Lunch Box News

Happy New Year to All

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year and a fantastic 2015!

Mitti Cool Refrigerator – clay fridge keeps food cool without electricity

An enterprising Gujarati entrepreneur has come up with a novel way to help people keep food cool without needing to plug in an expensive to run refrigerator. His Mitti Cool is a cooler made of clay, which uses the natural cooling effect of water evaporation to do the job.

His fridge has a water compartment on the top and bottom of the unit, which soaks water through the porous clay in order to cool down the contents of the box by up to 8 degrees C. This means that you can keep vegetables fresh for up to a week, and milk fresh for 3 days, which is not bad going really for no power.


Originally posted on


How to Limit What Kids Watch on TV

Between the computer, the TV, the DS, and the Wii, a lot of screens are vying for your kids' attention. Parents try lots of different things to limit screen time -- everything from outright bans to "only on weekends" to setting a timer. Being The Enforcer of Screen Time Limits may solve your "right now" goal of getting kids to turn off. But raising kids with an understanding of healthy screen limits and the ability to self-regulate takes a little more work.

How to Limit What Kids Watch on TVLike everything in parenting, media management is a process -- one that requires balancing your long-range goals with the daily reality of the various devices in your kids' lives. Here's an age-by-age media-management plan with some practical tips to try along the way.

Preschool age. Creating consistent, healthy media habits starting when kids are just beginning to be exposed to screens is essential. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of total screen time for children older than 2 (and zero screen time for children under 2). Use that as a maximum amount and work down from there to find the amount that feels appropriate in your family, factoring in all the things required for healthy preschool brain, body, and social development.

  • Provide distractions. Diversions work well for this age group -- and preschoolers love to help out. At dinner time, instead of busying them with the TV while you cook, ask them to sort all your pots and pans from biggest to smallest.
  • Practice togetherness. What kids this age need is a close, loving relationship with an active, involved caregiver. It's actually OK to do nothing but count dust bunnies, as long as you're together.
  • Do activities. Find a book of rainy-day activities that use household objects for easy little projects you can set up (and clean up!) easily.

Elementary and Middle school. At this age, friends take on a much more significant role in kids' lives. Kids also begin to develop their own interests -- some of which they might want to research on the computer. Explaining the reasons why you're choosing to limit screen time will help your kid begin to understand the consequences of their choices. Help them understand that spending excessive amounts of time in front of a screen impacts their ability to develop a rich and full life -- and takes precious, non-retrievable time away from all the things they need to do (like eat, sleep, do homework, read, and play sports).

  • Delegate chores. Working parents can feel guilty asking kids to do chores, but it's actually really good for them -- and it helps you, too. Just remember to keep them manageable.
  • Schedule play dates. If kids are going to use the computer or game console, invite a friend (or two) and make it social. That removes the isolating aspect of gaming, which can lead to game addiction, loss of empathy, and social withdrawal.
  • Grant privileges. Use screen time as a goal that kids have to work for.
  • Encourage creativity. If kids start exploring digital arts, encourage some of the off-line aspects, like drawing, sketching scenes, writing, costume design, etc.

High school. Teenagers still haven't developed the judgment to always make great decisions, but they're smart enough to understand the influences of risky practices. For high schoolers, you'll have more success if you explain the reasons why too much screen time is harmful. For example, too much exposure to violent video games raises aggression and lowers empathy. Your kids may actually be able to see evidence of this in their peers who spend too much time playing games.

  • Don't give up. Continue to require household participation like chores, and maybe up the ante by asking teens to make dinner once a week and do their own laundry.
  • Make quality choices. You still have a say in what they see, hear, and play. Put in your two cents about the importance of quality media.
  • Keep up grades. Pull back on screen time if grades are slipping.

Every family will have different amounts of time that they think is "enough." What's important is giving it some thought, creating age-appropriate limits (with built-in flexibility for special circumstances), making media choices you're comfortable with, and modeling responsible screen limits for your kids.

Candy May Not Make You All That Fat, Study Says

Candy makes kids fat, right?

Ha! Wrong, Captain Tofu!

Candy May Not Make You All That Fat, Study Says
Revenge could be sweet for the candy crowd. The Vancouver Sun reports a new study finds kids who eat candy weigh less and are less likely be overweight than their counterparts munching on carrots.

