- About Us
- Barbara's Community
- Special Offers
- Adopt a Puffin
- Buy Now
Chef Ann Cooper is known as “The Renegade Lunch Lady” because her mission is to transform our school cafeterias into culinary classrooms for students – one lunch at a time. She’s a nationally known spokesperson for better nutrition for school-aged kids and has helped a new generation of school kids learn to love healthy eating through her work with thelunchbox.org. With over 30 years experience as a chef, author, and advocate for a healthier food system, Chef Ann lent her expertise to answer your questions on the nutrition challenges you face with your children before school.
To learn more about Chef Ann, and to find out tips and tricks to teaching kids healthy food habits, click here
Question Submitted by Melissa M. – So many foods are advertised to parents as a great breakfast food for their kids. While I KNOW that all of them aren’t as great as they claim to be. I would like to know which ones are especially important to avoid. Which commercials/ads do you see that make you cringe at the thought of parents serving them to their children? (Note: I’m not trying to get you to badmouth any specific brands or companies. I just get overwhelmed with info sometimes.)
Chef Ann – Reading labels is a must. I’d avoid any items that have food colorings or dyes. If the food has numerous ingredients that you can’t pronounce or understand – avoid them. If cereal turns the milk colors – stay away, and avoid any food that has high fructose corn syrup or partially or hydrogenated oils. Finally beware of high sugar items, no matter what kind of sugar!
Question Submitted by Ashley F. – How can I incorporate more color (aka fruits and vegetables) into family breakfasts while still keeping picky kids happy? It seems like breakfasts are always a shade of brown in our house!
Chef Ann – We work with the kids in all our elementary schools to make a rainbow on their salad plates. I think the same kind of idea can work for breakfast. Make it a challenge – 3 colors (other than brown or white) needs to be on every breakfast plate. Ideas like dried fruit, fresh fruit and even some vegetables.
Question Submitted by Kim M. – I guess I struggle with what to serve that is healthy and will keep my son’s energy up until his school lunchtime. I usually ask him what he wants and he will usually pick frozen pancakes. Is it ok for him to eat the same thing every day? Are they even good for him? I give him milk and juice and usually he will only drink the juice. I would love to have some quick, nutritious and more balanced options for him to choose from. Thank you so much!!!
Chef Ann – Complex carbohydrates with some protein are the best breakfast options, and will help your son be able to think and learn from breakfast to lunch. Ideas that might work are granola, yogurt and fruit; polenta or grits; or even congee with savory toppings like cheese, poultry, sausage or bacon. If you want a make-ahead egg based item try quiche, breakfast burritos, breakfast strata or polenta casserole.
Question Submitted by Victoria O. – How do I get my 3 year old to consistently eat breakfast every morning?
Chef Ann – One of the best ways to get young kids to eat, as well as try new foods, is to have them participate in the process. Granola or hot cereal with numerous healthy toppings to choose from or smoothies with the ingredients chosen by the kids are ideas to get kid’s participation.
Question Submitted by Lori S. – My daughter is so finicky in the am. She won’t drink milk of any kind, and turns up her nose at any suggestions, so there’s no consistency. My son is a cereal every AM kinda guy so he’s easier, but its still not that healthy. We used to make them have smoothies but they’ve rebelled against and we haven’t force the issue lately. Any ideas?
Chef Ann – Cereals with whole grain, fiber and low sugar are a part of a healthy breakfast. However for more diversity and consistency I think having the kids participate in the process might help. You might try having the kids pick the fruit that goes in the smoothies. Or try hot cereal, polenta, grits or congee with the kids choosing the savory toppings. Another idea might be breakfast burritos with the kids choosing fillings and helping to roll.