9 Suggestions for School Lunches
It’s back-to-school time, which means new supplies, books, sneakers… and lunch kits! One way to keep kids excited about school is by packing lunches that are real fresh and real delicious. Even better, packed lunches are an affordable and fun opportunity to expose them to a variety of foods.  Introducing a new food alongside familiar favorites can be a great way to ease them towards eating something different.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it can take 15-20 exposures before a child—or an adult!—develops a taste for the new food. Even if they don’t eat the new food the first time they see it, repeated contact can lead a child to accepting the unfamiliar item.  So, while radishes might not be a hit the first time your kid sees them, keep at it and maybe someday your kid will be a veggie-eating super-star. To that end, here are some fresh ideas and tips for school lunches:
Try to follow a general template to make sure your child get a well-balanced and nutritious meal. Aim to include a good source of protein and fat alongside the carbohydrate at each meal.  For protein and fat, think cold cuts, cheese, eggs, yogurt, jerky, nuts, nut butters, hummus, beans, peas, and lentils.  For carbs, think outside the cracker box and try to include fresh fruits and veggies with every lunch.  And for dessert, one healthy option is a mix of dark chocolate chips and dried fruit.
Read more: LeAnne Anderson, RDN, also has some guidelines when it comes to fuel for the mind and body during school.
Invest in a lunch kit that has a plate with dividers to make it easier to provide a variety of foods in an attractive way.  Add a long-lasting cold pack to lunches with items that need to be kept cold.  If a microwave isn’t available for warming foods, there are insulated double wall stainless steel containers that can keep food hot for up to 12 hours.
Read more: Three DIY ideas to turn a lunch kit from a yawn to a “yeah!”
A fun dip can make fresh veggies more exciting and tasty.  You might try good quality hummus or ranch dressing (my favorites are made with avocado oil); plus, there’s always a variety of options in the refrigerated section at your local Brookshire Brothers store.  Alternatively, you can make your own zesty dips from bases like cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, or mayonnaise.  For these, experiment with a variety of fresh herbs, green onions, garlic, and spices for endless variations. One of my go-to favorites is a Creamy Garlic Herb Yogurt Dip.
Read more: Cottage cheese can make for great pairings with different fruits and veggies!
One easy-to-make entrée is a burrito bowl! All it takes is a combination of ingredients like rice, beans, corn, tomatoes, sour cream, shredded cheese, and salsa. Don’t forget to add half an avocado or guacamole for a scrumptious dose of healthy fats!
Read more: Choosing healthy fats is the first step to heart healthy nutrition.          
If your school has restrictions on products made from peanuts (to protect children with peanut allergies), try mixing up the peanut butter and jelly sandwich with new combinations. You can choose from different types of nut butters like almond butter (a super source of vitamin E!) or cashew butter.  Cream cheese and jelly is another delicious option since cream cheese is a good source of protein, fat, and calories to fill up little tummies. You might also try swapping bread for a banana or apple for even more possibilities.  And while chips are the other half of a classic sandwich lunch, you can still get creative! Consider these other great alternatives available at your local Brookshire Brothers: nuts, seeds, popcorn, dried veggie snacks, and more—all available in a variety of flavor options.
Read more: Whether you’re learning about peanut allergies or parent responsibility, the food culture of our society is a great thing to learn more about.
Breakfast for lunch is another a fun idea! Try oatmeal, yogurt, or pancakes cut into fun bite-sized shapes. For a delicious flavor of oatmeal, I recommend using diced apples, raisins, cinnamon, and/or maple syrup. As for yogurt, you’ll find that it’s a great source of healthy proteins, fats, and carbs—aka a balanced meal in and of itself! Consider buying a tub of plain full fat or whole milk yogurt, and then giving it some flavor with dried fruit, shredded coconut, slivered almonds, pecans, walnuts, unsalted sunflower seeds, granola, and/or honey.  Lastly, you might add a teaspoon of ground flax seed or chia seeds to the yogurt (or oatmeal!) to boost those nutritious omega-3 fats.
Read more: Nothing says breakfast like avocado toast.
Leftovers are your best friend when it comes to easy, ready-to-go lunches. So, when you make your delicious family dinners, pull double-duty by making a little extra and packing it up for lunch during the week. 
Read more: Did you know there are strategies for storing leftovers in the fridge to help them last longer? 
For more options with fruits and veggies, consider these:
    • One of my favorite new products is fermented sauerkraut, which is full of healthy probiotics and has a fresh salty and tangy crunch.  It can be eaten alone as a side dish or on sandwiches and hot dogs (like pickles). While it’s usually located in the refrigerated section of your Brookshire Brothers, you can also just ask your store manager, or make a product request!
    • If you don’t have time for fresh fruit, there are other good options (with minimal added sugars) to choose from: dried fruit, cut fruit packed in juice, or individually wrapped packages of unsweetened apple sauce.
    • Some great vegetable options include fresh baby carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, celery, and bell pepper strips.
Read more: For a refresher on what produce is currently in season, check out this summer guide!
For delicious and satisfying entrée options, try these: 
    • boiled eggs
    • cold cuts and cheese roll-ups
    • tortilla and cream cheese roll-ups
    • tuna salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, or egg salad on a bed of lettuce or with a side of wholesome crackers
    • cream cheese and turkey bagel-sandwiches
    • sandwiches of all varieties
You can find even more tips on the blog, as well as a recipe for Rainbow Fruit Mini-Pizza!
And who says adults can’t eat all this yummy stuff too?  Instead of eating out, save yourself a little time and money by packing an extra lunch for the break room.  And as always, you can visit your local Brookshire Brothers store for even more lunch inspiration.  There are real fresh real delicious options around every corner!

