Immunity Boosting Foods to Help Battle the Flu Season

It’s official. This year’s flu season is now the worse we’ve seen in almost a decade since the swine flu pandemic; health officials said last Friday. The CDC reported fatal cases including the pediatric deaths of 37 children.

If you think the season is almost over, then think again. According to the CDC, influenza activity often increases in October and November and peaks between December and March and can last as late as May. The silver lining for those of us who live in California? The CDC is seeing some signs of the flu declining in the West.

Don’t Put Your Guard Down Just Yet

Along with washing your hands and getting the flu shot, eating a healthy diet can help you stay well. Here are some immunity boosting ingredients that you can add to your meals:

Probiotics – Healthy gut = healthy immune system. Period! Good gut bacteria helps fight off viruses and bad bacteria that end up in your gastrointestinal tract. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso are just a few examples of foods that provide these benefits.

Leafy greens – People think that drinking orange juice is great for vitamin C, but you’re better off cutting out excessive sugar and going with leafy greens such as kale and bok choy. Both are brimming with this helpful antioxidant.

Ginger – Ginger has been found to protect the body from disease. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help balance the immune system and restore its proper function. We make fresh ginger tea at the onset of a cold and have avoided getting sick 97% of the time… honestly!

Chickpeas – Did you know that a zinc deficiency could decrease your immunity? Red meat and chicken are traditional sources of zinc, but this plant-based legume has far better nutritional value. It’s a great source of zinc, AND it improves digestion (thanks to the high-fiber content). It’s also an excellent source of protein, and other essential vitamins and minerals.

Garlic – It’s difficult for the body to absorb zinc, but garlic contains sulfur which can assist the body with zinc absorption. One study found that garlic prevented subjects from catching a cold and even shortened the duration of most colds.

Cold-Water Fish – When influenza strikes, the immune system can cause the lungs to become inflamed, which may result in difficulty breathing. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna can help reduce inflammation. For a vegetarian alternative, try walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds.

Mushrooms – Vitamin D is critical for the body’s immune system, and mushrooms are one of the few foods that have it!

Preventative Measures

You can reduce your chances of getting sick as long as you take all the necessary precautions on a daily basis. “Get adequate rest, nutrition, don’t smoke, and keep your allergies controlled, because if they’re out of control, then your upper respiratory tree is already inflamed, which sets it up to more easily acquire a virus,” says Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, an infectious disease specialist on WebMD.

For more ideas on immunity-boosting foods, follow The Lunch MOB on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

How To Stay Balanced During the Holidays

We often spend weeks if not months preparing for the holidays. But while we make great effort planning our menus, gifts, and agendas, we don’t usually have a strategy on how to stay balanced and healthy.

For most, self-control goes out the door. We not only overindulge in rich, fatty foods, but we end up sacrificing our exercise time to get through our to-do-lists. All in all, it’s a recipe for disaster.

When we consume unhealthy foods we don’t have time to burn off, it makes us feel guilty and sometimes even physically ill. This isn’t exactly an ideal state to be in when you have so many things to accomplish during the holidays.

So what can your family do to have a more enjoyable and joyful holiday season? Here are some of our tips. Even if you only pick a few, you’ll be in much better shape (literally!).

Keep the focus on fun, not food

The holiday season may not feel the same without bingeing on eggnog and gingerbread cookies. Instead of giving in to your yearly cravings, however, try focusing on other traditions not centered around food like Christmas caroling or tree trimming.

Mindful grocery shopping

It’s more important than ever to keep your kitchen stocked with healthy options especially snacks. Instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, promise to eat the five recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day so you fill up on nutritious foods rather than empty calories.

Hydrate

Keep that water bottle handy at all times. Remember, you may feel hungry when you’re really dehydrated so make sure you drink at least eight, 8 oz. glasses of water each day.

