Heather Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD
Sports Dietitian/Spokesperson/Speaker

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Lunch Box Gadgets for Back-to-School

Submitted by: Heather Mangieri, RDN


When my kids were younger, using cookie cutters to create characters out of their peanut butter and jelly sandwich made me the coolest mom on the planet. Now that they’re older, dinosaur sandwiches don’t make the cut. Instead, they want quick, easy and convenient items that taste good but don’t create attention. I want them to have a nourishing meal that includes a variety of foods.

Coming up with what to pack is hard enough without having to figure out how to pack it.  Just like adults, kids want their soup to remain hot, their salad to remain crisp and their foods to stay put in separate spaces. That’s where these items come in handy. These gadgets are must have items for increasing lunch box variety and keeping foods from pouring into one another.


Silicone Baking Cups

Perfect to keep foods separated without having to buy a special bento lunch box. Find any square glass container and use these to separate all or some of the food items.


Soup Thermos

A soup thermos is a must have for sending kids to school with a hot lunch. Make a big batch of chili, soup or a stew and have a healthy, hot lunch for the week.


Mini Salad Dressing Container

Salads make a great school lunch and are an opportunity to provide a variety of nourishing foods but transporting the salad dressing can be a challenge. Minimize waste and mess with these portable dressing containers.


Wooden skewers

Eating meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables from a skewer is much more fun than eating it out of a bowl or bag. Wooden skewers can be used to create a salad on a stick too. Kids get tricked into eating healthy and they don’t even realize it.


Ice packs

Food safety is always a concern when packing meals to go. Be sure to have a variety of ice packs frozen and ready to go no matter what the size of the meal.

Smart Snacking


By: Heather Mangieri, RDN

What comes to mind when you hear the word snack?

Do visions of crackers, chips or pretzels fill your head? Or maybe you think about nuts, beef jerky or a piece of raw fruit.

Snacks, or mini-meals as I prefer to call them, play an important role in your daily meal plan.  Not only do they help to tame hunger between meals, they contribute to your daily intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

That is, they should.

Yet surveys suggest that cookies, snack cakes and ice cream are among the most popular snack foods. While these foods provide plenty of calories, they fail at delivering the nourishment that snacks are meant to provide.

So how do you create a snack worth consuming?

Don’t just feed hunger; feed your body

1.)    It should include at least two, preferably 3 of the macronutrients carbohydrates, protein and fat.  Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are all important but they all have different roles in the body. Carbohydrates provide fuel, not only for working muscles but also for your brain.  Proteins provide the amino acids needed for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.  The body needs a certain amount of fat to function, but as part of a snack, a small amount provides flavor and helps to keep you satisfied until your next meal.

2.)    Snacks should contribute a decent dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients. Snacks are often necessary to meet daily nutritional needs. When building a snack think about how it is contributing to your growth, development, health and hunger.  Not just your hunger or boredom.

3.)    It should be calorie controlled, between 200-400 calories depending on your specific needs and goals. If you need fewer calories, you do not eliminate one of the foods you decrease the portion size of all foods so that you still get a good variety of nutrients.  For example, someone that needs fewer calories might have ½ turkey sandwich and ½ banana as their afternoon snack while someone who needs more would eat a whole turkey sandwich and a whole banana. Or someone who needs fewer calories could use reduced calorie bread while someone who needs more calories could choose a regular variety.

Here are some examples of smarter snacks:

Snack (mini-meal) Carbohydrate Protein Fat Balanced?
½ turkey sandwich w ½ slice cheese and a small tangerine BreadTangerine TurkeyCheese Cheese   check mark
Greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp. chopped nuts and 1 Tbsp. dried fruit Greek yogurtDried Fruit Greek yogurt Nuts  check mark
Snack Platter:Hardboiled egg, 2 slices watermelon,  check mark
½ cup cottage cheese with ½ cup berries with 2 whole wheat crackers FruitCrackers Cottage cheese *cottage cheese if full fat version is purchased  check mark
Apple with 1 tbsp. peanut butter and 8 ounces milk AppleMilk Milk Peanut Butter  check mark
3 cups popcorn seasoned with 2 tsp melted butter or sprayed with oil and a sting cheese Popcorn String cheese String cheeseButter or Oil  check mark

So tell us, what are your favorite foods to snack on?


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