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February 2004

Laptop Lunch Times: February 2004

Obentec Newsletter

February 2004

Happy Valentine's Day!

Does the term "Valentine's Day" conjure up images of pink candy hearts and boxes of chocolate? While these treats are fine in moderation, for the many children who receive large amounts of candy--at school, at home, from neighbors, and from relatives, Valentine's Day can become a week-long or month-long sugar fest.

Children who consume large amounts of sugar are more likely to suffer from higher rates of tooth decay and obesity. And children who fill up on sugary foods may not be hungry when it comes time to eat nutritious foods essential for normal growth and development. The US Department of Agriculture recommends that people of all ages derive no more than 10% of their total calories from processed sugar. That means an adult consuming 2,000 calories a day should eat no more than 10 teaspoons (40 grams) of refined sugar per day--or one 12-ounce soda.) Children consume fewer calories and thus should consume even less sugar each day.

Since Valentine's Day is not only about treats, but also about love and friendship, it's an ideal time to think about what we can do to build healthy relationships and healthy bodies. If you're planning to take a treat to school or work for Valentine's Day this year, consider making one of our healthy recipes below.

In this issue, you'll find:

  • Better-Than-Candy Valentine Treats
  • Strategies for Smart Shopping
  • The Obentec Story
  • Featured Web site: American Obesity Association
  • What's in a name?
  • What works...Success Stories

Better-than-candy Valentine Treats

#1: Whole Wheat Hearts

  • Cut whole wheat pita bread with a heart-shaped cookie cutter.
  • Make sandwiches using your favorite spread or try some of these:

    • almond butter and raspberry jam
    • goat cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and pesto sauce
    • avocado, low-fat cheese, mustard, and sprouts
    • salmon salad (salmon mixed with high-quality mayonnaise, grated onion, and fresh chopped dill)
    • tuna salad (tuna, mashed hard-boiled egg, chopped celery, carrots, green pepper, and high-quality mayonnaise)
    • low-fat cream cheese and smoked salmon
    • egg salad
    • peanut butter and mashed banana
    • hummus
    • shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, mustard, and baked tofu

#2: Cinnamon-spice Muffins

Makes about 24 small muffins.

1. Combine and stir well:
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal
  • 3/4 cup oat bran
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
2. Beat:
  • 2 cups nonfat milk, lowfat buttermilk, or soy milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3 tbs walnut oil

3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients with a few swift strokes.

4. Gently mix in 1-2 cups fresh fruit (apples, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, or mashed bananas)

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until firm.

6. Serve plain or decorate tops with low-fat cream cheese.

#3: Make-your-own Trail Mix

  • Make your own trail mix by trying various combinations of the following:


    sunflower seeds
    dried cranberries
    sesame crackers

    dried apricots, apples, peaches, pineapple, pears
    dried mango, papaya
    date pieces
    semi-sweet chocolate chips
    yogurt-covered raisins
    yogurt-covered pretzels
    unsweetened stredded coconut
    healthy cereal

    Purchase in bulk to reduce packaging and to keep the cost down.

    To make this treat festive, wrap the trail mix in leftover pieces of fabric or fabric remnants. Tie with salvaged ribbons or bulk bin twist ties.

Strategies for Smart Shopping

Below is a list of practical suggestions for buying better quality food for your family. Start by incorporating just one or two. Then continue to make changes, starting with the ones that are easiest for you to accomplish.

  • Shop in stores that carry the most nutritious foods.
  • Buy locally grown organic produce at farmer's markets if you have them in your area.
  • Before you put an item into your shopping cart, read the food label and ingredients list carefully, even when considering products you've been buying for years. Make sure you're buying the healthiest product you can afford. If you don't like your choices, consider shopping at a different store.
  • Buy nutritious foods in bulk. (Read nutrition labels carefully before buying.)
  • Buy foods that remember where they come from. For example, choose corn-on-the-cob over corn chips. Choose fresh fruit instead of fruit bars or fruit-flavored roll-ups.
  • Buy organic products whenever you can. To keep the cost down, buy seasonal produce and non-perishable products in quantity when they are on sale.
  • Don't let your children convince you to make unhealthy purchases at the store. Provide them with nutritious choices instead, and let them choose from among them. If, for example, your child asks for a candy bar, tell her she can pick out a basket of berries instead.
  • Don't let your children convince you to purchase unhealthy foods they've seen advertised on TV. Keep in mind, also, that children choose foods with attractive packaging. (Younger children may not even know what's inside the package!) Talk with them about how to make wise choices, provide them with a healthy snack before going to the grocery store, and stand firm.
  • If your children follow you through the store begging for one item after the next, say "If it's not on the list, we're not buying it," and stand firm. Divert their attention by engaging them in food selection. If they're old enough, give them an item on the list to find.
  • Keep a shopping list in the kitchen to keep track of what you need to buy. When you see that you're running low on a particular item, make a quick note. Take the list shopping with you so you'll remember to pick up the nutritious foods that keep your kitchen well supplied.
  • To encourage participation from everyone in the family, try having a family "cupboard cleaning party." Throw out (or donate) all of the food that you have deemed unhealthy. Replace these foods with more nutritionally acceptable choices.