Stock the freezer with healthy meals

This is one of our favorite tips if you can manage it. We all can expect to be overly busy during the holidays. Instead of resorting to takeout or filling up on sweets, stock up your freezer with healthy meals. We love throwing this butternut squash soup or skinny baked macaroni and cheese in the freezer. Just make big batches the next time you’ve got the energy. You’ll thank yourself later when all you have to do is pop a dish in the oven… gives you more time to be merry!

Indulge in only the most special holiday treats

Skip the store-bought cookies and save your calories for homemade treats or fancy sweets that are special to you. Don’t deprive yourself as your willpower may eventually snap, but do exercise some restraint and know what your limits are.

Stay physically active during the holidays

Remember how good you feel after sweating and doing cardio? Or the wellness that yoga brings? All those endorphins and positive vibes you create after exercising is the best possible antidote for holiday stress. Period.

Forget perfection

Set realistic expectations for yourself and your family. Overscheduling, often times, is the root cause of stress. As much as we love pleasing others, we also need to give ourselves some TLC. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t nail that recipe from the Food Network or that centerpiece you pinned on Pinterest.

If there’s anything The Lunch MOB can do to lighten your load during the holidays, please feel free to reach out to us! We’re always open to your suggestions. 

Brain Foods For Kids

Who knew that certain foods can help build memory stem cells, improve mental skills, and promote better focus? Now that back-to-school season is upon us, we rounded up these top brain foods to keep your kids sharp for the school year.

Here at The Lunch MOB, many of the foods we prepare naturally incorporate superfoods. A few examples for the months of August and September include our Crunchy Fish Soft Tacos, Brown Rice & Bean Burrito, Cobb Salad, our famous “Good Morning” Breakfast Sandwich, Banana Oat Snack Bites, Mixed Berry and Yogurt Parfait, and BBQ Kale Chips.

Brain Foods to Add to Your Grocery List

Place these foods on rotation and help improve your child’s brain function, memory, and concentration:

Eggs – Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Eggs are a protein powerhouse, but did you know their yolks are rich in choline, which is vital for the creation of memory stem cells?

Fish – Fatty fish such as salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and are essential for brain growth and function. Research has shown that omega-3’s protect the brain from memory loss, improves mental skills, and promotes better focus.

Berries – Strawberries, cherries, blackberries, and blueberries boast high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C. As a rule of thumb, the more intense the color of the berry, the more nutrition it has.

Leafy Greens – Eating spinach, kale, Swiss chard, arugula and romaine lettuce are linked to lower odds of dementia later in life. They are full of nutrients like vitamin K, folate, and beta-carotene which are linked to slowing cognitive decline.

Milk & Yogurt – Dairy foods are an excellent source of protein and B-vitamins, which are essential for the growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes. They are also rich in calcium, which plays an important role in regulating our body’s energy.

Nuts & Seeds – Loaded with essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and protein, nuts help boost our moods and keep nervous systems in check. Peanut butter, for example, is a great source of vitamin E and thiamin, which helps the brain and nervous system use glucose for energy.

Beans – A fantastic source of protein, complex carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals, beans keep energy levels high. Kidney and pinto beans, especially, are a great source of omega-3’s.

Oatmeal – Oats and oatmeal are an ideal source of brain fuel. Because they keep kids feeling fuller longer, they provide a nice, steady stream of energy to help children focus. A study even showed that kids who ate oatmeal performed better on memory-related school tasks than those who ate sugary cereal!

Now What?

Kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from eating “brain foods.” Scientists have discovered that adults too can grow new brain cells throughout their lifetime. Sleep, exercise, adequate mental stimulation, and diet all play a role in sharpening the mind.

As a trusted school lunch provider, we can give your students (even staff) a fresher, more wholesome, and tastier hot lunch every day, hassle-free, while giving parents a heightened peace of mind knowing that healthier eating habits for their kids are being promoted. As parents ourselves, we know how important it is to ensure that our kids live a healthy lifestyle, and so, we made it our mission to create fresh meals that kids love, with the nutrition that kids need.

Please reach out to us if you’d like more information about our offering!

