Food Planning Tips for Success

By Emily Schwartz

It’s that time again: back to school time! Although exciting, the new school year often means more activities and less time to focus on meal planning and nutrition. Taking even just a moment to plan ahead can help keep your family healthy while maximizing your time and allowing you to do more of the things you love. Here are quick and easy tips to set you and your family up for success, anytime of the day!

Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day as it helps give us the energy and nutrients necessary to focus and function properly throughout the day. Kids that enjoy healthy, balanced breakfasts are also set to perform better in school and maintain a healthier weight. Putting together a nutritious breakfast doesn’t have to take much effort. Just pair a source of protein with a source of fiber—two hunger-fighting nutrients—to help carry you and your family to your next meal or snack. For example, try having a Greek yogurt cup with berries or whole grain toast with nut butter and banana slices.

Keep the “health train” going throughout the day with a delicious and nutritious packed lunch. Take a little time on the weekend to prepare and portion foods, like fresh cut veggies, hard-boiled eggs, or popcorn, to help streamline the packing process on more busy weekdays. Also, keep nutrient-rich, ready-to-pack foods like granola bars, hummus, or guacamole cups and whole fruit, like apples, bananas, or oranges, on hand to easily round out packed meals. Try one of these packed lunch favorites or create your own:

● Nut Butter and “Jelly” Sandwich (try mashed fresh fruit like bananas or berries in place of jelly), baby carrots, popcorn, and milk

● Hummus, whole grain pita bread, bell pepper slices, grapes, and milk

● Cheese slices, whole grain crackers, snap peas, and strawberries

Although breakfast and lunch are important, supper is the meal most likely to be enjoyed as a family. And, family meals are associated with their own positive benefits. In fact, kids who partake in more family meals each week tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally, perform better in school, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors as they get older. To help enjoy more meals as a family, try planning meals ahead of time, making a list of go-to meals, and enlisting your entire family to help in the meal preparation process.

For even more ideas, we at Festival Foods will be celebrating National Family Meals Month™ the entire month of September. Started in 2015 by the Food Marketing Institute, National Family Meals Month™ is a national campaign aimed at promoting the commitment of enjoying more meals each week as a family. Throughout September, we will be sharing family meal ideas on our blog at, sampling our Dine at Home Deli meal options in our stores and sending you home with a Festival Foods oven mitt. We invite you to join us for #FestivalFamilyMeals and to commit to having one more family meal each week this fall.

Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited, registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian. 

Massage for Special Needs: Communication Is Key

By Katie Meyer, LMT, CFT, Sans Souci Massage

Techniques the massage therapist might use with neurological impairments, geriatric and palliative care, and oncology massage include the following:

► Manual lymph drainage (MLD) indirectly stimulates circulation in the body, stimulates immune system, and stimulates parasympathetic system (relaxation, reducing pain, and muscles spasms). The lymphatic system basically acts as a waste drainage system with nodes that are filters for the body. The lymphatic system is not self-propelled; it relies on muscular contraction in order to keep it flowing.When muscles are inactive, this creates stagnation and therefore weakens the immune system. When the lymphatic system is not working correctly edema (swelling) can occur.

► Non-circulatory massage is to provide a massage that does not promote circulation of blood or lymph flow. This will be the choice if the individual is on strong medications (chemotherapy, cancer treatments, steroids), if there is a disruption in their fluid balance due to medication, or when an organ such as the spleen, liver, kidney, or heart are compromised. This can be a full-body massage with holding, light pressure massage (slight movement of the skin and superficial adipose tissue), limited compressions, passive movement of joints may be done gently, and hand/foot massage.

► Low-impact massage is usually a shorter session (thirty minutes maximum) with the client in a side-lying and/or supine (face up) position. Use bolsters helps make the client comfortable.  Light to gentle pressure is used for the strokes. Full hand contact is maintained with slow even rhythms.

