Back to School Lunchbox Basics

By Olivia Martino, Co-owner and Registered Dietitian at Nourish Northwest

It’s that time of year again already and somehow it always seems to come too soon. Time to buy your Trapper Keeper, set your alarm clock and start planning out your first day of school outfit.  That’s right… the big yellow bus is coming around to pick you up soon.

For many parents this once again raises the challenge of how to ensure their kids are getting adequate nutrition and meals that they will enjoy.  As a registered dietitian, I have spent the past few years working with children, and I know how difficult this can be.  Many children rely on free or reduced school breakfast and lunch to provide their nutrition.  While it is possible to eat a healthy diet at school, this can take careful planning.  Many school districts post their menus and nutrition information online.  Reviewing the menu with your child ahead of time and guiding them towards making the healthier choices can be beneficial.

When your family is deciding on the best option for meals. It often comes down to your child’s food preferences.  There’s no sense in sending your child with a meal they are going to trade away for a Twinkie. If packing lunch is an option for your family, the most important thing you can do is involve your children in the process.  Take them to the grocery store with you.  Bring them to the produce section and let them pick out the fruits and veggies they would like to bring to school.  Also involve them in the preparation.  It is a good idea to pack lunch the night before, as mornings can be a hectic time.

When thinking about what to put in a lunch, you want to make sure to include a whole grain, fruit or vegetable and lean protein.  Avoid those sugary beverages, such as sodas, juice boxes, flavored milk and sports drinks.  Water is all they need.  The occasional treat is okay but dessert in lunch doesn’t need to be an everyday thing.  Get creative! Kids like things cut in different shapes or in bite size pieces.  Here are some ideas to get you started:


  • Mini Chicken Breast Sandwich on whole wheat roll
  • Turkey breast on a whole wheat pita, filled with lettuce, sliced cucumbers and red peppers
  • Snack pack: 1 string cheese, 8 whole grain crackers, 1 cup of grapes, 4 celery sticks with nut butter
  • Banana rolled up in whole wheat tortilla, spread with nut butter
  • Fruit Kabobs with yogurt dipping sauce

A Recipe for Summer’s Bounty

The Pacific Northwest has been blessed with a run of sunny, warm days. Evidence of this glorious weather is everywhere we look: sunburned shoulders, river floats, street fairs, apparent quadrupling of Portland’s population, and the reminder that Mount Hood stands quite close to the city. Perhaps the best indication is in the soil, as heat-loving produce springs to life.

While thrilling, many gardeners find themselves buried in one notoriously plentiful summer vegetable: zucchini. Backyard gardeners are forever looking for creative ways to keep the overabundance of zucchini from becoming compost (or from burdening the neighbors).

With their tender skins and satisfying pasta-like bite, thinly sliced raw zucchini and summer squash make a vibrant summer salad.  The “noodles” absorb the tart lime juice dressing, making this a refreshing way to whittle away at the prolific summer crop without having to stand over the stove or turn on the oven.


The addition of creamy avocado, sweet corn, and feta cheese, elevate this salad to meal status.


This recipe was a favorite in our Summer Bounty cooking class. Enjoy while the season remains!



(Adapted from

Makes 4-6 servings


2 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice

½ tsp lime zest

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 medium zucchini

2 medium yellow squash

2 ears cooked sweet corn

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

¼ red onion, sliced 

2 medium ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper



  1. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, lime juice and lime zest together. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Trim the ends of the zucchini and yellow squash. With a vegetable peeler, shave lengthwise into long, wide strips about 1/16 inch thick. When you get to the center of the zucchini, turn the squash over and slice from the other side until you get to the center again.
  3. Boil shucked ears of corn for 3 minutes. Cut the sweet corn kernels off of the cob, cutting close to the cob. Add sweet corn, cilantro, red onion, and avocado slices to the squash ribbons. Pour olive oil and lime dressing over salad and toss until coated.
  4. Serve topped with feta.

New Fitness Trend: Tabata!