Summer of Food

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the school year and summer is right around the corner. Now the fun begins and weekends at the beach, pool time, and other outdoor shenanigans abound. What a wonderful time to make new memories with your family! And don’t worry if you don’t have any plans. Summer is a great time to explore and get creative.

Getting Into The Summer Spirit

We love incorporating food into our summer activities. Not only is it a fun way to get kids excited about eating and drinking nutritious foods, but often times it’s an economical way to knock out some family bonding time.

Ever notice how kids have more interest when they take an active role in the decision-making process? Try some of our favorite foodie activities this summer and let us know what you think!

  1. Visit a farmer’s market and ask your kids to pick out what they’d like to cook at home.
  2. Plant a garden of herbs and veggies.
  3. Have a picnic at a state park.
  4. Make homemade pizza and incorporate lots of veggie toppings.
  5. Set up a lemonade stand.
  6. Have a luau in the backyard.
  7. Bake your own cookies for ice cream sandwiches.
  8. Pick berries.
  9. Make ice cream. Try those ice cream balls you fill with ice cream base and kick around until frozen.
  10. Have a backyard campfire… or just use the grill! Roast hot dogs on sticks, pop popcorn and finish off with s’mores.
  11. Plan a picnic at a local park or in your backyard.
  12. Investigate an ethnic grocery store and make lunch using interesting spices and kid-friendly international recipes.
  13. Blend your own smoothie.
  14. Create unusual s’mores by experimenting with ingredients like bananas, strawberries, and dried fruit.
  15. Have a fancy tea party.

The Lunch MOB is still fueling kids this summer and our kitchen is still open for business! If you live in Orange County, CA and have catering opportunities, please reach out.

Getting Schooled In Your Kids’ School Meal Program

Time and time again, parents who don’t have access to The Lunch MOB have asked: What can we do to help ensure our kids are getting the best school meal program?  

Whether you are living in another city or state where The Lunch MOB is unavailable, or we simply haven’t on-boarded your school just yet, there are plenty of things you can do to engage with your kids’ schools.  

This non-profit organization, The School Nutrition Association, has some great suggestions.  Here is their guidance on how to get more involved and ask the right questions:

How do I find out what is being served in my child’s school cafeteria?

  • Review the cafeteria menu with your child. Menus often list alternate choices, such as entrée salads and sandwiches, available to students who don’t care for the daily special. Ask your child about the fruit and vegetable choices offered alongside each meal and encourage them to try new menu items.
  • Visit your school district website for more details. Many school nutrition departments have a web page listing ingredients, nutritional facts, allergen information and more.
  • Have lunch with your child in the school cafeteria. Check with the principal or cafeteria manager first regarding visitor policies. See for yourself how school meals look, smell and taste. Be sure to ask questions about how the food was prepared—you may be surprised to learn that many of the traditional favorites are now made with whole grains, less fat and sodium.

Who should I contact with questions/concerns about the school cafeteria menu?

  • For information about menu items, contact the school cafeteria manager, who can discuss everything from meal preparation methods to waiting time in line.
  • For more detailed questions, the cafeteria manager may refer you to the nutrition director who oversees cafeteria operations, procurement and menu planning for the entire school district.
  • In most cases, the cafeteria manager and nutrition director do not manage vending machines or snack bars located outside the cafeteria. Contact your school principal for more information on these food choices. The principal can also address concerns about the lunch period schedule.
  • Don’t forget to ask your teacher about classroom policies regarding food rewards and items served during classroom parties.

How can I get involved in my child’s school meal program?

  • Ask the cafeteria manager and principal about volunteer opportunities in your school cafeteria or school garden. Some schools request parent volunteers to help usher students through the lunch line and encourage them to try their fruits and vegetables.
  • Many school districts have a wellness committee comprised of community volunteers to help establish and update district nutrition and physical activity policies. These local wellness policies can impact everything from the choices available in vending machines to the amount of time each week for PE.
  • Organize a National Take Your Parents to Lunch Day event at your school. Each October, as part of National School Lunch Week, SNA teams up with KIWI magazine to encourage parents to join their children for lunch in the cafeteria. The event offers a great opportunity for parents to find out more and talk with their school nutrition professionals about the choices available with school lunch. For tools and information, visit http://www.kiwimagonline.com/lunchday

My child has food allergies. Do school cafeterias accommodate special dietary requirements such as gluten or nut free?

