Is Your Child’s Packed Lunch Healthy?

Every time you pack your kids’ lunches, you have an opportunity to give them a fun, healthy meal. Are you making the most of it?

Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD and Liz Weiss, MS, RD, authors of the book No Whine with Dinner, along with the California Raisin Marketing Board, offer the following tips for better lunches:

•    Take a Lunchbox Assessment. Look at your children’s lunches. Healthy lunches should include whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, pitas or tortillas; high-quality lean protein, such as roasted deli turkey, beans or tofu; low-fat dairy, such as low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and calcium-fortified soy milk; and fruits and vegetables, such as sliced apples, strawberries, California raisins, sliced bell pepper strips, baby carrots or raw green beans.

Make Packed Lunches Cool Again

<b>Make Packed Lunches Cool Again</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – For elementary school kids, tastes change about as often as the school bell rings. A child might be interested in racecars one day and skateboarding the next. Another might like drawing before moving on to fashion. And finding an insulated lunch bag that reflects a child’s personality is almost as important as finding the perfect pair of shoes. So, how do parents keep up?

One company, California Innovations (www.californiainnovations.com), knows that kids need lunch bags with the right designs and features.

“We realize how important it is for each child to have the perfect lunch bag, and we work hard to make sure that we have the right one for everyone,” says Mel Mogil, President and CEO of California Innovations.

The company has some suggestions to help parents find the perfect lunch bag for their child:

* Monstrous fun. Elementary school kids will have fun with the animal or monster designs, such as those on the Neo Lunch Pack from California Innovations. These lunch bags are made from neoprene, the material used in wetsuits. And they’re machine washable for easy cleaning.

* For boys or girls. Arctic Zone offers insulated lunch bags with car designs for little boys, and monkey designs for little girls. As they grow up, boys and girls can choose from skateboarding, graffiti graphics and fashion prints.

* Personalize it. Look for lunch bags with transparent pockets so budding artists can add a picture or their own work of art to their lunch bag. Switchable, self-adhesive patches and glitter glue can also help kids customize their lunch bags.

* Style up. Tween fashionistas might appreciate a lunch bag that looks like a purse but that has enough room to carry lunch and snacks for an entire day.

* Fashion meets function. As kids get older, durability and functionality become increasingly important. Look for lunch bags with hard liners. Expandable front pockets allow kids to take extra food to school as their appetites increase.

All of California Innovations’ products are Ultra Safe, a designation that means that their products meet all applicable FDA and CPSC safety requirements and the company’s own quality assurance and safety standards that go well beyond legal compliance. California Innovations is also the exclusive licensee of Microban for soft-sided insulated products, lunch packs and diaper bags. Microban anti-microbial protection helps to eliminate odors and bacteria build-up and makes cleaning easier.

Put “Brain Power” on the Back-to-School List

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<p>(<a   href=NewsUSA) – That groan you hear is most likely the collective sound of children’s disappointment that summer is almost over and a new school year is about to begin. And while you’ve probably thought of all the back-to-school essentials, there’s something you might not have considered — brain health.

Based on considerable research indicating that diet, exercise and rest can help improve cognitive performance, the California Innovations BrainFuel program helps parents lay a strong foundation for their children’s education. It features short articles that highlight recent brain research, the impact that sleep and fitness have on mental acuity, quick tips for packing smarter lunches, and recipes for brain-healthy meals. Here are a few tips to get you started:

* Skip the snooze and make breakfast. Research has found that breakfast-eaters have higher school attendance, reduced tardiness, better behavior, and stronger test performance than breakfast-skippers.

* Drop the pop. Is soda pop really that bad? “Yup. Affirmative. Absolutely,” says board-certified nutritionist and author Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS. Loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, soda pop offers a lot of calories and no nutritional value. Stick with the basics — 100 percent juice, milk, or plain old water.

* Go nuts! For snacks, skip the potato chips and pack nuts instead (allergies aside, of course). Walnuts are high in Omega-3 and antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin B6.

* Focus on fitness. Experts aren’t exactly sure how exercise fuels learning, but they know that it does. According to Dr. John J. Ratey, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “Exercise itself doesn’t make you smarter, but it puts the brain of the learners in the optimal position for them to learn.” Studies show that exercise enables cells to sprout synapses, which are crucial to forming connections the brain needs in order to learn.