This revolutionary study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a big chunk of the funding came from the National Confectioners Association. You know, the people who make candy.

Great, so this may be a little like the International Brotherhood of Heroin Pushers Local 839 funding a study that concludes heavy narcotics are essential for building strong bones and teeth.

Still, data is data.

Researchers at Louisiana State University (hardly puppets of Big Chocolate) found kids who ate candy were 22 percent less likely to be overweight and 28 percent less likely to be obese.

So stick that in your bean curd, and do whatever is you do with bean curd. (What? You eat it? Gross!)

Carol O'Neil, a registered dietitian and professor at Louisiana State University's Agricultural Center, led researchers in tracking the eating habits of kids ages 2 to 17 between 1999 and 2004.

While chocolate is indisputably the food of the gods, O'Neil tells the Vancouver Sun she is not suggesting parents fill the family swimming pool with M&Ms in lieu of dinner. In fact, even though young candy eaters aren't getting fat, she still called their their diets "abysmal."

"Children need to eat better than they are eating now," O'Neil tells the Sun. "Candy can certainly be used as some sort of celebratory treat or an occasional treat."

Her study, she adds, is not "a hall pass to eat what you want." is Now Open

We have now started our soft opening of our store -

Surviving a Family Road Trip: Top 5 Tips

Planning for a family road trip can feel like planning for a major military operation -- all that laundry and packing, plus all those lists and tasks, can make you long for a vacation from your vacation. Not to mention all those small voices whining, "Are we there yet?"

Surviving a Family Road Trip: Top 5 Tips
But there are ways to make getting away as a family a less daunting task. We asked parents and experts for their top tips for surviving a family road trip, and, with their help, you really can make getting there half the fun.

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Before you even leave the house, make sure you've made your lists and checked them twice -- or even three times. Amy Kossoff Smith, a mom of three boys, all younger than 14, says planning ahead is the best way to stave off any on-the-road hiccups.

"Do everything in advance," the Maryland resident tells ParentDish. "(Have a list) of your itinerary, your snacks, your activities, everything."

She writes everything out to the letter, and says she also includes a back-up plan for the inevitable times when things don't go exactly as planned. Additionally, Smith keeps a separate list of "don't forget" items.

"I'm queen of the Post-It note on the counter for the last-minute items," she says. "There are always things you need the night before but may forget in the morning, so make a list as you pack so you don't forget (like your) toothbrush, contact lens cleaner, etc."

2. It's about the journey. Everyone is eager to get to the final destination, especially when you're headed out for an exciting vacation. But you can make the journey, itself, almost as interesting, says Jill Parvin, a mom of two daughters, ages 18 and 4, from Vista, Calif.

"We did a 2,000-mile road trip last summer, and the most important thing I did was plan stops every three hours to explore," she tells ParentDish.

Parvin adds that she did her best not to drive for more than eight hours at a time, so she and her girls didn't get stir crazy.

Author and father Jeff Siegel agrees. His new book, "RelationTrips," was inspired by a 10-year quest to see every Major League Baseball stadium in the United States with his son, Spence.

"Take the opportunity to explore new destinations along the way," Siegel tells ParentDish. "Pick out two or three new places to stop while in transit, such as a new landmark or roadside restaurant."

3. Let the kids take control. Siegel also advises parents to turn the wheel over to the kids for a day or two. Choose one or two days during your trip, he says, and let the young ones decide how to spend them.

"Let your children research and plan all the activities. Encourage them to create an agenda that includes a theme and soundtrack for the day," he suggests.

Families with more than one child can either make it a joint effort, or assign each kid their own day or a portion of a day to plan.

4. Go for gadgets. When we were kids, entertainment on the road mean counting license plates and playing "I Spy." These days, there are plenty of gadgets to keep the wee ones quiet for at least a few hundred miles.

Parvin made packing her teen's mp3 player -- and a pair of headphones -- a top priority. She also packed a small electronic game for her younger daughter. Even the preschool set has access to hand-held gaming systems these days, along with headphones designed for even the littlest bodies.

If electronics aren't your thing, Coco Peate of Westlake Village, Calif., suggests making a run to the dollar store to get a grab bag of inexpensive toys to surprise your kids with.

"Consider packing a bag for each child where you can hide his surprise toys among his own toys from home, snacks, crayons, coloring books, etc.," she says. "They'll each have their very own goody bag with their own toys and treats, which will hopefully prevent fights and provide hours of fun."

