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Preparing for the work week ahead

Eating healthy all week long doesn’t have to be a chore. Just like doing your laundry to make sure you have clean clothes, the key is preparation and can become a productive habit.

I like to take the weekend – usually Sundays – to prepare things in bulk to use throughout the week as easy grab and go items for lunch and supper meals. I find if I have healthy options on hand for meals and snacks I’m less tempted to want those unhealthier items or opt for take-out on those lazy nights I don’t want to cook.

Here are some tips to help meals stay on track for the week ahead:

Prepare proteins:

  • Buy chicken breasts in bulk (especially when they are on sale) and cook three to four chicken breasts at a time. Eat one right away for a meal, then chop the rest up and place in the refrigerator. You can throw the chilled chicken on top of salads, use in a wrap, or heat up with black beans for a quick chicken fajita dinner.
  • Hard boil a dozen eggs at a time. You can use them for egg salad, eat them individually for snacks, or chop them up for a salad topping.
  • Tuna can be pre-mixed and ready to go in the fridge for wraps and sandwiches.

Chop produce:

  • Fresh produce always takes a little prep time. Do it in bulk right when you get home from the grocery store, and you’ll spare yourself the effort later in the week. Pump up the jams or your favourite podcast to keep yourself entertained, and go to town.
  • Start by washing all produce, then trim any ends such as carrot tops, lettuce head bottoms, and sweet potato ends.
  • Then, chop and portion produce. For example, cut celery into snack-sized stalks and prepare a reusable container with celery, carrots, and chopped peppers for a grab and go veggie snack. If you are going to make a stir fry, chop all veggies that you want to include and place in a large container then refrigerate.
  • Take the same approach with fruit – have it cut and ready to go.
  • At the end of the week, if you have left over fruits and veggies, you can throw them in a blender for delicious and nutritious smoothies!

Prepare breakfast meals to go:

  • In the rush of the morning it’s sometimes hard to remember the importance of starting our day with a nutritious meal. Having items on hand helps to avoid unhealthy habits on the run.
  • Make breakfast sandwiches (whole wheat English muffins and eggs), wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the freezer. To reheat take out of freezer and plastic wrap, wrap in a paper towel, and heat in microwave for 45 seconds or until warm. Add salsa for a delicious kick.
  • Pancakes can be made ahead of time, wrapped in portions of 3, and then placed in freezer bag. To reheat take out of freezer and plastic wrap and warm in microwave for 1 minute or until warm.
  • I usually like to make a large batch of muffins over the weekend to have on hand throughout the week to have for snacks. Come mid week I usually wrap and freeze them individually to ensure they are not being wasted. One of my favourite recipes, Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins (from AllRecipes.com), is a source of fibre and has ingredients from four food groups – fruit, grains, dairy and eggs!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup mashed banana

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners.
  2. Stir whole wheat flour, rolled oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and chocolate chips together in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl until frothy; mix applesauce, skim milk, and banana into eggs. Pour moist ingredients into well made in dry ingredients; stir just to moisten. Batter will be lumpy. Fill prepared muffin cups about 3/4 full.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of several muffins comes out clean, 16 to 18 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing to finish cooling on wire racks.

Makes 12 muffins.

Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins

Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins

Per serving :177 Calories; 3.7 g Fat; 35 mg Cholesterol; 34.2 g Carbohydrates; 4.7 g Protein; 3.5 g Fiber; 202 mg Sodium.

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Keeping the snack attack on track

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Kristin’s mid-morning snack

Smart snacking is an important part of a healthy diet because it helps kids get the nutrients they need to keep going throughout the day. However, when you hear the call “I’m hungry!” echo through the house, it is tempting to sacrifice nutrition in the name of quick and easy.

Balance is the key – when putting together snack suggestions, encourage your kids to pair up any two of the four food groups from Eating Healthy with Canada’s Food Guide – like a piece of fruit with cheese, or peanut butter and with whole wheat bread.

My usual pick-me-up mid morning snack is cut up orange slices and some delicious Greek yogurt. I find this healthy snack gives me that extra boost I need until lunch time!

Try to think ahead so you can have quick and easy AND nutritious choices ready on hand. For instance, I try to have my fruit and veggies for snacks washed and cut-up and ready for easy access in my fridge.

Here are some other tips to keep the snack attacks on track:

Variety

Variety in food helps make sure that kids get the vitamins and minerals they need, rather than just getting the same vitamins and minerals at each snack.

When offering snacks, try to offer an assortment instead of offering the same snacks day after day.