  • If your student has a life-threatening food allergy, it is important to build a team of key individuals at school who can help safely manage your child’s needs. Start by contacting your school nurse before the first day of school to discuss implementing an allergy action plan. The school nurse can work with parents and health care providers to develop a health care plan to meet the unique needs of each student.
  • The school nurse can also assist with outreach to teachers, coaches, school nutrition, transportation and maintenance staff and others to discuss dietary restrictions and methods for safely managing your child’s food allergy at school.
  • School cafeterias must provide food substitutions for students whose food allergies constitute a “disability.” The student must provide a statement, signed by a licensed physician, which identifies the disability, explains why the disability restricts the child’s diet, and lists the foods to be omitted from the child’s diet and recommendations for alternate foods. Click here for more information.
  • Even if your child’s food allergy does not constitute a “disability,” contact your school cafeteria manager to discuss the school menu and safe food choices available for your child. Your cafeteria might offer alternate choices that are not listed on the monthly menu.

The Evolution of the School Lunch

Lunch was the biggest, most important meal of the day before the Industrial Revolution. Back then, the midday meal was called dinner.  Most adults worked near their homes and their children also went to nearby schools.  Everyone returned home and shared this meal with their families.

In the late 19th century, cities and factories grew and people worked further from home. Workers could no longer travel to eat so the concept of the cafeteria was born.  An employee perk, this benefit helped improve productivity attracting hard-working employees to certain factories. Modern public schools looking to increase academic productivity took the same approach and began offering similar lunch programs.

During the 1970’s, social scientists and nutrition experts found a correlation between diet and academic achievement.  They started educating families about the importance of good nutrition. School lunch programs offered what you might see in cafeterias today: hamburgers, french fries, spaghetti, boiled vegetables, slices of pie and Jell-O. Over time, people debated the healthiness of the school lunch.  The advocacy and implementation of improved standards increased.  This helped boost the nutritional value of meals provided by schools.

More school lunch choices

Today, schools can bring in specialty catering services like The Lunch MOB that goes above and beyond the status quo. Because we use fresh, wholesome, all-natural ingredients, parents never have to worry about harmful chemicals, additives, and artificial trans fats in their food. We incorporate organic produce whenever possible and make most of our sauces and dressings from scratch (so you can say goodbye to overly processed foods!).

We know that eating healthy may sometimes add costs. However, we’re confident that you’ll see programs like The Lunch MOB  as an investment in your family’s health and future. There’s a nationwide kick to get kids eating healthier in schools, and yet, the available choices just aren’t good enough to satisfy their tastes. By truly focusing on how ingredients are combined, we made it OUR mission to create fresh meals that kids love, with the nutrition they need.

If you’d like further information about any of our ingredients or food prep practices, please reach out to us anytime. We’d like to hear from families and schools interested in partnering with The Lunch MOB in Orange County, CA.  Irvine, Tustin, Laguna Hills, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, El Toro, Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Foothill Ranch, Newport Beach, San Juan Capistrano, Orange, and Santa Ana– we’re talking to you!

The Lunch MOB Turns One

This husband and wife team have a lot to celebrate. Happy 1st Birthday to The Lunch MOB!

A year ago today, The Lunch MOB was born.  The idea of making fresh, healthy food convenient for parents and kids finally took shape.  Fast forward a year and The Lunch MOB has become a staple in Orange County, serving over 10,000 meals to many thankful students in their community.  

Today, The Lunch MOB is partnered with several private and public charter schools and they’re not slowing down anytime soon.  In fact, the owners have vouched to continue donating a portion of their proceeds.  For every meal that is purchased, a little something goes back to the schools.  Did you know that this charitable model has been in practice since day one?