5. Snack attack. Nothing soothes the savage beast like a good snack -- and it prevents meltdowns and unnecessary stops along the way.

"Take more food than you think you'll need," says Lisa Cottrell-Bentley, author of the "Wright on Time" series of children's chapter books about an RV-living, homeschooling family who travels the United States. "Food always gets eaten."

Cottrell-Bentley, a mom of of two from Sahuarita, Ariz., suggests packing non-perishable things such as nuts and fruit leather.

"The more food you take with you, the less you'll need to buy on the road," she tells ParentDish.

Just remember to choose healthy items. The occasional treat is fine, but you don't want to risk getting sick on your vacation by going too far astray from your usual good eating habits.

Cottrell-Bentley also suggests getting your kids to help with the selection.

"Have the kids help pick out the items," she says. "They're more likely to eat what they've helped to purchase."

Most Popular Italian Baby Girl Names

Italian baby names can bring centuries of tradition and history into your child's life, and also usually carry an air of the exotic and mysterious, especially if you're working on the perfect name for your new baby girl. We've assembled a highly unscientific rundown of the five most popular Italian baby girl names, their translations, and meanings.

Most Popular Italian Baby Girl Names
Of course, if you really are Italian, or want to follow the traditions of their great culture for your own reasons, your daughter's name has already been chosen. For generations, many Italian families have named the firstborn female after the paternal grandmother, the second after the maternal grandmother, and subsequent daughters after a favorite aunt or saint.

If you decide to go with an Italian baby girl name, keep in mind that Italians celebrate both the child's actual birthday and her name-day, or "onomastico." Since a large majority of Italian baby names are descended from the name of a saint, there is typically a day on the calendar earmarked to celebrate that saint, and by extension, anyone carrying that name. Italian baby girls can even look forward to getting presents on their name-day!

So what are the five most popular Italian baby girl names?

Adriana: A form of the Latin name "Adrienne," Adriana means "dark" or "rich." The name also refers to a province in Northern Italy, home of the beautiful Church of Santa Maria Assunta della Tomba. Currently celebrities sharing this name include model Adriana Lima, and in the fictional realm, Drea de Matteo's lovely but doomed "Sopranos" character Adriana La Cerva.

Angela: This is a very popular name across the world, especially when you count its many variations (Angelica, Angeline, and about 40 others.) In its original form, Angela derives from Greek origins, and means "messenger" or "messenger of God". Of course she'll be your angel from heaven, and she'll share good company with a wide range of stars of screen including Angelina Jolie, Angie Harmon and Angie Dickinson.

Rosa: We'll give you one guess what beautiful flower this Latin-derived Italian baby girl name descends from. Yes, it's the rose! As with Angela, there are many variations of this Italian baby girl name available, Rose being the English version, and Charo, Rosabel, Rosalie and many others preferred in different cultures.

Anna: The second most popular Italian baby girl name is a Latin variation of "Hannah." The name originated from the bible in the form of a devout woman who saw the infant Jesus presented at the temple in Jerusalem. If names are any indication of future success, your daughter could be a famous ballerina (Anna Pavlova) or tennis player (the lovely and talented Anna Kournikova.) As with most of these Italian baby names, there are tons of variations: Ann, Annamarie, Annika and many others.

Maria: The most popular Italian baby girl name is another Latin name, this one meaning "star of the sea." This popular name has taken many forms across the world; with Mary proving the most popular English form and Marie ruling French culture. The ballad "Maria" from the popular musical "West Side Story" gave this name a huge boost a few generations back, and it continues to reveal new popular variations, such as pop singer Mariah Carey.

Burger King, Chili’s, IHOP Will Make Kids Menus Healthier

Parents seeking healthier restaurant meals for their kids can start to look beyond chicken nuggets and macaroni-and-cheese.

At least 19 large restaurant chains - including Burger King, Chili's, IHOP and Friendly's - plan to announce Wednesday that they will include healthier options on their children's menus. At least 15,000 restaurant locations will focus on increasing servings of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy. The items will have less fats, sugars and sodium.

Healthy EatingLess healthy foods like burgers and fries will still be on the menu, but the restaurants say they will do more to promote healthier options. Chili's, for example, will highlight a chicken sandwich with a side of pineapple or mandarin oranges on their kids' menu. Burger King has recently reformulated children's chicken nuggets so they include less sodium, and employees taking orders will ask if customers want healthier apple fries instead of the standard "fries with that?"

