Got the junk food blues? Try these tips for packing a healthy lunch


By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.


Kids are back in school and they need healthy lunches that they’ll eat and enjoy.  Adults can get on a healthy track as well.

Studies have shown that going out to eat for lunch provides the highest risk of eating an extra 150-250 calories a day. This could result in gaining one or two pounds each month or 10 to 12 pounds in a year.

In my work as a registered dietitian, I have patients who see positive result from packing healthy lunches instead of eating at restaurants, gas stations and cafeterias. They find it easier to loose or maintain weight, control blood pressure, control diabetes and eat the recommended four to five cups of fruits and vegetables each day.

Look for sales to buy:

stackable food containers



insulated lunch bags


reusable ice packs


thermoses or soup mugs


These items help insure that the foods you pack are in good shape and safe to eat. Reusable containers and lunch bags are also friendly to both the environment and your wallet.

What’s in a healthy lunch box? Katie Sullivan Mortford, a registered dietitian in California, has written a great book, “Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids will Love.”  She offers a list of containers that work well, what to keep in your pantry and what each lunch should include. Then she provides some great recipes.

Mortford reminds us that the U.S. Department of Agriculture says 80 percent of our kids’ lunches need “substantial improvement.” I believe that many adult lunches also need improvement.

A can of pop, a bag of Cheetos and a bologna sandwich on white bread will not give you the nutrients you need to function efficiently.  At mid-day, we need high-octane nutrition to fuel our brains and offset moodiness. We also need vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support growth and repair in our bodies.

To have a week of great lunches, you need to plan ahead. Discuss lunch menu ideas with your family each weekend. Restock your pantry, refrigerator and freezer with supplies and ingredients. Cook extra meat, soup, stew, rice or beans.

The night before is the best time to get that lunch box on the starting line. Plan the menu for next day.  Set out clean lunch boxes, containers and utensils. Take advantage of leftovers from dinner. Pack them into your lunch containers before putting them in refrigerator. Select fruits, vegetables and a crunchy side. Fill and chill water or milk containers. Freeze a water bottle to use as your ice pack the next day.

In the morning, heat soup or other hot food before placing it in thermos if a microwave is not available during lunch. Assemble all the items into your lunch box, add ice packs and head out the door.


Mortford offers these six steps to a superb lunch:

  1. Start with the main course:  Salad, soup, rice and beans or the age-old standard of a sandwich.  This should include a good protein source.
  2. Add a fruit. Use seasonal varieties. Local apples are great now. Bananas are a fast pack year-round.
  3. Add a vegetable. If your main course is loaded with vegetables, such as a soup or salad, this is optional.
  4. Add a satisfying side or snack. This could be some nuts, healthy popcorn or whole-grain crackers.
  5. Don’t forget a drink. Pick water or milk, unless they are available at work or school.
  6. Add an occasional sweet. Goodies make lunch something to look forward too. Try a square of dark chocolate that’s 72 percent cocoa or a homemade whole-grain muffin or cookie. Or offer a small treat that’s not food, or a little note to your loved one that will bring a mid-day smile.


Here’s a tasty recipe from “Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids will Love” by Katie Sullivan Mortford:


Takeaway Taco Salad

  • 2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce and/or spinach
  • ½ cup cooked or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
  • 2/3 cup chopped raw vegetables (any combo of carrot, jicama, cucumber, red pepper, tomato)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup shredded cooked chicken or cooked/canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ounce tortilla chips


  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Dash of favorite taco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey

In a medium bowl, mix together the lettuce/spinach, corn, raw vegetables, cheese and chicken. Divide the salad between two containers. Crumble tortilla chips and divide between two small containers or wax-paper bags. To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, taco sauce and honey. Divide the dressing between two small containers. Yield: 2 salads.

webbonnie-brost_0Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.


Takedown Gym’s Amazing Race Kicks Off During Brainerd Homecoming Week

(shared with permission from ISD 181 press release)


Takedown Gym’s Amazing Race Kicks Off During Brainerd Homecoming Week
Saturday, October 1

Takedown Gym’s Amazing Race Kicks Off Homecoming Week

Homecoming is on the way and the Warriors plan to “Cage the Cardinals” from Alexandria on Saturday, October 8 at 2pm on the stadium field at Brainerd High School. The week proceeding the big game will be filled with festivities for the whole community, the first of which is coming this Saturday, October 1: Takedown Gym’s Amazing Race. Gather a team of family or friends to take on this adventure that’s an insane obstacle course crossed with a wicked relay race! Teams of 4-6 people will race around the Brainerd High School complex — rain or shine — doing fantastical feats of strength, endurance, trivia and silliness. Be prepared for each teammate to run, sweat, swim, slip, slide or trot. All will have fun!

For more information and to sign up, visit Brainerd Community Ed at or call Takedown Gym at 218-454-1770. The $10 per person fee to participate will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. The race begins on Saturday at 2pm at Takedown Gym with packet pick-up, followed by adventure activities at Brainerd High School.

“We DARE you to participate”

In partnership with the community, Brainerd Public Schools will ensure all students achieve their individual potential by providing the highest quality programs and resources to prepare learners for an ever-changing global society. For more information about Brainerd Public Schools and Homecoming 2016, please visit


Stop Feeling Mom Guilt

mom guilt

Ugh, mom guilt.

