these difference-makers will share easy, inexpensive ways to provide better nutrition, more activity and a brighter future for America’s school kids. Experts and topics will include:

  • David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, will share free ABC (Activity Burst in the Classroom) Fitness Program that shows teachers how to incorporate physical activity into each class period, allowing students to release excess energy and attain better focus.
  • Noted chef, author and activist Ann Cooper, known as “The Renegade Lunch Lady,” will share how she navigated school policies and government regulations to incorporate grass-fed beef and other wholesome foods into her Colorado schools’ menu.
  • Educator Stephen Ritz , will show how to gets kids excited about fruits and vegetables by starting a school garden, where they grow their own food for the school cafeteria. Ritz has helped students in the Bronx grow more than 30,000 pounds of vegetables while substantially improving their academic performance and helping them earn a living wage and learn valuable life skills along the way.
  • American Fitness Index chair Walt Thompson describing how the After-School All-Stars nationwide program is getting Atlanta teens motivated to stay active and healthy.
  • Fiesty and powerful health and wellness pioneer Kathie Dolgin, aka High Voltage, who will share how she motivates inner-city teen girls to kick the sugar habit in her catchy program called Energy Up!


I’m urging all Nutri-Savvy readers to join the summit by clicking here. And if your school wants to become a Healthy Schools Revolution fund-raising partner, earning $5 to $23.50 for every participant they get to sign up, go to


From the time they’re babies until they leave the nest, our kids depend on us for healthy nutrition. I hope you’ll join me in this solution revolution to put the focus back on feeding America’s schoolchildren in the healthiest fashion possible. Fresh foods, sunshine and plenty of physical activities each day can change the course of history for your children.


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My Eco Lunchbox Three-in-One #Review

I was delighted to receive my Eco Lunchbox Three-in-One. The 3-piece set includes 2 layers (a top and bottom container) and a small snack-size container w/ lid that fits in the top compartment. It all assembles nicely with a lid and 2 side clasps. Not only is it attractive, it fits conveniently into a thermal lunch sack with plenty of room for a water bottle and icepack if needed.

What great timing as I’m currently planning my upcoming Parent’s Workshop at the Cheremoya Elementary School:

“Healthy Lunch Combos That ROCK!”NS fruit logo 3

(Translation: Your Kids Will Eat Them!)

And so, I’ve been taking note of the various lunch box combos I prepare for my twin girls to take to school. Some no-brainers and others with creative twists that aren’t too complex or sophisticated. These are 6-year-old twin girls! So while I was going to prep a lunch for them in this convenient set–up. I only have one Eco lunchbox set and they prefer to have many things the same, including their lunch containers (equality is easier to show when you use the same containers for both kids – lol!).

So while my girls enjoy their Fruit Pizza (protein/dairy fruit, whole grain) with carrots (veggies) and a string cheese (additional protein), this is what I’ll be having for lunch tomorrow. If you are a busy on-the-go mom and/or a working professional, here’s something you might enjoy, too. It fits nicely snug into the sleek, elegant Eco lunchbox.

eco tribento food inside 2

My heart-healthy combo includes:

  • Mini bite-sized bell pepper with cottage cheese and salsa (protein/dairy, veggies)
  • Baby carrots (veggies)
  • Cantaloupe, blueberries, blackberries and basil fruit salad (fruit)

And here it is all packed up, ready to put in the lunch box, so I can just grab and go! Ice pack included because I like to keep my food fresh, especially the fruit which is in the bottom compartment:

echo tribento assembled ready to pack

Here is what I love about this product:

  • It is eco-friendly.
  • It comes in a sleek, elegant design.
  • It is easy to assemble, open and close (That is, f you are physically big enough. I don’t think my tiny 6-year-olds’ wee hands can do this quite yet).
  • It has adequate-sized compartments with a smaller container ideal for smaller portions (also useful as a divider).
  • I can mix it up by simply using the two larger sized containers or all three (the bottom and top compartment + the small lidded one for the top, slightly larger compartment).