The effort is part of a new National Restaurant Association initiative to give kids more healthy options at restaurants and to make it easier for parents to find those options. Some of the items are already on menus, but restaurants will advertise them more prominently and flag the healthier menu items to make ordering easier.

To be part of the program, restaurants must include at least one kids' menu item that is 600 calories or less and meets other nutritional requirements. A side dish worth less than 200 calories must also be included.

"This could provide a great push toward healthier offerings at restaurants," said Robert Post, the Agriculture Department official in charge of developing the department's dietary guidelines, which came out earlier this year. Those urged Americans to eat less salt.

"We hope this is a trend toward new items and voluntary reformulations," Post said.

The companies signing up for the initiative are Au Bon Pain, Bonefish Grill, Burger King, Burgerville, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Chevys, Chili's, Corner Bakery Cafe, Cracker Barrel, Denny's, El Pollo Loco, Friendly's, IHOP, Joe's Crab Shack, Outback Steakhouse, Silver Diner, Sizzler, T-Bones Great American Eatery and zpizza.

Joe Taylor of Chili's said the company has responded to consumer demands for healthier foods. While diners looking for a healthier meal used to have to ask for substitutions, they now have more options.

"We've seen our guests customize their meals to a greater degree when they are looking to hold the mayo or add the broccoli," Taylor said.

Patrick Lenow of IHOP said the restaurant will add two new children's menu items because of the effort, including pancakes with fruit and scrambled eggs with fruit. The company had already limited everything on their children's menu to under 600 calories and made fruit a default side, instead of fries - a change that has dramatically increased fruit consumption at the restaurants, Lenow said.

Several restaurant chains haven't committed yet to joining the effort. Maggiano's, owned with Chili's by Brinker International, is not part of the program. Neither is McDonald's, the world's largest burger chain.

Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, said the group is hoping to add additional restaurants to the effort in coming months.

First lady Michelle Obama last year attended a National Restaurant Association meeting in Washington and pleaded with them to take a little butter or cream out of their dishes, use low-fat milk and provide apple slices or carrots as a default side dish on the kids' menu. She said Americans eat a third of their meals in restaurants, which have long been seen by many as the worst offenders in terms of nutrition.

Many restaurant companies are starting to reformulate menu items and add new healthier sections to their menus, however, as consumers have shown a heightened interest in nutrition.

The federal government will also soon require restaurants to post calories on their menus. FDA guidelines will require chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, along with bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores and coffee chains, to clearly post the calories.

John Dillon of Denny's said the company recently took photos of French fries off their menus.

"Where before we may have been concerned about not having French fries pictured on our menu, we're now finding that has actually helped our business," he said.

 Original AP article appeared on

Chicago Considers Tightening Curfew For Kids Under 12

Chicago is a toddlin' town, but if you're under 12, some city officials want you toddlin' off by 8:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Michelle Harris, Aldermen Toni Foulkes and Lona Lane want to ratchet back the city's curfew for the under 12 crowd. It currently stands at 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. weekends for all kids under 17.

Chicago Considers Tightening Curfew For Kids Under 12
Curfew used to be a half longer until it was trimmed by then Mayor Richard M. Daley two years ago. More trimming is needed for younger children, according to Harris, Foulkes and Lane.

Some parents, however, are telling them to mind their own bee's wax.

"It's an attempt for the city council to parent," mother Karen Hobbs tells the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's up to parents to parent. I don't think setting an arbitrary curfew at different ages is going to solve the problem."

Another parent, Toseima Jiles, tells the paper the curfew is necessary -- especially when parents don't take their responsibilities seriously.

"We're at a point where we have to be more conscious of where our children are," she tells the Sun-Times. "When was growing up, your parents knew where you were, the neighbors knew where you were. I think we're getting away from that."

Alderman Harris tells the Sun-Times if the extended curfew saves even one young life, it will be worth the criticism.

"I grew up in a community where the standard rule was children had to be in by the time the street lights came on. I'd be lucky if my parents let me out of the house when dinner was over," Harris tells the paper.

"It wasn't that our communities were so terrible," she adds. "It's just that our parents knew how to protect us. This gives police another tool to help those parents who, maybe, don't have the best parenting skills or understand that pulling a child off the street at a certain time is a protection. Many times, children are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That child should be in the house."