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  
Cooking with Kate: All About Hatch
“Hatch” chile refers to several varieties of chile peppers grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico. The chile pepper plant is not native to the southwest, but thrives in the New Mexican environment with plenty of irrigation from the Rio Grande River. Although these peppers have been cultivated in New Mexico for more than 100 years, they’ve only become popular around Texas (and the U.S.) in the past 20 years or so.

Chile peppers are technically a fruit, although they are most often eaten as a vegetable due to their savory and spicy flavors. Roasting adds additional flavor to these fantastic peppers and makes cooking with them a snap. You can also freeze the roasted peppers so they can be used throughout the year. Hatch chiles are only available fresh during August and September, so pick some up, do a little roasting, and have fun cooking!
Hatch chile peppers aren’t the only produce in season right now! Find the greatest quality produce at the best value when you shop according to the season with our summer produce guide.

Fun Hatch Facts: 

  • One fresh medium-sized green chile has as much Vitamin C as six oranges.
  • Green chiles are also a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and fiber.
  • Capsaicinoids—the chemical that make chile peppers spicy—are used in muscle patches for sore and aching muscles, as well as pepper spray!
  • You might think that green and red chiles are different types of peppers, but they are in fact fruit of the same plant picked at different times. The red chile is the fully ripened version of the green chile.
  • These spicy peppers are finding their way into everything—sauces, breads, cheeses, even ice cream! Check your local store for all the available Hatch chile products.
For a brief refresher on the nutritional merits of other summer produce, check out the blog post “Summer Fruit: A Delicious Problem” by our local registered dietitian, Angela Larson!

How to: Roasted Hatch Chiles

Roast green chiles using one of the methods below:
  • Broiler: Preheat broiler on high. Place chiles on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for 6-10 minutes, turning often, until chile skins blacken and blister.
  • Charcoal or Gas Grill: Preheat grill and place chiles 4-6 inches from heat. Cook, turning often, until chile skins blacken and blister.
  • Gas Stove: Turn stove to high. Using tongs, hold chiles over flames, turning often, until skins blacken and blister.
Once chiles are roasted, place in a plastic or paper bag for about 10 minutes to steam. Wearing gloves, take the chiles out of the bag and remove the skins by rubbing gently. Use a sharp knife to cut pepper open and remove the stems, membranes, and seeds. Use chiles immediately or let cool completely, package in airtight freezer bags and place in the freezer until ready to use.
You can find other tips on storing produce and groceries in your fridge with these “Keepin’ it fresh” guidelines!