Here’s what I would love the Eco Lunchbox to include:

  • Leak-proof design: I’m not sure the design is leak-proof, however if you assemble your food items tightly and place bottom side down in lunch sack, it should be fine. Notice how tightly my bell pepper bites are packed (see pic of food combo above).
  • Salad Dressing and Dip containers: If it had a 1 oz sized lidded container, that would be perfect for salad dressings.  A 2-oz container option could be useful for dips.

eco lunchbox logo

I Love my Eco Lunchbox Three-in-one. Check it out and their other products here.

Disclaimer: While I was compensated with an Eco three-in-one lunch set for review, these are opinions are expressly my own.



And Just in case you wanted to see what my kids are eating:

fruit pizza sliced

A Healthy, Delicious Way to Serve up Beans & Rice

Gotta admit, it’s time to go shopping. My veggie drawer is empty except for baby carrots (which I generally reserve for my kiddos lunches and snacks) and a couple large zucchini and I didn’t want to go shopping on an empty stomach. So I looked through my cupboard to see what I could cook up with this delightful green squash. The result: A yummy twist on Beans & Rice – using zucchini, Zataar and the low sodium canned beans I had available.

beansriceand zucchini

Here’s the Recipe (Serves 6):

  • 4 medium Zucchini, sliced (lengthwise)
  • 1 (15 oz) can low sodium kidney beans
  • 1 cup dry Arborio rice (+ 2 cups water to prepare)
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons (or to taste) Zataar (a middle Eastern mix of seasonings including lemon, thyme, salt); divided
  • lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Set rice up with water in a rice cooker to cook. Heat oil in a pan on stove and add zucchini slices. Season with a pinch of sea salt and garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of zataar. Add a little water to keep from sticking to pan and cover. Heat until just soft, but not mushy. Remove from pan, set aside. Place beans with a couple Tablespoons of water in seasoned pan and heat until warmed. Mix rice, beans and zucchini. Add lemon zest and remaining Zataar (to taste), toss and ENJOY!

Nutritional info: Cal 339, Fat 3g, Chol 0mg, Sodium 75mg, Fiber 15g, Sugar 4g, Protein 15g

Back to you with Flourless Griddle Cakes – Enjoy!

Hi all! I’m back after what seems like a long social-media vacay. Truth is, getting kids geared for the new school year can take up some time and energy. Now my twin girls are in two separate classes in 1st grade – a first time, separation and… to my surprise, no upsets — they are actually thriving!

Back to the biz of Nutrition. I’ll be hosting a Nutritional workshop at the end of Sept. on the ease of packing healthy school lunches for great taste & variety! So if you’ve got a winning lunch combo you’d like to share, please do! Now here’s the recipe you’ve been waiting for:

flourless pancakes

Flourless Griddle Cakes

(makes four 4″ pancakes)

Serves 2 

  • 2 eggs (or 2 egg whites or 2 Tbsp flax seeds soaked in water, although the eggs seem to hold up better)
  • 1/2 cup of pureed squash (zucchini or butternut) or 1 medium banana, mashed. Hint: you can buy organic baby food to save the trouble of cleaning your food processor.
  • 1 scoop gluten-free Protein Powder (or 2 Tbsp from one of these choices:  PB2, Coconut flour or Almond meal)
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Optional add-ins:

  • For sweeter cakes, add one tsp Cinnamon and/or Allspice
  • For heartier cakes, add 1 Tbsp wheat germ or flax meal

Blend eggs, pureed squash (or mashed banana), protein powder or nut meal and olive oil. Blend in spices and/or wheat germ (or flax). Heat pan on stove – use cooking spray or a wee bit of olive oil and griddle your cakes. Delish! Top with a dollop of Greek plain nonfat yogurt and some frozen strawberries thawed in their own juice. Delish.

Calories per serving: (2 pancakes) Approx.  250 – 300, depending on ingredient choices above.


Q: How would you top these?

Try variations such as blueberries or mixed berries, peanut butter or even just a dusting of cinnamon.


Mayo Just Got Better #HamptonCreek #ProductReview

OK I admit, I do like Mayo (no, not the fake stuff, I go for the real deal). I really discovered the creamy, rich taste of full-fat mayo when I visited Brussels years ago. Since then I’ve been longing for a real good mayonnaise with a similar mouthfeel and taste. While it’s hit and miss – I’ve only had it in certain restaurants – that homemade pleasure to the tastebuds, I have had yet to discover it in a bottle.