Healthy snack foods include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grain crackers, cereals, and bread
  • Eggs
  • Low fat cheese, milk, and yogurt
  • Protein-rich spreads and dips like hummus and peanut butter

Make food fun

Be creative when serving fruits and vegetables to your kids, when kids are interested in foods they are more likely to try them.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Cut fruits in fun shapes using cookie cutters
  • Serve fruits or vegetables out of healthy edible bowls, like a carved out pepper or melon
  • Make fruit or veggie kabobs using a variety of healthy options
  • Freeze 100% fruit juice with fruit chunks to make your own healthy fruit pop
  • Dip cut fruit in orange juice or apple juice to stop it from browning and add taste
Strawberry Kisses - a healthy and delicious snack, just in time for Valentine's Day!

Strawberry Kisses – a healthy and delicious snack, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Strawberry Kisses

Get creative for any and all occasions – with Valentine’s Day just around the corner check out these, why not try making these balanced and delicious Strawberry Kisses?

Ingredients:

12 Fresh or Frozen strawberries, washed.
1 ½ cup low fat plain or flavored yogurt.

Instructions:

Dip strawberries in yogurt, freeze and slice.

Happy snacking everyone!

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Why are some kids picky eaters?

Kids Eat Smart Picky Eater

Many children are picky eaters, which can be frustrating when trying to introduce new foods.

As a child, Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me or my brothers and sister get up from the table until we had finished off our vegetables – and I tell you, sometimes we were so stubborn, we were there for an hour!

It wasn’t until my teens that I discovered that I actually liked them – and of course now I enjoy them each day as a part of a balanced diet.

Not wanting to try new foods is actually quite normal in children. They do not always like new tastes or textures but there are ways to encourage children to try new foods.

The key is to focus on creativity, to not getting frustrated and to keep trying.

“Dos” for Dealing with Picky Eaters

  • Be a role model. Try new foods with the kids.
  • Be patient. If the kids refuse a food, try again later. It may take 10-15 times before they try it
  • Combine new foods with old favourites like adding a new vegetable to a spaghetti sauce.
  • Make it fun. Try cutting food into fun shapes or presenting it in the shape of a happy face. Even teaching the kids something interesting about the food can help them warm up to new foods faster.
  • Involve the kids. Bring the kids grocery shopping while you select new foods or ask for their help as you prepare the meal or snack. (See our related post: Kids can make nutritious food too!)

“Don’ts” for Dealing with Picky Eaters

  • Never force a child to eat a new food
  • Don’t make it a big deal if a child will not eat a particular food
  • Never use food as a reward. Don’t use dessert as a reward for eating a vegetable
  • Don’t withhold other foods until new foods are eaten
  • Don’t transfer your food dislikes to the kids. Just because you don’t like a specific food doesn’t meant that the kids won’t like it.
  • As every child matures they tend to become less picky about food, but everyone has their own tastes. Don’t expect your children to like every food they try.

What strategies work for picky eaters in YOUR family? We’d love to hear about them – please comment below, post to our Facebook and/or Google+ page, or email me directly at kharris@kidseatsmart.ca.

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Nutritious alternatives for Superbowl Sunday

Nutritious Southwestern Bean Dip

A nutritious alternative for Superbowl Sunday – Southwestern Layered Bean Dip – high in fibre, lower in fat

We all know that Super Bowl Sunday is not just about the game—it’s about the food!

I usually pass on the store-bought snacks and take-out foods and enjoy making delicious homemade dips for the Big Day.

By making homemade dips we can choose the specific ingredients that go in the dip. By choosing low sodium salsa and sauces, as well as low fat cheese and sour cream we can reduce fat and sodium content drastically.

Try this easy Tex-Mex layered dip with plenty of black beans, salsa and chopped fresh vegetables – which mean a healthy amount of dietary fibre – and it packs less than half the calories and fat of traditional versions of other Super Bowl favourites:

Southwestern Layered Bean Dip

Source: EatingWell

We use reduced-fat sour cream along with full-fat (and full-flavored) cheese to make the dip lighter without compromising great taste. Be sure to have lots of baked tortilla chips on hand when you serve it.

Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce can nonfat refried beans, preferably “spicy”
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup prepared salsa (low sodium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeño slices, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack, or Cheddar cheese (light)
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup canned sliced black olives, (optional)

Preparation

  1. Combine refried beans, black beans, scallions, salsa, cumin, chili powder and jalapeños in a medium bowl. Transfer to a shallow 2-quart microwave-safe dish; sprinkle with cheese.
  2. Microwave on High until the cheese is melted and the beans are hot, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Spread sour cream evenly over the hot bean mixture, then scatter with lettuce, tomato, avocado and olives (if using).

Makes 12 1/2-cup servings.

Nutrition
Per serving :146 Calories; 7 g Fat; 3 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 12 mg Cholesterol; 15 g Carbohydrates; 7 g Protein; 5 g Fiber; 288 mg Sodium; 164 mg Potassium

Make Ahead Tip
Prepare through Step 1, cover and refrigerate for up to one day. To serve, continue with Steps 2 & 3.

Go 49ers! 🙂

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.