* Encourage plenty of sleep. “Even minor changes in sleep… can impair a school kid’s learning, memory, attention [and] concentration,” says researcher Avi Sadeh, DSc, director of the Laboratory for Children’s Sleep and Arousal Disorders at Tel Aviv University.

The California Innovations BrainFuel program is made possible with support from LeapFrog, Horizon, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Bumble Bee, Dole Fruit Bowls, Parents Magazine and other sponsors. Get additional tips, learn more, and register for the $30,000 Sweepstakes at www.brainfuel4kids.com.

Plastics Create Oil With Energy to Spare

<b>Plastics Create Oil With Energy to Spare</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – America’s quest to reduce its fuel consumption and dependence on foreign oil may lead it to look for energy sources in new places — like the bottom of a trash barrel.

JBI, Inc. (OTCBB:JBII), a global technology company, has developed a process, called Plastic2Oil (P2O), that converts raw, unwashed, unsorted plastic waste into a fuel similar to biofuel. In April 2010, an independent laboratory, Islechem, validated the P2O process through extensive chemical, analytical and process engineering testing.

Islechem tested the process over 40 times using multicolored, mixed plastics. The laboratory determined that the P20 process is repeatable and can be done on a large scale. Approximately 85 to 90 percent of the hydrocarbon composition in the feedstock is converted into a “near diesel” fuel, while about 8 percent is converted to a usable off gas much like natural gas. In addition, only 1 percent of the plastic becomes residue, and that residue does not contain any highly toxic elements and is safe for landfill disposal. Even better, more energy is produced than consumed by the process. Early data suggest that the process creates twice as much energy as it uses.

“It takes energy to produce energy. The key is to get more energy from the final product than it takes to make it,” said JBI, Inc. CEO John Bordynuik. “Our process has a high positive energy balance of 2.0, while gasoline from crude has a negative energy balance of 0.81.”

The fuel produced by the P20 process has another major advantage over gasoline from crude oil — its production, including labor, costs only about $10 a barrel.

Gasoline from crude oil uses more energy than it produces and currently costs between $75 and $85 a barrel — and yet gasoline companies yield high profits. A process like P20 could revolutionize the market by creating high-quality fuel at much lower costs, while also helping to reduce the amount of plastic that becomes pollution or ends up in landfills.

JBI, Inc. is currently in talks to create P20 processing facilities in Europe, Florida, New York, California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Georgia and Ohio. The company is also looking for waste disposal or recycling companies, and people with under-utilized facilities to convert into P2O factories. For more information, visit www.plastic2oil.com or www.jbiglobal.com.

Tips to Keep Packed Food Cold This Summer

For millions of families, the coming summer season means activities — and lots of them. From the beach, to the pool, to games, camping, picnics and backyard barbecues, it’s often a mad dash from one adventure to the next with no break in between. Coolers have become the must-have summer accessory for busy families, helping to keep food and drinks cold as they travel from place to place. And under the current economic conditions, more people are relying on coolers to keep their meal costs down.

Tips to Keep Packed Food Cold This Summer

<b>Tips to Keep Packed Food Cold This Summer</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – For millions of families, the coming summer season means activities — and lots of them. From the beach, to the pool, to games, camping, picnics and backyard barbecues, it’s often a mad dash from one adventure to the next with no break in between. Coolers have become the must-have summer accessory for busy families, helping to keep food and drinks cold as they travel from place to place. And under the current economic conditions, more people are relying on coolers to keep their meal costs down.

Of course, not all coolers are created equal. California Innovations has engineered insulated coolers that withstand the rigors of summer. And to help people get the most out of their coolers, they’re offering the following tips:

* Use a high-performance cooler. Arctic Zone IceCOLD coolers use radiant barrier technology to deflect heat from the sun, helping the interior of the cooler stay cold.

* Pack a lot. Don’t be afraid to pack your cooler to the max, because that cuts off the flow of air, which can warm the cooler. The tighter the fit, the less air is able to circulate.

* Keep the cooler in the shade as much as possible. Heat from the sun will warm up your cooler faster. So stick it under a tree or an umbrella to protect it from the sun’s rays.

