For many parents the month of September heralds the return of a most unwelcome chore--preparing school lunches.
“I am a mom of two so I feel everybody’s pain,” said Tina Stewart, a registered dietician in product development at Loblaws.
“One of the largest things families struggle with is getting healthy things kids like and providing things that aren’t boring.”
The first thing Stewart suggests is encouraging children to help with shopping for lunch supplies and join you for the preparation. She said the more children are involved with the process, the more likely they are to eat what has been packed.
“Focus on variety. A school lunch is a really good time to talk about healthy eating with your children,” she said.
While one treat is acceptable in a lunch box, Stewart encourages parents to balance things out with fruits and vegetables, protein and grain products. Her suggestions for ‘treats’ include mini muffins or bars that won’t fill children up completely and spoil their appetites for the healthy things.
Finger foods like cheese and crackers, carrots and hummus are among her ideas.
“Leftovers can really work as well sometimes. If you’ve made pizza, send some left over (the next day). It will be cold, but some people do enjoy that,” she said.
Also try to avoid drinks that contain sugar. Stewart’s preference is water. But for those who want to shake things up, she recommends shelf stable milk, 200 ml sparkling juice cans or juice boxes that contain both fruit and vegetable juices.
“One of the things I really like is we (Superstore) have precooked chicken breast strips and these are great in things like fajitas or salad. It takes the guesswork out,” she said.
Non-Sandwich Ideas for the Lunchbox from Loblaw’s Chef Dana Speers
1. Mini English Muffin Pizzas: Toast English muffin halves in the toaster then top them with squeeze pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven until melted and bubbly. Cool to room temperature, wrap with foil and go! They’re great at room temp.
2. Healthy Nacho Snack: Pack a handful of multigrain tortilla chips, some organic baby carrots and your favourite hummus dip or salsa.
3. Tuna Salad without the Bread: Using a fork, drain and mash a can of low-sodium solid white tuna in water with some whipped dressing. Season to taste and pack it with some organic celery hearts for scooping.
4. Grilled Chicken Salad: Slice a leftover grilled chicken breast and arrange it on top of a salad. Pack your favourite dressing on the side in a small re-sealable plastic bag.
5. Pasta Salad: Boil a pot of your favourite pasta, drain and toss with goat cheese until melted. Cool and fold in a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, diced tomatoes and chopped fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper.
New yogurt on the shelves
You’ve seen the billboards and commercials, and now you can find iögo Yogurt in your local grocery store.
Recently launched nationwide, the extensive product offering from Ultima Foods is made 100 per cent in Canada and is owned by dairy farmer cooperatives. These yogurt products contain no preservatives, gelatin, artificial colours or flavours.
The seven different product lines include Greek yogurt, probiotic yogurt, fat free, yogurt drinks and yogurt in tubes. Flavours include mocaccino, lemon or key lime pie, cantaloupe, pineapple coconut banana (think pina colada) and apple cinnamon.
“Yogurt has a combination of nutrients that could be hard to find in other products,” said Jonathan Fontaine, a registered dietician with Ultima Foods. “It contains protein, calcium and carbohydrates, which is very important as a snack because it can curb your appetite for a longer time.”
With Vitamin D enriched milk and added vitamins and minerals, Lafontaine described it as a snack that was “pretty hard to beat.”
“Also it just tastes good. You could have the healthiest food in the world but if you don’t like the taste, it will stay in your bag,” he said. “This is a very fun product and a convenient treat..and the sugar total is not too high.”
Mini Ham, Pickle and Cheddar Ciabatta Subs
4 PC Mini Ciabatta Burger Buns
4 tsp (20 mL) PC Dijon Mayonnaise
4 oz (125 g) deli-shaved PC Traditional Black Forest Ham
4 PC Zesty Garlic Deli Sliced Dill Pickles, cut in half
8 slices PC Medium Cheddar Slices
1 leaf red leaf lettuce, torn in quarters
1. Open buns; spread bottom halves with mayonnaise. Top each with some ham, two pieces of pickle and two slices of cheese. Divide lettuce among sandwiches and close with bun tops.
Makes 2 servings
Hidden Veggie Tuna Sammies
It can be hard to get toddlers and even older kids to eat their veggies. Get creative! Finely dice celery and cucumber to stir into tuna salad sandwich filling. The kids won't eat lettuce? Leave it off their sandwiches, but put it on yours.
2 cans (each 170 g) PC Chunk Light Tuna in Water, drained
2 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
1 small stalk celery, finely diced
2 tbsp (25 mL) diced cucumber (skin on)
2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) mayonnaise
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh dill
1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) salt
9 PC Slider Thins Mini Burger Buns
1 cup (250 mL) mixed baby greens
1. In bowl and using a fork, combine tuna, green onions, celery, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, dill and salt.
2. Open slider buns and place on work surface. Divide greens among bottom halves of slider buns. Top with a scoop of tuna salad, dividing evenly, and tops of buns.
Makes 3 servings
Mini Cali Chicken Sandwich
Everyone will love these tasty little sandwiches which use scrumptious red pepper dip as a spread in place of butter or mayo.
1 pkg (336 g) PC Sesame Slider Mini Burger Buns
1/3 cup (75 mL) PC Roasted Red Pepper Dip
10 oz (300 g) thinly sliced PC Deli Sliced Mediterranean Chicken Breast
4 leaves Boston lettuce, each torn in thirds
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) loosely packed alfalfa sprouts
1. Separate slider buns and line up tops and bottoms. Evenly divide dip among buns, spreading over cut surfaces.
2. Place an equal portion of chicken on each bottom. Top with a piece of lettuce and 2 tbsp (25 mL) sprouts. Place top of bun on each sandwich.
Makes 4 servings