Well Hampton Creek has done it — and surprisingly without the yolk. Yep, no eggs at all. Instead plant-based nutrients including pea protein and beta carotene. And the oil used is NonGMO, even better! It’s called Just Mayo – but it’s more than just a rich, creamy spread. And it’s not too sweet nor too vinegary (a problem I find with commercial blends). Now I don’t mind eggs – the egg yolk actually contains a lot of heart-healthy nutrients. (See why eggs are not so bad for you – scroll down to bottom of article.) But for someone watching their cholesterol, eggless products can be a helpful thing, especially if your looking forward to enjoying a whole egg (the egg yolk alone has 186 mg cholesterol – – 300mg / day is the limit for healthy people, according to the American Heart Association).

Just Mayo 2


So the first day I tried a little of the Just Mayo Garlic  on a leftover baked chicken thigh. Well, that little bit had a lot of good flavor – it was like an Aoli spread, creamy, garlicky and oh so good. But since I really wanted to review this product using a recipe I decided to use it in a spread to coat my fish for a delicious baked salmon.

Move over processed mayo (leading brand), Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo has arrived! This eggless product not only tastes great, it’s Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Kosher, too! And don’t forget – it’s Non-GMO. (See label at bottom of this post.)

A Rainbow Fish Dish

Years ago, I discovered a recipe that had way too much added fat. But oh it was so delicious. Basically you coat salmon filets with 1/4 inch thickness of real mayo before baking. It melts into the fish and voila – loaded with fat and calories. Not what I want! So here’s my version:

This recipe isn’t what you think. Although I love Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo, it still has 100 calories and 10 gram of fat per Tablespoon. (Don’t get me wrong – even heart-healthy Olive oil has a lot of fat per volume). The good news, it doesn’t take a lot to satisfy.

photo 4

It I turned to my plain, nonfat Greek yogurt and figured I’d give this same treatment a go using part Mayo / part nonfat yogurt. The result, well as sinful as it looks – it really isn’t that loaded (in fat/calories), but all that great flavor is in their. That’s because I used 3 parts Just Mayo – Garlic and 2 parts plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. And to make the meal even richer (without a lot of added fats) I baked my coated fish over a bed of processed Cauliflower with rosemary & sea salt. That way a bit of the mayo/yogurt blend would drain into it to bring out the seasonings.


  • 3 Tablespoons Just Mayo – Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt, plain
  • 3 (6 oz) Salmon filets
  • 1 head of purple Cauliflower
  • 3 Tablespoons slivered almonds
  • 1 loose handful of fresh Rosemary + 4 sprigs
  • Zucchini sliced

Preheat oven to 425º F. pray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Blend Hampton Creek JustMayo – Garlic with yogurt. Spread evenly over salmon, set aside. In a Cusinart, process cauliflower, sliced almonds and rosemary until resembles rice. Pulse in a pinch of sea salt. SLayer bottom with the Cauliflower mixture. Place coated salmon filets on top. Bake in 425º oven for about 25 minutes or until you can smell the tasty dish and the mayo starts to brown a little. Ten minutes before its done – top with Rosemary sprigs carefully dipped in the au jus drippings formed from the melted Mayo mixture. Serve with steamed or lightly sautéed zucchini.

Now this dish looks like it came out of a fairy princess story feast. Truth be told, my kids choose the purple cauliflower – they were excited to see Purple cauliflower (let alone the golden yellow and light green). And with pink salmon – well we’ve covered their favorite colors in this rainbow fish dish.



Learn more about Hampton Creek Products here.

Pasta Rules + a lightened, satisfying #dairy-free #recipe

I’ve always been drawn to the more fattening types of foods. (And sugary, too). Doesn’t mean I eat them all the time, but boy do I have a hankering sometimes for a bowl of golden baked Mac-n-Cheese with bread crumbs. The texture, taste, mouthfeel — it’s just so satisfying and yummy. But since I don’t like the excess fat and calories, I’m always game for trying a lightened version.

Did you know?: 

There are actually “rules” for choosing your pasta, specific to your type of dish??