Foulkes added that "kids in our neighborhoods are out at all times of night" and it's time city officials protect younger children.

"What happens to the 8-year-olds? They had the same curfew as the 17-year-old. If they're walking on the street at night, they can be recruited by gang members," Foulkes tells the paper.

But is a tougher curfew really getting to the heart of the problem?

"The city needs to give children more things to do rather than force them into confinement," Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education tells the Sun-Times.

A stricter curfew must be coupled with programs that teach better parenting skills, adds Philip Jackson, the executive director of the Black Star Project.

"I can live with a lower curfew for children under 13 as being part of a comprehensive fix," he tells the paper. "But if all you're talking about is a tougher curfew for 12-year-olds, that's not going to fix anything."

Summer Fun and Games: You Could Be Your Kid’s Favorite Toy

Most children would do anything to have their busy parents get on the floor and play with them, especially in their early years. Credit: Getty Images

Pop quiz: What toy does your child most want to play with this summer?

It's a trick question.

Summer Fun and Games: You Could Be Your Kids Favorite Toy
"Believe it or not, you are your child's favorite play toy," family therapist, blogger and mother of two Amy Wickstrom tells ParentDish.

Wickstrom, a contributor to Working Mother, OC Family and more, also writes the blog More Than a Toy. She tells ParentDish it is important for parents to play with their children, especially during the summer when kids have more time and their hands and are crying out for parental interaction.

"Most children would do anything to have their busy parents get on the floor and play with them, especially in their early years," Wickstrom tells ParentDish. "Take 10 or 15 minutes to give them your undivided attention and interact with them and the toys they are playing with."

Need some suggestions?

"Do a family craft," Wickstrom suggests. "Run to your local craft store and pick out a craft to do with your child (such as building a bird house). Build enthusiasm for it by including your child in choosing what the craft will be, picking out the supplies together, learning about it more (for example, if doing a bird house, research different kinds of birds with your child and find out which birds visit your yard, etc.) and determining the time you will do it (simple crafts can be done in one sitting, but other crafts, such as building a model plane, could be done over several weeks during the summer)."

Some of the simplest games create the most lasting memories, she adds, such as hide-and-go-seek.

"One of my favorite memories as a child was playing kick the can and hide-and-go-seek with the other kids on my street," Wickstrom tells ParentDish. "Sadly, our age of technology often squelches a child's natural tendency to be outside and play with other children. Simple, all-time favorite childhood games are disappearing."

You can help combat that trend with a trip to the library, she says.

"Parents can take their kids to the local library to pick out a book and read it together there," she says. "Many libraries have special rooms just for children that are filled with toys and sometimes a stage with props for story time. This helps engage children in their imagination, have quality time with a parent and develop their reading skills. It also keeps them accustomed to old fashioned books instead of eBooks.

Websites such as have some other low-cost ways to build lifelong memories. Here are a few:

1. See a $1 movie. Many theaters offer summer movie programs for kids. If you're not so lucky, consider a movie day at home with a rental or streaming online video.

2. Hold Sprinkler Day. Delay your sprinklers for one day so they come on a little later in the morning. Then everyone can get in their bathing suits and jump through the sprinklers on a hot day. This also conserves water and reduces utility costs.

3. Go fly a kite. Check the 10-day forecast and look for a windy day in the coming week. Pick up a cool kite for the kids.

4. Make homemade Play-Doh. It's basically just water and flour. There are all sorts of recipes available online.

5. Build a "fort" in the living room. You remember this from when you were a kid. All it takes are some cushions and a sofa. If you want to get all fancy, you can use some large boxes and (with parental supervision, of course) some box cutters.

6. Go bowling. Bowling alleys often have special rates for families and will put out the bumpers so kids don't roll gutter balls.

7. Have a water pistol fight. Water pistols are often no more than $2. Pick up a couple and have a duel. If you want to make it a teachable moment, read up on the history and etiquette of dueling and make that part of the experience.

8. Hold Pajama Day. Stay in your pajamas all day.

9. Spend a day volunteering. There are lots of places you can volunteer and teach kids the importance of helping out. One idea might be the local Humane Society.

10. Have your kids come up with their own shirt designs, then have a custom T-shirt printing service print them up.