Hatch Chile Deviled Eggs

½ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons juice from a jar of sliced jalapeños
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
½ teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper
1 Hatch chile, roasted, skin and seeds removed, finely diced
8-12 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and peeled
paprika, for sprinkling
In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise with jalapeño juice, cilantro, oregano, salt and pepper, to taste. Cut the peeled eggs in half lengthwise and remove the hard-boiled yolks. Add the yolks to the mayonnaise mixture and mash until smooth. Stir in the chopped green chiles. Spoon mixture into a plastic zipper bag and seal. Snip off one corner and pipe the mixture into the boiled egg whites. Alternately – use a spoon to fill the whites. Sprinkle with paprika and additional cilantro. Cover and chill for up to 2 hours before serving.

Roasted Hatch Chile and Peach Salsa

4 large peaches, skin on, small dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup white onion, small dice
½ cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2-3 Hatch chiles, roasted, skin and seeds removed, diced
salt and pepper
Add all ingredients to a large bowl and toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper and extra lime juice, as needed. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Makes 3-4 cups of salsa.
Enjoy with chips or serve over grilled fish, chicken, or pork chops.
That’s not all! You can find other produce-based, savory recipes on the Brookshire Brothers blog! Cool off with this  “Sweet & Spicy Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho with Citrus Goat Cheese” recipe or enjoy a garden-fresh meal with this “Fresh Summer Vegetable Sauté” recipe. 

View other recipes from Brookshire Brothers Catering Coordinator, Kate Rudasill.

Kate Rudasill, Catering Coordinator for Brookshire Brothers, has been in the food-service industry for the past 14 years. As a graduate of Texas A&M University, a student of The Texas Culinary Academy, and a Nacogdoches, Texas native, Kate grew up with Southern tradition in her blood which caused her to have a deep love for bringing people together with food.

Seasonal Produce: Summer Refresher
In our current society of instant everything, it’s easy to forget that some things aren't so “ready-right-now.” Produce is one such thing that often requires extra time and patience. Sure, some fruits and vegetables are available to purchase all year round, but there’s usually a time and place when you can get them at their best flavor and greatest value. It may be hard, for example, not to indulge a craving for summer blueberries at any time during the year, but consider how during the winter it would take two weeks for blueberries to be shipped from Chile—with tax. Shopping according to the seasons means you’ll save money, plus you’ll prepare five-star meals with ingredients that are seasonally fresh. 
Our point is, it’s always good for any shopper to get a refresher on what’s currently in season and what’s not. Since it’s the beginning of August—which most of us equate with being the height of summer, according to the temperatures—let’s talk summer produce:

Summer Fruits

(According to the USDA)
Honeydew Melon*

Summer Vegetables

(According to the USDA)
Bell Peppers
Collard Greens
Green beans
Lima beans*
Summer Squash & Zucchini*
The produce marked with an asterisk(*) is only in season during the summer. All other produce is in season for more than one season.
Next time you visit your local store, keep this guide handy! You can always count on Brookshire Brothers to do our best in bringing quality produce to customers.

Looking for ideas on how to tap into your taste buds with summer produce? Check these out:

Healthy fruit snacks—with a twist! Here's the menu: Grape Sticks, Grilled Peach Salsa, Melon Rings, and more.
Corn, zucchini, squash… a whole garden of summer veggies comes together to make two garden fresh recipes from our Catering Coordinator, Kate Rudasill.
In case you need another reason to fill up on summer fruit, here’s a brief overview of their nutritional merits from Angela Larson, a registered dietitian.
Sweet tooth? Kate’s got you covered. Amaretto Peach Parfaits and Peach Blueberry Upside-Down Cake are great recipes to send off the summer before school starts.
Cuckoo for Coconuts

As seen in Charm East Texas.

Coconuts inspire images of sipping fruity drinks while lounging on the beach in the ocean breeze. (Yes, please.) And let me just say that I am cuckoo for coconuts. They really are marvelous, delicious and versatile. Coconut products have been all the rage for a while from skincare to beverages, so let’s take a look at why people are going coconuts.


Coconut oil is about 90 percent saturated fat, so it will be solid at room temperature. It is the highest natural food source of a special type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides, and this is important because that specific type of fat can bypass the normal digestive processes for fats (which can take a while) and get absorbed quickly and easily for fast energy. MCTs are actually converted to usable energy about as fast as sugars, so if you need a quick yet healthy pick-me-up, reach for a little spoonful of coconut oil instead of that candy bar, lest you be “hangry.”