► Oncology massage is safe if performed by a skilled therapist. Benefits include: decreased anxiety before surgery or chemotherapy treatment, and help with relaxation, which in turn promotes better sleep, decrease in pain, etc. Your therapist will develop a care plan that is designed specifically for you after learning what type of cancer you have or have had, the treatment you have received, and the state of health you are in that day. Things the therapist will take into consideration are: the tumor site, bone metastasis, risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis), risk of lymphedema, if vital organs are involved, if the individual has any restrictions on activity, and how the individual feels typically and on the day of the session. Therapists trained in oncology massage will use precautions so they do no harm.  I recently attended a thirty-two-hour continuing education course on oncology massage. I was so surprised how therapeutic this massage was. I typically like deep tissue massage, and I was astonished at my enjoyment and the deep connection that was made between therapist and client during this training. I am grateful for learning these new techniques and look forward to helping special needs clients soon.

► Neurological Impairments such as spinal cord injuries require the client to communicate to the therapist about their impairment and if they have any complications due to the paralysis. Clients who are bedridden or wheelchair bound can still benefit from massage. Because of the loss of sensation, a therapist has to be very careful about using the right techniques with these individuals.

► Cerebral palsy (CP) describes an injury to the brain that occurred prenatally or in early infancy. Individuals with CP benefit most from indirectly affecting the muscle through low-impact massage, non-circulatory massage, gentle rocking, or energy or craniosacral work.  Massage will help this individual with better sleep, unbinding of postural distortions, ease with breathing, and increase of relaxation. Communication is key in finding the correct technique that will work with each case.  It is good to talk with the caregiver and the individual client to find out what the client is specifically looking for.

► Geriatric and palliative care clients might have different medical devices that the therapist must work around (feeding tubes, ventilators, tracheostomies, catheter bags, colostomy bags, etc.) Benefits include: increased circulation,stimulation of their parasympathetic system (rest and digest), decreased joint stiffness, decreased pain, decreased anxiety and depression, and more restful sleep. The techniques used can be performed in the side-lying or in the supine position to make it easier for them. The massage can be provided on a massage table or hospital bed, or they can sit in a recliner and still enjoy a full massage without the stress of trying to get on and off the table. I have worked on clients in homes, assisted living facilities, memory care facilities, and hospitals.

There are many reasons a therapist must change the normal massage routine for individuals. Everyone has special circumstances that require adjustments; so open communication between the client and the therapist is a must. However, each individual is different, and the stage of the condition they are in will dramatically change the care they receive at that particular time.

Katie is a co-owner of Sans Souci Massage. Visit Sans Souci Massage to set up an appointment. If you are interested in an out-call, then you will need to call 715-830-9890 to discuss this with Katie or email the details of the appointment you are searching for.

Clean Eating: Getting to the Source

By Anne Bauch, RD, Mayo Clinic Health System

As a dietitian, I’ve seen many nutrition trends over the years. Many of us are looking for the best ways to eat to promote weight loss, lower the risk of chronic disease, or improve overall wellness. The most recent nutrition trend is called clean eating.

Clean eating is the practice of choosing foods in their whole-food state and avoiding processed and refined foods.However, the interpretation of clean eating can vary from person to person. For some, only whole foods are clean; for others, minimally processed foods are acceptable. Clean eating also can imply eating mostly vegetables and fruits, whole grains, animal- and plant-based protein, nuts, seeds, and oils. Clean eating is an intentional way of eating that includes only minimally processed, nonpackaged foods that do not originate from a factory.

Clean eating is a lifestyle. It’s a way of eating that encourages the consumer to be mindful of the traceability of our food. Clean eating can encourage us to read labels, know our food sources, and allow us to think more thoughtfully about the nutritional value in the food we choose to eat.