* Place the cooler on a table or blanket. The ground absorbs heat and transfers it directly to your cooler. Keeping it elevated makes it tougher for the warm air to get in.

* Always keep the cooler closed when not in use. It’s easy to forget, but even a few minutes can make the difference between having ice or water. Using a cooler with zipperless technology makes it easier to open and close quickly.

* Use plenty of ice or ice packs. The more ice you pack, the longer the contents stay cool.

* For faster cooling, add a little extra water to the ice. The water aids in surface conduction, which speeds up the cooling process. However, this method can also cause the ice to melt faster.

To find the right cooler for you this summer, go to www.californiainnovations.com.

A Helpful Tip for Summer Road Trips

<b>A Helpful Tip for Summer Road Trips</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – When 39-year-old Tricia Martin was a young girl, summer vacation often meant a three-day drive from the northwest suburbs of Chicago to Denver. It meant sweating in a station wagon without air conditioning, feeling carsick and fighting with her younger sister. It also meant lots and lots of fast food.

“We’d wake up and have a huge breakfast, stop at McDonald’s or Burger King for lunch and dinner,” says Martin. “It was the ’70s! My parents didn’t think about calories, much less trans fat. And gas was so cheap. It probably costs me more to fill up a tank [of gas] than it cost my parents to feed us the whole trip.”

When Martin hits the road with her husband and two children this summer for their first big driving trip, fast food is decidedly not on the menu. “We eat healthy at home. Why change on a road trip? We’ll pack a ton of good food and snacks, and stop at local markets to buy groceries along the way. It should be cheaper, too.”

She is not alone. This summer, when millions of families pack up their cars in the midst of a slumping economy, many will be looking for ways to cut costs. Savings likely won’t be found at the gas pump, as analysts predict a typical summer price jump.

But paying for empty calories and saturated fat is not the only option. In lieu of the drive-thru, many families are now bringing food along for the ride. And they’re turning to products like California Innovations’ insulated coolers to keep their meals fresh. Their collapsible coolers have high-density thermal insulation that keeps food and drinks cold for an entire day of driving. And once the contents are gone, they can be collapsed and stored under a seat to save precious cargo space.

Many families pack a smaller cooler, like the Zipperless Hardbody, for snacks. With its easy-access lid, drivers can reach in and grab food or drinks without taking their eyes off the road. Both products have easy-clean, leak-proof linings so they can be wiped down and refilled for the next day of driving. Offered in a variety of styles, sizes and colors, California Innovations coolers give families a new way to eat better and cheaper on the road this summer.

When the Martin family takes off for vacation, it will be in an air-conditioned car with plenty of healthy meals and snacks. “I just don’t want my kids getting hooked on fast food,” Martin says.

For information about California Innovations coolers, visit www.californiainnovations.com.

It’s Your Choice of Wine: Red, White or Green

<b>It’s Your Choice of Wine: Red, White or Green</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – “Sustainability” is a popular term when it comes to being eco-friendly, but what does it really mean? For California’s vintners and winegrape growers, who subscribe to California’s Sustainable Winegrowing Program, it’s very clear.

“Sustainable practices include the way we preserve and protect the land, water and air, and how we responsibly interact with employees and local communities,” says Kim Ledbetter-Bronson, Chairwoman of the California Association of Winegrape Growers.

Specifically, California vintners and winegrape growers are adopting the following practices in their vineyards and wineries:

* Using alternative energy sources. Growers and vintners use solar and wind power, and biodegradable fuel produced from vegetable oils and animal fats.

* Using sheep, goats, chickens, falcons, owls, dogs, beneficial insects and other creatures to provide a low-impact, natural cultivation method and to manage pests.

* Using “green” building materials such as straw bales, rammed earth, earthen plaster and recycled lumber in winery construction.

* Preserving wildlife habitats and creating nest boxes for owls, raptors and other beneficial birds when designing vineyards.

* Using cover crops and compost to prevent erosion, attract helpful insects that prey on pests and enrich healthy soils.

* Being a good neighbor and giving back to the community.

* Adopting winery and vineyard water conservation practices.

The good news for consumers: The increased attention to detail that these sustainable practices require results in higher-quality wines.