Coconut oil is full of saturated fat, and yet, it seems to be amazingly heart healthy based on the available studies. In previous articles I’ve discussed that the hate train on saturated fat is probably less than warranted by science, but in the case of coconut oil, this seems to be especially true. It has been observed that cultures that eat abundant amounts of coconut oil tend to have less heart disease than us lesser coconut-ivores. It is also true that coconut oil increases our good (HDL) cholesterol very effectively, which may be part of the reason it seems to be great for heart health. Another neat fact is that the fat composition of coconut oil likely reduces lipid peroxidation, which is a fancy term for damage to cholesterol particles. And damaged cholesterol particles are likely a leading cause of heart disease.


Coconut oil has been scientifically proven ability to kill, obliterate and annihilate several types of nasty bacteria, viruses and fungi. So eat it, rub it on your skin, bathe in it and make fruity drinks with it. Let’s stay germ-free, hydrated and happy (see aforementioned fruity drinks).


Speaking of hydration, coconut water has reportedly even been used as an IV fluid in a pinch, because it is such a great source of electrolytes, not to mention B vitamins, vitamin C and the nifty muscle-supporting antioxidant arginine. Instead of colorful, sugar and chemical-laden sports drinks, let’s imbibe the more natural and nutty alternative — coconut water. Plus, it’s just yummy.


Coconut oil is full of healthy compounds called antioxidants, which are the body’s clean-up crew against all the damage daily life, toxic chemicals, junk food, sun damage, and evil alien invaders can do to the body. So just eat it.


For cooking, coconut oil is a great alternative to highly processed (and thus, unhealthy) vegetable oils. Refined coconut oil has no flavor and is a perfect substitute for vegetable and canola oil in any cooking and baking application. Because of its heat stability and high smoke point, you can even use refined coconut oil for frying. Use the same amount of coconut oil as you would vegetable or canola oil required by any recipe. If liquefied oil is needed and your trusty jar of coconut oil has solidified, run your container of coconut oil under hot water for a minute and you’ll have liquid oil for easy measuring and cooking. Virgin coconut oil has higher levels of antioxidants and a coconut-y flavor which is great for cooking certain things. An energy-packed spoonful of virgin coconut oil can be a great addition to your morning smoothie. You can even use the same kind of virgin coconut oil on your skin as a nourishing lotion. Other purported uses of coconut oil include bug repellant, mild sun protectant and excellent slip-and-slide medium with the addition of a tarp and a water hose, though I haven’t personally investigated the scientific validity of those claims.

So, now that you know how great coconut is, you must be asking yourself, “Where can I get this glorious substance sent from above?” I’m glad you asked. Coconut oil can be found at your local Brookshire Brothers, usually in the same section as the other cooking oils and olive oil. Can’t find it at your store? Fill out our Product Request form and we’ll be happy to bring it in! The best type to choose is cold-pressed, and make sure to check whether you are buying “refined” for a flavorless oil or “virgin” for a coconut-y flavored oil. Coconut water, coconut milk, coconut cream, unsweetened shredded coconut and coconut flakes are also available!

In the world of healthy eating, it is prudent to remember to watch out — there are a lot of coconuts running around out there. In this case, that’s actually a good thing. 


Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Spring Clean Your Pantry

What’s in the back of your pantry? Scared to look? Me too. I once (unknowingly) fed my husband a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal that had expired about five years prior. When he complained about the taste I explained that it was the reduced sugar variety and he dutifully finished the bowl before we discovered that the cereal rightfully belonged in a history museum. It’s not just neglected items that can make the pantry a treacherous place, but it can also reveal our personal dietary pitfalls. The best place to start when making positive changes in your diet is in your pantry. By implementing some practical tips, keeping healthy staples on standby, and making a few impactful substitutions, you can have a pantry keeps you and your family eating well. 

     1.Keep the best stuff at the front of your pantry and at
     eye level. Ever had the tendency to open the pantry or
     refrigerator and just… stare? I would never do that, but I
     know plenty of people who do. (Okay, maybe I’ve been
     done that once or two hundred times.) Most everyone
     has a few treats squirreled away, but to keep your diet in
     the best possible balance, stash the unhealthy treats in
     the least visible places - near the back of shelves that
     aren’t at eye level. If you have to think and act a bit more
     purposefully, you’ll tend to eat "treat" foods less often.