We thought it was a good time to sit down with one of the owners to find out what else they’ve been hiding up their sleeves.  Here’s our interview with Jonathan Bonuan:

Looking back, what are the founders of The Lunch MOB most proud of accomplishing in the last year?

We took a concept, applied it to a new business idea, took some risks, and executed.  I think it’s somewhat easy to come up with ideas, but it’s not so easy to build on it.  There’s a lot of hard work and attention to detail that goes into running a business so we’re proud that we stayed diligent to get to the point we’re at today. Plus, we’re extremely proud of what we’re doing which is serving healthy, made-from-scratch, wholesome lunches to school children who may not necessarily be used to seeing this stuff in their own cafeterias or lunch boxes.

Where does The Lunch MOB get its menu inspiration from?

Honestly, I just find recipes of food that I like and adapt them to what I think kids would like (my kids are my guinea pigs too).  While we have your standard grub like chicken strips, mac & cheese, and spaghetti, we like expanding our menu items to things that are not in your everyday repertoire. We also like getting creative with the help of our very experienced in-house chefs.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from your customers?

Feedback has been very positive.  Parents, especially the busy ones, love us since we make things convenient through our website and mobile app.  Everyone loves our daily selections and schools have even thanked us for being a better alternative.  For me, since I hand out lunches at one of our schools, I get to see how excited and happy the kids are when they come running to my table to get their lunch trays.  That’s pretty rewarding.

If you live in Orange County, CA and would like further information on how to get your school to partner with The Lunch MOB, please email [email protected]

Back to School

Kids 9-resize

Ahh, back to school.  Fresh haircuts, new backpacks, sharp outfits, and the sunniest smiles from our children.  Most parents will beam with pride.  Even more so for parents seeing their kids off to school for the first time.

Back to school is a time for new beginnings and a great time for our little ones to start forming good eating habits.  After all, teaching them to like good nutrition is a way to empower them for the rest of their lives!  Better not wait until the New Year to make smarter decisions– now is the perfect time for kids to hit the reset button.  New beginnings = new habits.

“That’s great and all,” you say, “but back to school is a busy time for most.”  After school activities, parent / teacher meetings, and homework.  So. Much. Homework.  If you’re a working parent, surely you’ve got homework of your own too!  No wonder our kids end up with a bologna sandwich or a PB&J on one too many days… Most parents don’t have the luxury to make healthy, diverse lunches with fresh ingredients.

Fortunately, there are solutions. In Orange County, California, The Lunch MOB delivers to schools around the area.  Kids from participating schools have access to delicious lunch entrees and healthier snack options perfect for after school programs.  For lunch, students have a selection of yummy entrees like Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs, Crunchy Fish Soft Tacos, Mediterranean Flat Bread Pizza, and California Sushi Rolls.  For the traditionalists, Mac and Cheese or Chicken Strips.  Take a quick tour of our menu!

If you live in Orange County and want healthier options for your kids, please help The Lunch MOB spread the word by requesting us at your kids’ schools.

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The Lunch MOB was founded in Irvine, California by a mechanical engineer and a 6th-grade math and science teacher– parents who genuinely wanted to help other parents.  Learn more about Jonathan and Aileen here.  

Healthy Recipes for Kids Part 2

In our last post, we presented you with some incredible tasting, kid-friendly meals. Well, if you loved last month’s post, there is more where that came from. Sit back and enjoy as we present Healthy Recipes for Kids Part 2.

Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Portobellos

For this recipe, the elements of vegetarian lasagna filling are used. The ingredients include ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and spinach. Mix these ingredients together and then spoon into roasted Portobello mushroom cups. For the best results, very large Portobello caps are recommended. Place in a 350 degrees oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the spinach is heated through. Be careful not to overcook the mushrooms. The meal can be served with tossed salad and a whole-wheat dinner roll. Spaghetti tossed with marinara sauce can also be used in serving this amazing dish.

Fish Sticks

This recipe can be prepared at home just within the same amount of time as that of a box of  frozen fish sticks. The difference is that home- made ones taste better and are much more nutritious. Create a full meal by serving the fish sticks with roasted new potatoes, lemon wedges, coleslaw and a drop of tartar sauce.

