Laura Fuentes, the Chief MOM at MOMables, the site she launched back in 2011 to show busy parents a variety of options to create fresh healthy school lunches in less than 10 minutes.
With the desire of trying to find a better way to feed her family, this wife and mother of three created simple, nutritious alternatives for packed lunches that kids will eat.
Laura shares her story, passion and desire with us as she continues to find better alternatives to feed her family and ours through healthy eating.
- How did the idea of MOMables come about?
Three years ago, my oldest daughter began pre-school. At first, I was very excited to make lunches and had all sorts of ideas of what I thought would pack well for school. Three weeks into lunch packing with many soggy leftovers and uneaten lunches later, I was desperate to find fresh ideas.
Soon, she began asking for pre-packaged lunches filled with ingredients she couldn’t have (she is allergic to phosphates and some nitrates). My poor girl begged for those colorful boxes every time we went to the grocery store, because her classmates had crackers and cheese lunches that included a sugary treat as well.
Filled with determination to help my daughter “fit-in” among her friends, I found myself making lunches that looked like what her friends were eating, but were made fresh in my kitchen. I soon became known as the “mom who made fun lunches” because the other kids began noticing her whole-wheat pancake sandwiches and cool “swords” for lunch.
At birthday parties, other moms began asking me to email recipes and give them tips on how to pack fresh lunches every day. When my email list grew to more than 100 moms, I knew I was onto something.
- I love the concept of creating healthy fresh school lunches. What can we as parents do to continue to incorporate more fresh foods into all of our diets and cut back on processed foods?
I deconstruct processed foods in my own kitchen all the time by “going back to basics”. My suggestion is to look at convenience foods with unidentifiable ingredients and ask yourself: what exactly is the basis for this recipe? If it’s “cream-of” or “cheesy” begin your recipe from scratch by using milk, butter, cheese. Canned vegetables tend to be high in sodium; for this reason, I prefer to use fresh or frozen vegetables. Fruit tends to be eaten quickly when it’s conveniently served; this is why I wash all of my produce the day I bring them home from the grocery. This way, they are easy to pack in the lunch box, they are cleaned and available for snacks and even dessert. The more available we make fresh fruit and vegetables for our kids, the easier it is to eat them.
- Does MOMables have any plans in expanding creating vegetarian and allergy-free meals?
We just launched our Gluten Free and Nut Free 8 Week Plan. I am thrilled to say that it doesn’t rely on packaged gluten free alternatives to familiar items we’ve grown accustomed to eating (like breads, rolls…etc). A vegetarian meal plan is in the works and possibly a vegan/paleo plan. Recipes need to be tested and made in a way that can be packed in a school bag and remain edible 4-5 hours later. Most importantly, I have to make sure we use nutritious foods that kids will actually eat. We currently have many subscribers who use our “classic” plan and adjust it to fit their dietary needs.
- In your opinion, what is the best way to teach our children about healthy eating?
As a parent, I must set the example and the tone of our food conversations for my children. If I want my kids to eat broccoli, I must eat it myself (although I’ll admit it’s not my favorite). Talking about food in a positive way and teaching them about healthier eating should be done on a regular basis. When my kids ask “why can’t we buy this?” I let them know the reasons why the fake snacks aren’t healthy or food for them. Then, I offer my kids an alternative that is healthy and appealing.
- With your growing business and family, how do you unwind and make time for you?
This is very difficult. I will admit that I am not the best at “unplugging” from work. If you are a MOMables subscriber and you send me an email, you might find that my reply was sent from my phone at 3am. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night to feed the baby and can’t go back to sleep; so, I go through my never-ending email inbox and hit “reply”. I have a never-ending list of deadlines that seem daunting on Monday mornings… and somehow get done at the nick-of-time. I’m thrilled for my new column in the Huffington Post called The School Lunch Project. Just when I think I have one less thing on my list… I find ways of adding more. In the end, I love my mission and it doesn’t seem like work. I take time off in small chunks throughout the week. I go to the gym, play with my kids after school or lay in bed with a good book for 15 minutes at night. Here and there I find ways. Although, if I got a free vacation to a tropical island I would go in a heartbeat.