     This is also helpful for remembering to use pantry
     staples that expire quickly or for using fresh goods like
     fruit, potatoes and onions (which have fewer
     preservatives and might expire sooner). 
     Find more tips on Farm Fresh Produce here.


2. Speaking of the good stuff, load up your pantry with more fresh products and staples that can be whipped into quick nutritious meals. Potatoes and sweet potatoes keep well and are a versatile ingredient for quick and easy meals and sides like baked and roasted potatoes. Keep some healthy soup options, chicken broth, and frozen or canned veggies on hand for mixing up a quick pot of soup. Don’t forget nutritious starches like rice, quinoa, and beans to round out your healthy meal options. Seafood products like packages of salmon, tuna, oysters, sardines, and clams make a nutritious addition to any pantry, and don’t forget to have some whole grain crackers to pair up with your seafood stash. Be prepared with a variety herbs, seasonings, and seasoning blends for tweaking recipes. 

3. Maintain a supply of grab-and-go snacks that will keep you satisfied and energized. Load your pantry with a variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, jerky, seasoned popcorn, quality granola bars, dark chocolate, and even dried veggie snacks. 

4. As you replenish pantry staples, replace them with healthier alternatives. Swap out vegetable oil for refined coconut oil, regular salt for sea salt or other less refined salts like pink Himalayan salt, and refined sugar for coconut sugar. Each of these replacement options is more nutrient dense and can be used one-for-one as a direct substitute in recipes compared to the items being replaced. 


Your most delicious, nutritious, and productive spring yet starts here. Make a trip to your local Brookshire Brothers store today for supplies and inspiration to whip your pantry into shape. Find a store near you!


Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

February often brings boxes of mystery chocolates and other treats that break the monotony of winter. Sweet treats are fun, and no one avoids them completely (despite those still-fresh New Year’s resolutions). So how can sweets fit into a healthy diet and not wreck it?

1. To start, choose sweets that are less junky than others. There are many ways to substitute your sweet tooth, but one way is to avoid hydrogenated oils. So what’s so bad about them? They are made through a chemical process where hydrogen is blasted on vegetable oils to make them more shelf-stable, but they are completely artificial and not found in nature. So flip over your treats and other foods before you buy and look for “hydrogenated” anywhere on the ingredient list; if you see it, put that product back and look for another option.

Luckily, different brands and food manufacturers make similar foods without hydrogenated oils, so there are better options for most things. Examples of choices without hydrogenated oils are Reese’s peanut butter cups, most truffles, and plain (unfilled chocolates). These are just a few that I’ve tried out, but it’s a good idea to check the label of any product if you are unsure. Your local Brookshire Brothers store has plenty of high quality options to choose from to find an option that works for you. 

2. The second way to make treats better is to choose chocolate over other types of candy. What you hear about chocolate is true — it does have antioxidants that bring some health benefits, but remember that chocolate also has sugar, so keep a cap on the total amount you eat each day.

3. And, finally, keep tabs on your sweets intake by setting limits for yourself. Decide in advance how much you will eat rather than indulging mindlessly. For instance, decide to eat no more than three or four pieces of chocolate a day and leave the wrappers there as a visual reminder of how many you’ve had. We all know it’s easy to lose track of that whole bag of chocolate. Setting limits also encourages you to savor every bite, so you can eat less and enjoy what you eat more.

Remember, life is like a box of chocolates — you never really know what you’re going to get. So don’t waste your life on the kind of chocolates that will make it shorter. Indulge your sweet tooth this month, but keep hydrogenated oils out, choose chocolate over other sweets, keep tabs on how much you eat to keep those New Year’s resolutions going strong, and finally, savor every last bite.


Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  

From Yuck to Yum

As seen in Charm East Texas

"I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!” 

“No, we are having steak and baked potatoes for dinner.” 

“But I want a peanut butter and jelly saaaaandwich!”

Did your blood pressure just go up a little bit? I apologize. Sounds familiar, though, doesn’t it? Everyone has been around finicky eaters. Whether it’s your kids, your friends’ kids, your grandkids, your in-laws and even you, everybody knows somebody who is picky. Children are the usual culprits. Many picky children grow into picky adults, and picky adults tend to bring up picky children, and so the cycle continues. 