  • (Excerpted from: The Laptop Lunch User's Guide: Fresh Ideas for Making Wholesome, Earth-friendly Lunches Your Kids Will Love, by Amy Hemmert & Tammy Pelstring, Morning Run Press, 2002. Available online at

Our Story

Recently, a number of readers have asked us about how Obentec got its start. Here's how it all began...

Tammy Pelstring and Amy Hemmert met one day at the park in 1995 when they found themselves involved in the same new mothers group. As they got to know each other, they realized that they shared an interest in nutrition, fitness, and the environment. Within a year they had become good friends as well as jogging partners.

When their children entered school, they continued jogging together, often talking about their interests and experiences as volunteers at their children’s schools. Of particular interest was the poor-quality school lunches the children brought from home—processed foods high in fat, sodium, and sugar, packaged in wasteful, single-use containers that filled the trash cans and cost the schools a fortune to haul away.

Then, during a morning jog in the fall of 2001 they realized that the best way to help parents pack wholesome, low-waste lunches was to provide them with a lunch system that was not only convenient and economical, but also appealing to kids. That’s when they started thinking about designing, manufacturing, patenting, and selling Laptop Lunches.

They conducted a national survey and found strong support for their idea. At the same time national headlines on childhood obesity, poor nutrition, and the impact of landfill waste indicated that this was a product whose time had come.

In the winter of 2001, Obentec, Inc. was founded with the mission of helping families improve lunchtime nutrition and reduce waste. And since the two moms believe that healthy kids come from healthy communities, they donate a portion of profits to schools and environmental organizations.

Tammy and Amy continue to jog together. Now, in addition to talking about their volunteer experiences, they discuss company-related issues, business strategies, and how to achieve their goal of changing the way Americans pack lunch.

What Works...Success Stories

  • "Thank you for your great product. I was told that my son was 'the talkof the lunch table' yesterday because everyone was so impressed with his Laptop Lunch! One of his teachers asked me for your website, saying she wants to order a set for each of her kids and herself. Just thought you'd want to hear the positive feedback!"

       --Megan Leney, Saratoga, CA

  • "My 7- and 9-year-old like to be spontaneous. Last week they placed a 'mailbox' in the hallway between their bedrooms. (It's really an old cracked storage bin, but they've posted a sign that says 'mailbox' and they added a red flag that they raise when there's a letter to be picked up.) All week we've been exchanging short notes on scrap paper. We've been having so much fun with it that we're going to use it as a family Valentine's Day box for the month of February. We'll decorate it with recyclables next weekend and put it back in the hall. It's really a great way to remember to say 'I love you' every day!"    

       --Anonymous Parent, Dallas, TX

Do you have a success story to share? Email it to us at [email protected].

What's in a name?

We recently received the following email from one of our readers:

"Obentec Newsletter is a pretty generic-sounding name for your very informative newsletter. We love receiving it every month, but can't you come up with a better name than that?"

Well... maybe we can, and that's why we need your help. What name should we give our newsletter? Please send us your ideas by February 28th, 2004. If we choose yours, we'll send you a free Laptop Lunches T-shirt.

To submit your idea, click here or send an email to [email protected].

Featured Web Site: American Obesity Association

According to the American Obesity Association, approximately 30.3% of American children ages 6 - 11 are overweight, and 15.3 % are considered obese. This puts American children at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, which can lead to blindness, nerve damage, and kidney failure.

The World Bank has calculated the cost of obesity in the US to be approximately 12 percent of our national health care budget.

Is someone you love suffering from obesity? The American Obesity Association provides information about the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of obesity. Visit to learn more about their education and research programs, and to read personal stories submitted by visitors.

March Highlights

Glorious grain recipes, recycled art projects, and strategies for reading food labels!

Comments, questions, concerns? Please email us at [email protected].

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© February 2004, by Obentec, Inc.


Feel free to reprint or forward this newsletter with the following acknowledgement and contact information clearly visible: "Thank you to Obentec, Inc. for permission to use this copyrighted material. For more information, contact Obentec, Inc. by email at [email protected] or by phone at 831-457-0301, or visit their Web site at Reprint permission granted with this full notice included."