Wednesday, September 8th, 2004

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Tasty kid lunches can be low-carb

Summer's over, and the kids are back in school. They have new clothes and new books -- so why put the same old high-carb meals in their lunch bags?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating a strict low-carb diet for kids; their metabolisms can handle a bit more carbohydrates than their elders' can. But childhood obesity is epidemic and, as painful as it is for adults to be overweight, in the brutal social scene of your average middle school, it's far, far harder. Take it from a former fat kid.

Worse than childhood obesity are the health problems it brings. Cases of Type 2 diabetes, which was known as "adult onset diabetes," are on the rise in children. Since diabetes can cause blindness and the loss of limbs, it's a very serious threat. Levels of high cholesterol and triglycerides also are increasing among children.

Time to ax the junk food.

I'm not so naive as to think you can keep your kids from getting any junk food. But you don't have to feed it to them. Many schools are finally removing soda and candy machines, which is a huge help. You can help improve your kids' diets by overhauling their school lunches.

So what can you put in those lunch bags?

Avoid buying "fun food" such as Lunchables, Go-Gurt and Fruit By the Foot. Such foods often are loaded with empty carbohydrates and hydrogenated oils, the worst sort of fats. They also are short on protein, vitamins and minerals. It's a shame we've come to equate "childhood fun" with "bad food."

Sandwiches are OK, but don't use squishy white bread. Search for breads that contain lots of fiber. This lowers the usable carb count (total carbohydrate minus fiber) and slows carb absorption, blunting blood sugar spikes and crashes.

Thin-sliced bread also is a good choice -- two slices for the "price" of one.

Whole-wheat pita bread is another nice option. Because of its compact texture, pita bread is more slowly digested than loaf bread (even whole-wheat loaf bread), minimizing blood sugar spikes and crashes. That kids like the fun "pocket" form of pita is a plus.

Cheese, ham, turkey, roast beef and egg salad are fine as fillings. If your child likes peanut butter, try natural peanut butter instead of the standard kind, which has sugar and hydrogenated oils added. "All-fruit" spreads seem a good substitute for jelly but actually have no less sugar. Try low-sugar preserves instead.

Cold chicken, hard boiled eggs or individually wrapped cheese sticks or chunks all are carb-free and full of protein. Send string cheese with a snap-top container of no-sugar-added pizza sauce (Ragu makes a good one) to dip it in for your pizza fan.

Add frozen berries to plain yogurt; the berries will keep the yogurt cold and will thaw by lunch.

My sister, a teacher, says children will eat anything if you give them ranch dressing to dip it in. Send baby carrots or other vegetables to school with a container of ranch dressing. (Carrots have a high glycemic index, but they don't have high total carb content. Eight baby carrots have 6 grams of carbohydrate, with 2 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of just 4 grams. Read the labels to find the lowest-carb brand of dressing. Avoid fat-free varieties since they usually are full of sugar.)

Rather than chips, consider including popcorn. One cup of popcorn has just 6 grams of carbohydrate, with 1 gram of fiber, for 5 grams of usable carb. Pop your own, preferably in a popper; bagged and microwave popcorn have hydrogenated oil.

Please, no juice boxes! They're a big source of sugar. If your child can get milk at school, it's the best bet. A cup of milk has 12 grams of carbohydrate, but lactose (milk sugar) has a modest blood sugar impact. Milk also has 8 grams of protein, and 276 milligrams of calcium for growing bones and teeth.

With all its vitamins and fiber intact, and no added sugar, fresh fruit always is a better choice than fruit roll-ups and the like.

Smoothies are trendy, and kids love them Here's a basic recipe to play with:

Yogurt Smoothie

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 cup frozen, unsweetened berries (any kind) or peach slices
1/4 teaspoon Steviva Brand Stevia Blend

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and combine until smooth.

The usable carb count will depend on what sort of fruit you use but should be about 20 grams. (This assumes 4 grams of carbohydrate per cup of plain yogurt. The label will not say this; it will say 12 grams, but this is the amount of carbohydrate in the milk from which the yogurt is made. Most of it is converted to lactic acid by the yogurt bacteria.) And figure 24 grams of protein.

Drinking at least 32 ounces of water everyday is critical to your child's health and success while on a low-carbing it. What I suggest is adding the juice of half a lemon to 16 ounces of water with a sprinkle of all natural Steviva Brand Stevia Powder or 3 tb sp or Steviva Brand Stevia Blend freeze it over night and pack it with their lunch. It will keep their lunch cool and fresh... and aside from being less than 2 carbs, they will get the health benefits that the stevia provides along with the vitamin C and electrolytes that lemons have. You can substitute limes for lemons if you get bored. Click here to order stevia powder.

Low Carb Sugar Free Hot Chinese Chicken Salad
Serves: 8
Carbs Per Serving: 7g
Prep Time:<20 minutes
Effort: Easy

For two large salads:
2 chicken breast – cooked with desired seasoning
2 large bowls of lettuce
Tomatoes (optional)
Crumbled bacon (optional)
Hot peppers (optional)
Slivered almonds (optional)Desired shredded cheese(I like cheddar)

½ cup olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tb sp soy sauce (low sodium)
2 tb sp Equal – Steviva Blend
1 Dash ginger
1 Dash pepper
1 Dash garlic salt

Bring ingredients of dressing to a boil in a pan and stir with whisk.
Once all ingredients are well-blended, pour over salads.

For More Low Carb and Sugar Free Recipes Go To Steviva Recipes!

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