To prepare, choose your favorite fish such as talapia or halibut and cut into strips. Dip fish strips into an egg wash and then into seasoned panko. Place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the sticks are golden brown and flaky on the inside.

Crusted Cornmeal Chicken Nuggets

Your kids will love these nuggets paired with their favorite dipping sauces. To create these little masterpieces, cut chicken breasts into bite size chunks. Dip chicken into an egg wash and then into seasoned cornmeal. Place on a foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the juices run clear. This is a great way to create a delicious crunch without having to fry the chicken in oil. The meal can be served with carrots and steamed broccoli.

Burgers Around the Cheese

This recipe is a neat take on the traditional cheeseburger. Rather than placing the cheese on top, we put the cheese in the middle! Choose from any hard or semi-hard cheese such as Asiago, Parmesan, Gouda or a mixture of cheeses if you prefer. Form your burger around the cheese and grill as usual until juices run clear. This dish can be served with any of your favorite summer picnic foods.

We hope you enjoyed our two-part series on healthy recipes for kids. Here at The Lunch Mob we take great pride in providing fun, nutritious meals that kids will love to eat. It has been our experience that when food is prepared with only the freshest ingredients combined with a fun presentation, kids simply cannot wait to take a bite. If you are looking for a nutritious and affordable lunch time solution for your growing students, please consider checking out The Lunch Mob. We would love to talk with you and tell you more about our incredible lunch catering program.

Healthy Recipes for Kids Part 1

School children are a special demographic indeed. In order for their healthy minds and bodies to function properly throughout the school day, they need proper nutrition. The Lunch Mob offers parents the option of having us provide wholesome, nutritious meals for their children to enjoy during their school lunch hour. We provide a plethora of different foods that school cafeterias may not have access to and we use our healthy recipes to prepare the foods in such a way that your child feels they are getting a meal straight from your kitchen. Our school lunch options help your children develop healthy eating patterns at a young age so that they may develop the habit for life.

We love helping parents provide nutritious meals for their children at school so much that we wanted to present a few healthy options for you to create at home as well. Below is the first part of a two-part series that presents 7 healthy recipes for children to try at home. They are kid-friendly and help children develop a love of whole grains and healthy foods. The recipes are also simple to prepare, naturally lower in calories, rich in vitamins and rich in minerals.

Chicken Fingers in Almond Crust

This recipe replaces the deep-fried and batter-dipped nuggets which is not a healthy food choice.  To prepare, coat the chicken tenders in a seasoned almond and whole-wheat flour mixture, then place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the juices run clear.  This recipe contains almost half the fat of traditional breaded chicken tenders making it a healthier choice.

Gnocchi and Chicken

This recipe is great as a weeknight comfort meal for kids. Start by bringing a large pan of water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi and cook while frequently stirring for two minutes. For the next one or two minutes, stir in peas and cook until the gnocchi become tender.

Meanwhile, cut chicken breasts into chunks and coat with flour. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan on medium heat. Transfer the chicken to pan, sprinkling with 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and salt. Continue cooking chicken for 5 minutes while occasionally stirring until slightly brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate to rest.

Next, add one tablespoon oil to the pan and then add chopped carrots, celery, thyme, onion and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender while stirring occasionally for 7 minutes . Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the vegetables and stir in about 1 cup of broth. Let the broth thicken and then add the cooked chicken. Add the peas and gnocchi and cook for about 3 minutes while gently stirring until the gnocchi are hot.

BBQ Baked Beans and Sausage

The key to helping make baked beans healthy it to choose a brand that has the lowest sugar and sodium content. Simply heat the beans and add your favorite cooked lean sausage (we like turkey sausage) and some collard greens. Cook on the stove until the sausage is heated through and greens are soft. This meal can be served with cornbread and coleslaw if you choose. This meal is a great source of fiber and protein.

If you enjoyed these quick and easy recipes, stay tuned for our next post where we will give you 4 more meals your kids will love!