Guest post by Natalie Clements–Tabata, Pilates & TRX Instructor at Nourish Northwest

Natalie Clements, Tabata Instructor

The summer is always a difficult time for me to stick with my fitness routine.

You would think it would be the opposite- that the extra Vitamin D, warm weather, and need for less clothing, would make getting outside more enjoyable.  But truthfully, there are many times I lack the motivation I feel I should have.  Maybe it’s the sticky air that has us sweating before the workout begins, the packed summer schedule, or the lure of friends and margaritas on a cute, sunny patio, but there are many times I just want to sit. Or eat. Or sit and eat.  With everything that goes on in the summer months, I often don’t have the time or energy to devote to a long workout.

This is why, lately, I’ve been hooked on Tabata! A form of high-intensity interval training, Tabata intervals are only 20 seconds long, with 10 seconds of rest in between- repeated 8 times.  The workout, often praised by the media as a “fat burning miracle,” can be as short as 4 minutes and can be done virtually anywhere.  The benefits of this form of exercise were discovered in the 1970s when Japanese researcher, Izumi Tabata, conducted a study of Japanese Olympians.  The study followed two groups of athletes and compared moderate-high intensity training with high-intensity interval training.  Results showed that the quick, high intensity bursts increased not only aerobic capacity, but also anaerobic capacity (the body’s ability to work without oxygen), resting metabolic rate, and can burn more fat than traditional aerobic workouts.  In other words, if done correctly, just four minutes of Tabata could produce better fitness gains than an entire hour of running on a treadmill.

Any exercise that incorporates cardio can be used for Tabata; what’s important is that you give 100% to each 20 second interval.  In the classes I teach, I like to stack four “Tabatas” on to one another;  that’s just four exercises, each 8 times, for a total body workout taking only 16 minutes (35 after a good warm up and cool down).   An example might be:

  • Burpees
  • Push-ups
  • Jump Squats
  • Mountain Climbers

What 100% effort looks like will be different for everybody, but as long as you give each second all you have, you’ll get an incredible workout in a very short time.  With every Tabata workout you’ll feel stronger, more empowered, and ready to tackle your jam-packed schedule with time (for that margarita maybe?) to spare!

Want to try this intense and effective workout? Go to our class schedule to sign up for our Tabata-Pilates Fusion class!

Tabata Class in Portland, OR
Two students mid-burpee!


Welcome to Nourish Northwest!

Welcome to Nourish Northwest’s blog.

Olivia and I met about six years ago while working in a nutrition research kitchen at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Our primary task was weighing jellybeans, broccoli sprouts, and pumpernickel bread to the gram for cancer prevention studies.

This work relationship blossomed into a friendship that centered on walks to the farmers’ market, weekly experiments in the kitchen and occasional midnight viewings of Back to the Future. These weekly dinners turned into multi-weekly feasts until I was spending most nights of the week on her couch. We joined a 24-Hour Fitness and quickly discovered that we had an affinity for the same group fitness classes (and the same adorable boot camp instructor). To us, there was nothing more satisfying than sitting down to a nourishing meal after an intense hour of yoga, rolling our eyes in pleasure at the perfect floret of roasted cauliflower.

One day, as we observed that it takes three broccoli sprouts to make a gram, we began dreaming, as many dietitian hopefuls do, of starting our own business—to break away from the standard of hospital dietetics—and really make a difference in the way people think about food and nutrition.

Olivia and I at our grand opening party

In retrospect, our daily routine reflects what we hope Nourish Northwest provides: a place to gather, prepare wholesome meals, enjoy the company of friends and to sweat.

In this blog, you can look forward to a range of musings. Heartier posts will include reviews on the latest food and fitness trends or a breakdown and translation of current nutrition science. More easily digestible entries will include recipes, tips on how to deal with an uncommon or unique food or a quick fitness move.

We are so excited that this dream came true and extend gratitude to our loved ones for making it possible.

We look forward to nurturing a heathy community here in Portland. Stop by the studio to check out our space!