In America, it seems to be the norm to run your dinner menu by guests in advance because many people are finicky eaters. Not every place is like this, however. My husband and I lived in a rural area in France for a year, and we had many, shall we say, interesting dinner party experiences. What did they all have in common? Dinner takes a long time — a long, long time. Another common denominator was that no one ever asked us if we liked what they were serving in advance. It was just expected that we ate everything and that everything was delicious. Same goes for the children we would dine with — they ate pretty much everything. Mushrooms? Check. Scallops? Sure. Pâté? Yum! Nothing seemed to be off limits. I always marveled at this, but had only a few clues from observing their food culture as to how it was possible that everyone seemed to enjoy such a wide variety of foods, until recently when the light bulb finally went off. I read a book by Karen Le Billon titled “French Kids Eat Everything” that shed some light on why the French seem to love food so much. Maybe by incorporating one or two of her observations into your own family’s food culture, you can get your kids to eat escargot. Or on second thought, maybe just settle for green beans. 

Parents are in charge of food education. 

It shouldn’t be up to Popeye the Sailor Man to convince your children that all kinds of food are yummy. It is up to you. And the best way to do that is by modeling good eating behavior by eating a wide variety of foods prepared lots of different ways. The best place to start is at the dinner table. You can’t educate your kids about good food if you only sit down and eat together once a month. 

Limit emotional eating. 

This guideline is so tough to follow. It means that ideally, food shouldn’t be used as a reward for good behavior, as a punishment, or as a baby sitter. Food is for enjoyment and nourishment within the context of meals, but when it is used as a means of manipulating your behavior, “treat” foods may become even more desirable and “healthy” foods might seem like a punishment. Eating this way can also teach you to ignore your hunger and fullness signals. 

Parents plan the menu and kids eat what adults eat. 

No short-order cooking for the picky eaters. It’s helpful to lay out what will be served in advance so meal time isn’t always a surprise and complaining might be able to happen prior to the meal rather than at the dinner table. It’s also helpful to serve at least two different foods at each meal so that your children have some control over what they want to eat, but it’s important not to prepare a separate meal if they don’t like what’s being served. When introducing a new food, always make sure there’s at least one familiar food served as well. If kids decide not to eat much at that meal, they can wait to eat at the next scheduled meal. 

Eat family meals together without distractions. 

In the world of cell phones and social media, it’s important to unplug for a few minutes each day and just enjoy each other’s company. Talk about your day. Talk about the yummy food. Talk about those awesome food articles by the dietitian in Charm. Just talk. This does, however, require that you actually eat together, so do your best to make that happen.

Eat your veggies — variety is key. 

Instead of eating the same veggies week after week, try something new, or even try a familiar veggie in a new way. Roasting is my favorite way to make veggies delicious. A sheet pan, some olive oil, salt, pepper and a high oven temperature can make almost any veggie delicious in a matter of 20-30 minutes.

You don’t have to like it but you do have to taste it. 

Repeat those words after me. Say them at every meal. One taste is all that’s required. Studies show that it may take up to 15 tastes of a new food before it is accepted and liked, so encourage them (gently) to taste things even if they don’t dig in. If a food is refused, simply say, “Too bad, it’s so yummy!” but don’t make an issue of it. Keep serving that food regularly, and eventually it will be accepted. Encourage everyone at the table to say “No, thank you,” instead of the words, “I don’t like.” 

Schedule snacks.

Amazingly, children eat their best when they are actually hungry. Who would have thought? Grazing and snacking will spoil anyone’s appetite, so make meals and any appropriate snacks predictable and scheduled as much as possible. My favorite schedule is one afternoon snack at least two hours before dinner time to get everyone through until supper is ready. 

Slow down. 

Eat slowly. Savor. Listen to relaxing music. Don’t rush through cooking and eating but stop to actually think about what you’re doing and experiencing.

Eat mostly “real” food. 

There is a place in the world for hot dogs, chicken strips, cookies and candy, but the majority of food should be simple foods that nature provides. Even so, all food should be savored and enjoyed, no matter what it is. 