It seems to be an integral part of motherhood. Born at the moment of conception, the guilt starts wreaking havoc on your life. Even before the baby is born you start thinking, “I shouldn’t have done this” or “I should have done that.” And once they’re born, forget about it. Every little tear they shed, every little mistake piles up like dirty diapers until you’re overwhelmed by a giant stack of stinky guilt.

But does Mom Guilt really need to a part of your life?

It seems some mothers latch onto the mom guilt as a rite of passage. You’re supposed to feel it, right? Well, perhaps not. In most cases, guilt is a rather unproductive emotion. It doesn’t help you accomplish anything. It doesn’t make you or your child a better person. It doesn’t change things.

Think about the last time you felt a bit of guilt. Maybe you snapped at your child or didn’t feed them as many vegetables as you think you should have. What did the guilt accomplish? Did it change the past? Did it magically make you, or your child, feel better? No and no. Let it go!

How to Stop Feeling Mom Guilt

#1 Accept That You’re Not Perfect

Much of the guilt that moms feel stems from the weird need to be perfect – or to think that you’re expected to be perfect. Your mom wasn’t perfect, right? You’re not perfect either and no one really expects you to be.

They do expect you to do your best. However, doing your best doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. In fact, if you’re trying really hard you’ll probably make many mistakes. Sit back, repeat the mantra, “I’m not perfect and I don’t need to be,” and then relax. You’re going to make mistakes and the world won’t end when you do.

#2 Learn from the Mistake

When you make a mistake, instead of feeling unproductive guilt why not turn it into a productive moment? You can if you learn from the mistake. Assess what happened and why, and then create a plan to avoid making that mistake again. Move onward and upward as they say.

#3 Start Paying Attention to Why You Feel Guilt

Okay, it’s time for an honest moment. It’s time to get in touch with your feelings. When you’re feeling guilty about something, sit down and spend a few quiet moments assessing why. What does the guilt do for you? Why are you choosing to feel guilt instead of some other emotion? Maybe it’s easier to feel guilty than to be angry or frightened.

Guilt seems to be a natural part of motherhood for many. However, it doesn’t have to be. You can have a happier and more productive parenting experience if you learn to let go of guilt.

Shake it off!

Support Breast Cancer Patients in the Brainerd Lakes Area!

Support Breast Cancer Patients in the Brainerd Lakes Area!
7th Annual Pink Tie Party – October 13

 Pink Tie Party in Brainerd

Join us to celebrate the 7th Annual Pink Tie Party to support Breast Cancer patients in the Brainerd Lakes Area from 6:00-9:00 pm on Thursday, October 13 at The Woods Event Center (formerly Timbermist), 19624 County Road 3, Brainerd. The Pink Tie Party will feature hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, dessert samples, silent auction and raffle.


The Pink Tie Party presented by Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC) offers a special occasion to socialize with the members of your community while supporting an important cause. All proceeds benefit breast cancer patients through the St. Joseph’s Foundation at the Essentia Health Cancer Center and The Pink Ribbon Cupboard. Last year the Pink Tie Party raised over $12,000 and we hope to surpass that amount at this year’s event.


The funds are used to support patients who are undergoing active treatment for breast cancer through continued improvements in care and non-medical assistance. The Pink Ribbon Cupboard serves breast cancer patients living in our communities who are currently in treatment regardless of their healthcare provider.  Below are some examples of how funds have been distributed to support patients:

  • Gas cards
  • Wigs for breast cancer patients
  • Rent payment to lessen the stress on a family
  • Mortgage payment to prevent home foreclosure
  • Payment of auto insurance to keep this transportation resource available to the family
  • Payment of utilities to keep the lights on
  • Grocery gift cards for help with family grocery expenses


“It’s one way that as a community, we can collaborate to extend our outreach to improve the life of cancer survivors and their families in the Brainerd Lakes Area,” said Marian Foehrenbacher, Cancer Center manager at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center. “Having resources for helping to treat the entire patient, not just physically, spiritually, and emotionally through compassionate care by Essentia Health staff, but practically by helping to meet the needs patients have beyond the disease.”


David Jeremiason, Director of St. Joseph’s Foundation, comments, “We are so excited and appreciative to CTC, The Woods Event Center, GLS Promotions, Cash Wise Liquor, Range Printing,  and all the individuals and businesses that are supporting this event. We hope both men and women will attend and help us raise money to support breast cancer patients and their families through The Pink Ribbon Cupboard. All money raised will stay local—to help the men and women in the community undergoing breast cancer treatment.”


Come and join in on the excitement of this event! The first 200 advanced tickets will receive a great swag bag filled with goodies at the event. Tickets may be purchased through Kristin Larsen of Spectrum Reach, David Jeremiason of Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Foundation, Kathy Buxton or Sue Beck of The Pink Ribbon Cupboard, Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center Gift Shop, Cash Wise Liquor and The Woods Restaurant. Tickets are $25 per person in advance, $30 per person at the door.


Please come and show your support for this great cause within your community!


The Pink Tie Party will be held Thursday, October 13 at The Woods Event Center, located at 19624 County Road 3 in Brainerd, MN from 6-9 p.m.

Tickets may be acquired through:

Kristin Larsen, Spectrum Reach —218-259-5771

Kathy Buxton, Pink Ribbon Cupboard – 218-829-6205

Sue Beck, Pink Ribbon Cupboard – 218-829-7254

David Jeremiason, St. Joseph’s Foundation – 218-828-7362

Essentia Health – St. Joseph’s Medical Center Gift Shop

Cash Wise Liquor

The Woods Restaurant

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