“California wine is ahead of the curve in adopting sound environmental practices, and we will continue to lead in sustainable wine growing,” says Robert P. Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute.

For more information, visit www.wineinstitute.org, www.cawg.org or www.sustainablewinegrowing.org.

Taking a New Spin on “Oiling the Wheel”

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – When people talk about destructive technology, they mention nuclear bombs and bio-weaponry — they rarely cite the wheel. After all, the invention of the wheel enabled shipping, industrialization, transportation and iPods — all the trappings of modern civilization.

But once we started making rubber wheels, as in tires, we created a problem. Tires wear down and must be replaced. And getting rid of worn-out tires proves problematic. Every year, about 188 million scrap tires end up in landfills, stockpiles and illegal dumps.

Because of their empty middles, tires take up significant amounts of landfill space. They also tend to rise to the top of landfills, where they can provide homes for rodents and disturb landfill cover. Shredding tires helps, but the process is too expensive to be used universally.

And believe it or not, stockpiles of scrap tires can cost lives. Tires’ void spaces can collect rainfall, creating pools of standing water that facilitate mosquito breeding. Mosquitoes do more than annoy — they also spread deadly diseases, including Yellow Fever, Dengue and West Nile Virus. Shipping used tires between states has helped spread dangerous, non-native mosquito species through the country.

Tires can also become fire hazards. Although tires are slow to ignite, once tire fires start, they are hard to extinguish. Foam and water often prove useless. In 1998, a grass fire ignited 7 million tires in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Originally expected to burn two weeks, the fire lasted over two years. The fire created noxious gas and an oily residue, which affected local communities and water systems.

America needs to keep its tires from piling up. Some tires can be recycled and mixed with other materials to create walls and footing for playgrounds. Others may become fuel for the very cars they used to wheel.

One company, JBI Inc., has developed a process, Tires to Oil, that turns used tires into a fuel similar to biodiesel. The tires do not have to be shredded or separated, and can become oil in as little as two to four hours. A gas by-product created by the process supplies all of the energy needed to convert the tires into oil. Turning tires into fuel will ease America’s dependency on foreign oil, not to mention reduce the number of scrap tires currently threatening human health.

JBI Inc. trades on the OTC under the stock symbol JBII. For more information, visit www.jbiglobal.com.

Create California-Style Simplicity at Home

<b>Create California-Style Simplicity at Home</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – California-style cuisine is the essence of simplicity, relying on locally grown, sustainable ingredients harvested at the peak of ripeness. Committed to eco-friendly growing practices, Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers offer this farm-fresh recipe designed to complement a range of California wines:

Warm Harvest Bread Salad

1 one-pound loaf artisan bread, preferably a day old

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, minced

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons pear vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 firm-ripe pears

3/4 cup pitted black olives, halved

3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

Set the bread on a clean work surface, and cut it in half crosswise. Remove the crusts and about 1/4 inch of the bread. Preheat an oven broiler. Brush the bread very lightly all over with olive oil, set it on a sheet pan and broil until the bread takes on a little color; turn and continue until all surfaces have been lightly toasted. Cool, tear into 2 inch pieces, put the pieces into a wide shallow serving bowl and cover. This can be done up to a day in advance.

Put the shallots into a small bowl, season with 1 teaspoon salt, add the sugar and vinegar and agitate the bowl gently to dissolve the sugar. Add the thyme, and let rest for 15 minutes. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, taste and if it seems a bit too tart, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Spoon half the dressing over the bread and toss. Set aside.

Put the butter into a medium sauté pan. Working quickly, peel the pears, cut them in lengthwise quarters; remove the seed cores and cut into 3/4-inch dice. Melt the butter over medium-low heat, add the pears and sauté, turning gently with a spatula, until they are lightly browned all over. Remove from the heat and add to the bread, along with the olives, cherry tomatoes and parsley. Toss the salad, and mound it on one side of the dish.

Serve the bread salad with a roasted chicken, using either your favorite recipe or the roasted chicken recipe at www.discovercaliforniawine.com (click on CA Wine Month). Pair the white meat with Chardonnay, the dark meat with Pinot Noir. To serve just one wine, consider a dry rosé.