Relax. Eating is joyful. 

This principle is my favorite of all. If you could describe good eating in a nutshell, that’s it. So stop stressing about calories, vitamins, fiber and achieving nutritional perfection, and just enjoy. Relax. Savor. Eat. 

Applying a few of these ideas is worth a try for a few weeks if you want to nudge a finicky eater in the right direction, even if it’s your husband. I, for one, would never try to coax my husband into eating things he doesn’t enjoy. Believe me? I didn’t think so. Bon appetit. 


Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  



Turnip the Volume: Vegetable Beef Soup Recipe
TURNIP the volume on dinner with summer vegetable beef soup, featuring the oft forgotten and lowly turnip.  Turnips are a delicious low-carb alternative to potatoes with less than half the calories and carbs.  They are rich in minerals, B vitamins, and vitamin C, but most importantly in flavor.  Prepare them just like you would a potato by peeling and throwing in the soup pot until they are tender. 

Turnip the Volume:  Vegetable Beef Soup


7-bone steaks or blade steaks- about 2 lbs (2-3 steaks)
2 Tbs Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
6 oz tomato paste (1 small can or jar)
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups beef stock, reduced sodium or homemade
4 cups chicken stock, reduced sodium or homemade
2 stalks celery, small dice
4 medium turnips, peeled and diced
1 ½ cups petite baby carrots
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 fresh tomatoes, diced (optional)
10 oz frozen corn (1 small bag)
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
2 dried bay leaves
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Season steaks with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pat steak surface dry with paper towels. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add steak and cook until well browned on all sides, 5-6 minutes per side. Remove steak and set aside.  
2.  Add onion and tomato paste to the pot and sauté for 3 minutes until just softened. Add minced garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Return steak to the pot. Add beef stock and simmer steak gently for 1 1/2 hours or until tender.  
3.  Remove steak from the pot and set aside. Add chicken stock, celery, turnips, baby carrots, diced tomatoes with juices, fresh tomatoes, frozen corn, fresh thyme, and bay leaves. Allow to simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. When steak is cool enough to handle, shred beef, discarding any bones, and return shredded beef to soup pot. Add additional broth or water as needed to thin soup to desired consistency.  
4.  Remove bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add fresh parsley off heat. Serve.  

Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.  



Ode to Olive Oil

There aren’t many things that those in the nutrition world can agree upon, but olive oil is one of those special things that most everyone agrees is healthy. Extra virgin olive oil has a health halo that it has earned through historical use over the last few thousand years as well as the support of modern scientific studies. It is best known for its key role in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is golden, thick, shiny, and oh-so tasty. I go through gallons of the stuff, and I want to share my love of this magical substance with you. 

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil has many merits in terms of its health benefits. One of its best known qualities is that it’s full of powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants help fight inflammation, which is indicted in contributing to most every chronic disease and condition including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and arthritis. Some research has even indicated that one of the antioxidants in olive oil is as powerful as taking an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen*. Olive oil is also famed for reducing lipid peroxidation which is a fancy term for damage to fat and cholesterol molecules in the body. Lipid peroxidation is likely a major cause of heart disease, so it’s important to eat the right things, like olive oil, to stop it in its tracks. Olive oil is also a good source of vitamin E and vitamin K. Vitamin E is a wonderful antioxidant in and of itself, and vitamin K is important for helping blood to clot properly. Olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon, similar to other fats, but these calories come with a myriad of health benefits.

Eating Olive Oil

Aside from its health benefits, olive oil is fabulously versatile and a great choice for cooking or fresh eating. Olive oil is chemically stable when heated and has a relatively high smoke point. It is low in polyunsaturated fats and high in monounsaturated fats. Comparatively, vegetable oils and canola oil are high in polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats have several chemical bonds which make them prone to damage during processing and heating. The problem with damaged oils is that they also do damage inside the body through the same process I mentioned above – lipid peroxidation. On the flip side, because olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat it is highly heat stable. The only down side to using olive oil for cooking is that some of the antioxidant content of the oil is lost when it is heated, so make it a priority to also get some fresh extra virgin olive oil in your life. 

