First grade teacher Paula Steffen is passionate about teaching — and about her students. She’s also concerned about their health, just as she is about the health of her own family. Those factors combined with noticing an array of unhealthy snacks children often bring to school, led her to writing a booklet titled “A Purchasing Guide of Fruit Juice Sweetened Products.” It’s a guide anyone of any age can use to locate products sweetened with fruit or fruit juice instead of sugar.
“About five years ago, I started to realize I wanted to make healthy changes for my family. As a teacher, I saw the negative effects sugar had on kids — mainly overweight and hyperactivity issues,” Steffen said, noting she taught special education for 20 years prior to her current role as a first grade teacher at Roberts School. “My daughter Hannah was eight then and just getting into sports. It was a time when I needed to send healthy, convenient, packaged snacks with her to school as she stayed longer for sports activities.”
Steffen’s guide, in the form of a 17-page booklet, became a reality this past summer and is now for sale at various locations, by mail and also through school fundraisers. A considerable amount of in-store research was worked into Steffen’s free-time when she wasn’t teaching or preparing lesson plans at home.
The guide contains 10 different fruit-sweetened categories of snacks (many items are national brands). Categories such as bars and cookies (some gluten-free), fruit snacks, applesauce, fruit juice, frozen treats, and squeezable fruit fill the pages. All of the food items researched and presented in the guide are among those often packed into kids’ school lunches.“My goal was to find delicious, kid-approved foods with the focus on pre-packaged, convenient, commonly-eaten items – those that are nutritious additions for cold lunches, picnics, after-school snacks, road trips, and other activities.”
While the motivation for doing the book was to benefit her own family, Steffen also had a strong desire to help others. “My thoughts were — people are super busy, so I’ll do the work for them…I’ll do the research and share the information I find.”
The process began with Steffen and her mother Loretta Koenigs going from store-to-store in search of handy snack items sweetened with fruit instead of sugar. “Mom spent many hours with me as we read labels and recorded information. I really appreciated her taking the time to help and am grateful for so many other family members and friends who helped me along the way.”
Steffen’s daughter Hannah, 13, designed the cover on the booklet. Beth DeZarte, a friend from her church, oversaw the layout, design, and flow of information in an attractive yet easy-to-read manner.
Steffen paid attention to detail in her research. With each food product listed, she names the local stores that carry it and includes the name, website and phone number of the company that produces it. Her reasoning was that others who use the booklet might want to contact the company for more information such as to find out what other stores in other cities might carry the item.
While her book lists only local stores, some are national chains where the products can be found even when traveling out-of-the-area. She notes that many of the items can also be ordered on Amazon.com.
“Depending on the company, many products on the shelves contain (added) sugar, which is not good for us to consume,” Steffen said. “Keep in mind that children consume many of these products every day which multiplies the concern. My goal is to help others find the healthier alternative to sugar wherever possible.”
While this is Steffen’s first attempt at writing and publishing, it won’t be her last. A plan is underway for a second book. This one – a dessert cookbook – will feature 15 dessert recipes Steffen has created. All are sweetened with fruit or fruit juice instead of sugar – including her Berry Pie, a recipe featured with this article as a preview to her next book.
“Hannah had a birthday party and all foods were made without sugar. My desserts have been hits whenever I’ve taken them to parties.”
NOTE: Paula Steffen’s Purchasing Guide of Fruit Juice Sweetened Products is currently on sale at Festival Foods, Village Market, JK Designs, Scott’s Discount Printing, Book World, and Main Street Fashion in Fond du Lac. It is also available at Spring City Health Centre in Waukesha through Dr. Glenn Toth, a physician with an integrative family practice. In the near future, the booklet will also be for sale on Amazon.com. Those wanting to purchase it by mail should send $11 plus $2 shipping/handling along with your name and address to: Hope Enterprises PO Box 124 Malone, WI 53049. For more information, to host a fundraiser or purchase the book in person, email Paula Steffen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (920) 922-9223.
SNEAK PEEK …. DESSERT RECIPE
by Paula Steffen
This dessert has been made for parties and enjoyed by all! It is sweetened with 100 percent (no sugar added) fruit juice concentrate instead of sugar. We love the flexibility of the recipe because you can use a variety of berries from the freezer section. We have done a combination of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. You decide if you want to use several kinds of berries or just one or two.