As a dietitian, however, I do have some concerns that clean eating may be misinterpreted. The clean eating craze can imply anyone who isn’t eating clean is eating dirty. Consumers may feel defeated if they are unable to be successful in meeting the clean eating definitions. Clean eating is not meant to assign moral value with eating habits. Because a person chooses to eat clean doesn’t mean they are a better eater compared to someone else. It’s great the clean eating trend is prompting more people to look at eating less of the things we don’t want in our diet, but it shouldn’t make anyone feel inferior if they eat something out of a bag or box.

Along with the clean eating movement, many manufacturers are misrepresenting scientific evidence on food packaging. They refer to their products as clean or having clean ingredients. Even when a food product is made with clean ingredients, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier. Fresh pressed juice still is a concentrated form of sugar, and vegan chocolate pudding still is a dessert.

Eating right is a challenging endeavor. Whether it’s trying a hot food trend or committing to a healthier eating philosophy with a new diet, there are several tried and true eating principles that can’t steer you wrong.

▪ Incorporate more whole foods in your diet. Use more foods that are straight from the farm. Add more fruit and vegetables to your meals or have them as snacks. Select whole grains when able. Use grass-fed and free-range meats, and lower-fat dairy along with nuts and seeds.

▪ Limit processed foods. Avoiding all processed foods can be limiting, especially since most foods we eat and drink, in some way, have been processed. However, start by eliminating heavily processed or the foods we consider to be junk food. When selecting processed foods, look for ingredient lists that are transparent; in other words, foods that are really what they claim to be. You should be able to know the source from all the ingredients on the packaging. There are some exceptional packaged foods that make it easier to eat well—fish out of a can, dried beans or peanut butter from a jar are just a few examples.

▪ Eliminate refined sugar. In general, eating right isn’t about avoiding any one food in particular. Eating right should be about choosing simple, unrefined foods and enjoying them. Foods in a natural state do not contain added sugar. Try to reduce refined sugars, because it is nothing but empty calories.

▪ Drink more water. Focus on managing your thirst with water. Don’t rely heavily on sweetened beverages or juices to stay hydrated. Flavoring water with lemon or other fruits can make for a healthy sipping option.

Anne Bauch is a registered dietitian who sees patients in the Diabetes Education Department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Old-Time Farm Animals Make a Visit to Eau Claire

By Eric Rasmussen

The Local Lounge, a new restaurant in Eau Claire opening this month, asked Second Opinion magazine to produce an article that envisions what life might be like in the Chippewa Valley fifty years from now. The article will hang in their “Future Foyer,” along with pieces from other local publications. Local author and English teacher Eric Rasmussen produced the following piece, which poses some interesting questions. What will the future of local farming and food look like? How will choices made today affect what our city and landscape look like tomorrow?

Fifty years ago, residents of the Chippewa Valley were no strangers to the animals that used to populate traditional farms. A few minutes in any direction (by gas-powered car, no less!) placed early 21st century Eau Claire residents out among the fields,where cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens roamed the landscape. Older residents no doubt remember the joy they experienced as kids when they saw these creatures, as well as the smells these animals produced.

Later this month, Chippewa Valley Protein Labs will be bringing some of these animals back to Eau Claire for a special one-day event, titled “An Afternoon on the Farm.” Modeled after a type of attraction that used to be common at fairs and festivals called a “Petting Zoo,” kids and adults can touch these animals, feed them vegetable byproducts, and learn about how these animals used to be part of the American food system.

“For hundreds of years, that’s how most Americans got their food,” explains Kathia Olson, who handles public relations for CV Protein Labs. “Today we can grow all of the protein a community our size needs at our facility on the city’s south side. But as little as fifty years ago, thousands of acres was needed to produce enough meat to feed everyone.” When asked if attendees will get an opportunity to try some of the “meat” that the animals used to provide, she explains that most modern people would find it pretty distasteful. “You might recognize some of the flavors from some of the products we produce in the lab, but everyone I’ve talked to who’s tried true meat hasn’t cared for it. There’s lots of fat and tendons and things that people aren’t used to anymore.”