My favorite cooked applications for olive oil are roasted and sautéed dishes. Toss almost any veggie in enough olive oil to coat, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and put it on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes at 425⁰F until spotty brown. Voila! You have delicious roasted veggies in no time. Try it with fresh green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and more. I like to toss several together for a mixed veggie side dish. I dare you not to like it. Another easy way to cook with olive oil is to use a splash when sautéing most anything.

Olive oil also tastes wonderful fresh and is even healthier because it retains all its antioxidants. Use extra virgin olive oil to make a wonderful homemade vinaigrette by mixing 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add a dash of Dijon mustard and a little mayonnaise to keep it from separating. Whisk or shake in well-sealed container, and you’ve got quick and easy salad dressing. Try different types of vinegar and add spices for a variety of flavor options. Drizzle olive oil on fresh chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella cheese for a summer treat. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some chopped basil if you really want to give your taste buds a treat. For a quick pasta dressing, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over freshly cooked ravioli (or any type of pasta) with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper. 

Shopping for Olive Oil

Shopping for olive oil can seem a little tricky with all the options available at the supermarket. Add to that the loose regulations in the United States for standards defining extra virgin olive oil, and it can seem like a mysterious process to anyone. The good news is it’s easy to buy high quality olive oil (which will also be the healthiest choice) when you know what to look for. Choose cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil to get the highest quality possible. Olive oil has a grading system that is regulated by the International Olive Oil Council (IOC), but the IOC standards are not well enforced in the United States. Extra virgin oil is required to be fresh, pure, and without contaminates or any traces of rancidity. “Pure” olive oil and “light” olive oil will be of lower quality and may have contaminates present that detract from the healthfulness of the oil. Cold-pressed oil has been extracted from olives through applying pressure alone and without the use of high heat and chemicals, both of which are damaging to the quality of the oil. The “first cold press” is no different from other cold-pressed olive oils, so don’t worry about finding that designation on the label. 

Try to choose olive oil that is sold in dark colored bottles rather than clear glass or plastic. Exposure to light dramatically decreases the quality and shelf life of the oil. Olive oil that has a “harvest date” listed on the bottle is helpful for knowing you are purchasing the freshest oil possible.  Olive oil is best consumed within 18 months of harvest, so if the expiration date listed on oil is 2 or 3 years away, then you can’t be sure you are purchasing fresh oil. Olive oil that is grown and produced in California has more strict quality standards than other American produced oils and will likely be fresher because it doesn’t have to travel far to be sold. Look for the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) seal to be sure you are purchasing an oil with the highest quality standards. 

Unfiltered oil will have even higher antioxidant content and stronger flavor than regular cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil because of small particles of olives that remain in the oil. Unfiltered oil may have a cloudy appearance and will have a shorter shelf life than filtered oils. Bragg Organic Unrefined Unfiltered Extra Virgin Olive Oil is my favorite unfiltered oil.   

To sum up, look for cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil sold in dark colored bottles. Oils from California with the COOC seal will always be a safe choice. Look for bottles with a harvest date listed, and oils should be consumed within 18 months of harvest date. 

Storing Olive Oil

Store olive oil in a dark, cool place like your pantry to keep it fresh.  Don't keep it on your kitchen counter or next to your stove since light and heat will decrease the oil's shelf life.  

My love of olive oil runs deep and wide, as I hope you’ve surmised by now. I had originally planned to share a poem with you that I had written in olive oil’s honor. Yeah, I’m that crazy. But I decided it was too embarrassing to share my poem. I’m not that crazy. So you’ll have to settle for a recipe instead. At least the recipe title rhymes a little.      

Easy Caprese Salad

- 1 tomato, sliced
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste

Place tomato slices on a plate and sprinkle with salt.  Top tomato slices with mozzarella slices and sprinkle with chopped fresh basil.  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar over tomatoes and mozzarella.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve. 

Oh, what the heck. If you’ve read this far, you’re a true fan and you won’t judge my poetry. Right? 

“Ode to Olive Oil”

Olive oil, oh olive oil,

I love thee.

You make my heart so healthy,

And my hair shiny. 

I add you to my veggies.

Salad you adorn.

You make things oh so tasty.

Without you I’m forlorn. 

Extra virgin olive oil,

You are truly great.

In my cupboard you will be,

Until I’m ninety-eight. 


Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.