These are Gemilli noodles (pictured above). This type of pasta works well with pesto and beans (a more common type dish in Northern Italy).

Not to long ago, my hubby bought me a book on various pastas – it details how the shape, size makes a difference in how we perceive it in taste. For instance a macaroni or a corkscrew pasta will be denser and feel more satisfying than a Capellini (thin) spaghetti, not to mention it holds onto (heavier) sauce better. So, for starters I chose a denser, compact pasta most similar to Casarecce because I didn’t have corkscrew (proper name: Fusili) or any macaroni.  The book is entitled: Pasta by Design. Very helpful for knowing the best suited combos, seasonings and/or sauces to accompany the pasta you are using.

The Recipe

A lightened, yet still satisfying, pasta dish

Now the easiest way to lighten up a pasta dish is to add in fresh veggies into the mix. That means per portion you’ll end  up with less pasta carbs and include nutrient-dense veggies that don’t affect the flavor. In fact I think they enhance it! My lightened baked Mac-n-Cheese is all this and a secret ingredient to replace the breadcrumbs. It was all an accident. Honestly I don’t mind breadcrumbs sprinkled on my healthy meal combos, but I didn’t have any bread or bread crumbs available. So I hunted through my cupboard and choose wheat germ – because it roughly has the same texture and it has a mild, nutty sweetness for very little calories (and ADDED FIBER, I should add).

pasta dish DF

Here I’ve used a noodle similar in shape to Casarecce noodles.

So here’s how I got cookin’ on this recipe:

  • 2 cups of cooked corkscrew pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons Smart Balance Light
  • 2 Tablespoons Wheat Germ
  • 1 cup Broccoli
  • 1/2 cup garbanzo beans

I started off with my corkscrew noodles. A great choice, because as I mentioned these denser bits of pasta hold onto any type of sauce and/or seasoning much better than thin spaghetti strands. I lightly steamed broccoli. Then, in a pan I heated up Smart Balance Light and added the Wheat Germ – I tossed in garbanzo beans to heat and season. The garbanzo beans add a little more heartiness to the dish (both in satisfaction and plant-based nutrient content). Then I mixed everything together. Now I know this doesn’t sound much like Mac-n-Cheese but the texture and taste had a similar satisfaction that I get from the traditional comfort food. I was going to prepare a dairy-free “cheese” sauce*, but it tasted so good already, so this dish is actually lightly seasoned without the sauce. Probably because in the pasta I chose – Casarecce –  is well suited with a sprinkling of pepper and Parmigiano-Regianno cheese (very similar to the simplicity of the seasoning and the texture of the Wheat Germ).

Nutritional Info. to come. 

*Note: If you’d like a delicious sauce to make it more creamy, I think this is a very good vegan “mac-n-cheese” sauce from by Nava Atlas. And maybe use the Fusili or a Macaroni noodle for best results!!



Cranberry, Beet & Kale Salad w/ Feta

I’m always flattered when someone requests a recipe. And I’m happy to share it with my FB friend and the rest of you. It’s my Cranberry Beet & Kale Salad I made for this year’s 4th of July celebration. RED (beets, cranberries), WHITE (Goat feta cheese) and well…(not quite) BLUE…  (I guess you could say Kale is sorta blue-ish / green – more dark green, I know. But for the celebration, this green would have to do. Okay, then Red, White and Green. lol!

photo 1

So here’s the recipe:

  • 1 8-oz bag of Chopped kale greens, rinsed  (my bag has some shredded carrots and dressing but I tossed out the dressing in favor of my own) – that’s approx. 3 cups
  • 1 large beet, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 3 oz of goat milk feta
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional – I forget to add them, but the salad is yummy either way)


  • 4 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 4 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • just a tiny pinch of each: Sea salt & Pepper

Whisk dressing ingredients together. Place Kale in a bowl, top with beets, cranberries, feta and walnuts. Add dressing. Toss when ready to serve. ENJOY!!

Note: Or try the cranberry-licious dressing from the wonderful Cranberry Spinach Salad with Avocados, courtesy of  the Cranberry Marketing Committee on behalf of The Cranberry Institute. Click on the link to see my blog posting. It was delish!!