The event is part of CV Protein Labs tenth anniversary celebration. For a decade, the company has turned plant and other organic matter into poultry, pork, beef, and seafood products from their facility on the former Oakwood Mall site. The company supplies residents of the northwest corner of the state, and their innovative turkey recipe has earned them global acclaim. “We’re always working to improve our flavors,” says Olson. “But nutrition is our number one goal, and the health of the Chippewa Valley is testament to the work we’ve done.”

Attendees of the “Afternoon on the Farm” event will want to remember a few important pieces of advice before they see these animals for the first time. First, they can bite, so be respectful of these living things. Next, don’t be surprised by the pungent odor. And last, don’t be afraid to touch the animals. They are a living link to the way things used to be, to a way of life that is so close, yet so far away. Also, don’t worry if they “moo” or “baa” at you. That just might mean they like you.

Comfort Food from the Best Local Ingredient

By Chef Joseph Meicher, The Local Lounge

Growing up, I have always loved cooking. I worked in Madison at the University Club. When I moved up to Eau Claire in 2007 to attend business school at UWEC, I took a job at Mona Lisa’s.  After graduating, I spent one month in sales and quickly returned to the kitchen at Mona Lisa’s.  I worked through every station there and wanted to continue learning and advancing my career. I went in October of 2012 to work in Tuscany at Podere il Casale, an agriturismo outside of Montepulciano. While working on the farm, I had the opportunity to cook in their restaurant daily. We prepared a different menu every day based on what was in our garden, freezer, larder, etc. In addition to cooking, I was lucky enough to harvest grapes for their wines, olives for their oil, make incredible goats’ and sheep’s milk cheeses, take sheep to pasture along with some dogs, and take the goats into the forest to forage every evening. It was an awesome experience that taught me so much about local food and taking pride in the products that are from one’s region.

The people I worked with were all incredibly passionate about food. They cared deeply about every detail that went into making a dish. One dish in particular that really got people fired up was a marinated eggplant dish. There were only four ingredients, eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt; however, the method of preparing the dish seemed to be contested every day. Enis, the chef, insisted that the eggplant should be salted, pressed, grilled (with no oil), then drizzled with a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil. The owner of the farm, Ulisse, was certain that the best way to prepare the dish was to oil and salt the eggplant, grill them immediately, then as they came off the grill, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on each slice followed by a bit of olive oil. Both versions were absolutely wonderful; the passion they had for their method was memorable and stuck with me. I ended up preparing the dish differently every day based on who I thought might walk into the kitchen. If Ulisse was making cheese, I would mix the oil and lemon juice. If Enis was at the market, I would grill the eggplant right away and finish with the lemon juice first then the olive oil. It was inspiring to work with people that cared so much about food, particularly the foods and dishes specific to their area in Tuscany.

The Local Lounge has been a phenomenal opportunity.  I have been lucky enough to collaborate with a very talented and passionate staff to construct our menu.  It is really exciting to be surrounded by like minded cooks that are always striving to figure out the best way to showcase our local ingredients.  We have a phenomenal kitchen staff ready to serve some really awesome food that will be familiar and comforting but executed at a level you would find in Minneapolis or Madison with the best ingredients available in the Chippewa Valley.Using local ingredients is common sense if you are sincerely trying to cook good food. Our goal is simply to show off the best ingredients to our guests in a way that is familiar and not pretentious. We will be using many local farmers throughout the growing season and preserving as many ingredients as possible so that we can continue to serve locally sourced foods all year long.

We will measure success in the restaurant not only monetarily, but also by how much we can support local farmers and by how much we can give back to our community. Our goal is to be a profitable restaurant that plays an integral role in helping sustain local farms as well as getting involved with non-profit work, local charities,and other organizations that do good for the community.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to cook alongside such a talented and passionate group for the Eat Local Challenge. It is a really exciting time for the Eau Claire restaurant scene. I think the meal will be a great chance to show off some of the awesome ingredients and the awesome talent available to us in the Chippewa Valley.