Posts By: Theresa Albert

Remember the good old days of PB & J?

When we were kids lunches were just peanut butter and jam slapped on bread, a juice box and that was that. Now things are more complicated and you’re probably already sick to death of making your child’s school lunches. With allergies and litter free restrictions and your own kids’ preferences lunches can’t be just a sandwich anymore.  Here are a few brown bag lunch ideas to spruce up the old ho hum ordeal.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Jennifer Chait

Think outside of the bread box. Here are some lunch options that forgo the bread and some school approved fillings:

  • Romaine, Swiss chard, steamed kale leaves or Boston lettuce as wraps
  • Rice paper wraps (they make great day old salad holders)
  • Grilled Portobello mushrooms stuffed with filling of your choice
  • Apple slices stacked with cheddar cheese
  • Use skewers to layer fruits
  • Baby pita used for dipping; layer bean burrito fillings: refried beans, cheese, salsa…in mini containers.
  • Hollowed out cucumber stuffed with tuna
  • Celery filled with cream cheese
  • Red pepper halves hold everything nicely

Jazz up fillings by turning them into salad toppers. Try:

  • Tuna, olives, grapes chopped celery
  • Cooked potatoes, chick peas, curry powder and yogurt
  • Salmon, dill, chopped kale, honey mustard
  • Feta cheese, chopped peppers steamed Brussels sprouts, oregano
  • Frozen spinach, blue cheese, mayo, dried thyme, chopped garlic

Slap this list on the fridge and take a look at it whenever you want to avoid the brownbag burnout.

Here is a healthy recipe for a delicious sandwich that all can enjoy!

 

Baby Kale Caesar Salad Sandwiches

This mixture is equally good cold or grilled. If you want to take it for lunch, keep the salad filling separate until you are ready to enjoy and pre-scoop the buns.  Keep insides and break up onto a cookie sheet, toast in oven and then blend into breadcrumbs. (If you want to go low carb or paleo, simply swap the bread for rice or lettuce wraps!)

Makes: 4     Takes:15 minutes

4 whole grain Kaisers or Rolls

2 boiled eggs

½ cup silken tofu

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp anchovy paste (optional)

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp grainy mustard

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 clove minced garlic

8 cups baby kale leaves or other hearty greens

Mash boiled eggs with tofu, parmesan, anchovy paste, lemon zest, juice, mustard, vinegar, oil and garlic.  Mix well and toss with kale. Scoop out the centre of each roll. Stuff into bread bowls.

If you wish to have a hot sandwich, add a layer of shaved parmesan and grill on a Panini press or in a skillet, pressing to flatten.

 

About the Author

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com

Smoothies-Smooth or Stupid Move?

Should you be a smoothie monster? It’s true that you can hide a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables in any blender, even disguising spinach in this trendy drink. But while a few sips of this stuff may be worth a whole serving or two of fruits and vegetables, are they all they are still a healthy food?

It depends upon your goals.  While many weight loss regimes are touting smoothies as the holy grail amongst the myriad of weight loss tips, if you’re using a smoothie diet as your weight loss regime, you may actually be working against yourself.  Most contain 400 + of liquid calories and liquid calories are not processed by the brain as effectively as food that needs to be chewed.  You are made to sit down and work for your fuel, chewing sends the right satiety message to your body and brain.

Another issue with drinking your calories is that even healthy smoothies can be high in sugar.  Many have jumped on the green smoothie as a part of a healthy breakfast but most people put a high serving of fruits in their green drinks to disguise the taste of the veggies. All of that fruit equals sugar-(yes,even if it is all natural and from fruit). And fruit smoothies without veggies, can be high in calories and will spike blood sugar even higher. For healthy smoothie recipes, keep portions small and focus on proteins as well as nutrients from low cal vegetables.  Munch on handful of nuts to engage your brain and help beat the satiety odds, or add them to your smoothie.

If your goal is to smack as much into a kid’s mouth before rushing out the door, then the story is slightly different.  You still want to make sure they are only getting 1 or 2 servings of fruit, but because they can be very high in sugar you also want to focus on protein source.  Whey powder seems to be the most palatable for kids and many brands are now lactose free.  For vegetarian recipes, be sure to choose organic if you are using soy protein otherwise you are likely getting a genetically modified soy. Brown Rice and Pea protein are growing in popularity and are terrific sources too, albeit more expensive. Hemp protein can be gritty and green but it is a very nourishing option. It would be great to rotate your type of protein powder so you don’t get too much of a good thing, just be sure you choose a brand that doesn’t have sugar or other sweeteners since they add empty calories.

Another way to make healthy breakfast smoothies is to sneak in a few leaves of baby spinach, kale or even parsley or mint for some chlorophyll, fibre and phytonutrients. Add cinnamon for its anti-inflammatory properties and plain, unsweetened cocoa powder (great if you need to hide a color- if it looks chocolate, it is more likely to be accepted). Feel free to blend in some yogurt, Greek is best with its high protein count for protein smoothie recipes, but be sure to choose an unsweetened brand.

Here is a list of ingredients to make healthy smoothie recipes. Ask your child to circle their own concoction. You can’t really go wrong with mixing and matching fun and the process gives them some control over the outcome. And you know how I feel about giving the eating power back to the one who will have to manage it for life…right?

Follow these tips and a green smoothie really will be a part of a healthy breakfast. Bottoms up!

Liquid

Protein

Fruit

Veg

Flavourings

Milk Whey powder Berries Spinach Cinnamon
Almond milk Organic soy Banana baby kale Cocoa powder
Rice Milk Pea protein Pineapple parsley Vanilla extract
Greek Yogurt Hemp Protein applesauce carrot juice nutmeg
Coconut water Rice protein Cherries fennel fronds

 

About the Author:

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com

Back to School Healthy Habits That Last All Year Long

Dear whomever is in charge,

Please help me through another back to school season; I know that summer’s freedom and lazy ways are about to be replaced by the hectic juggle of school schedules, homework, making lunches, extracurricular activities, work and stress. If you have tips to keep my family on track without resorting to using words of the four letter variety, packing processed lunches and providing drive-thru dinners, I am all ears!

Signed,

Parenting is hard enough

 

Dear Parenting,

Yes, this time of year can be hectic, and it can be difficult to serve your family healthy lunches and dinners. As a nutritionist I am inundated with food products that sent to me by organizations who want my endorsement. And well many are convenient most of them get tossed because they are unhealthy, and I can’t in all good conscience recommend them. As a nutritionist, I know that there are shortcuts though when you’re pressed for time to rush out the door in the morning, and out in the evening for after school activities. Here are some of my tried and true back to school systems that will help you plan, and give healthy meals, all year long.

Back to School systems:

  • Get kids to make a chart of what they will enjoy for lunches. The chart must be filled in under these categories: Protein, Vegetables, Fruits, Carbohydrates. Dairy can be a protein in a pinch and carbohydrates must be whole grain otherwise they are “treats” and that is a different category. You can change this list monthly as the lunches begin to becoming boring.
  • Prep veggies and fruits on the weekends. This way, they are ready to be lunchbox loaded.
  • Double up on dinners. Baked chicken, barbecued pork or beef and grilled tofu are all great cubed as protein for the following day as leftovers or packed for lunch.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Fruit is best if it is whole but if you are looking for a packaged product, it should be sugar free. You need to know that even fruit juice or peeled fruit can spike blood sugar levels and that can create behaviour or fatigue issues. Be sure to serve these products with some kind of protein or good fat like cheese to slow them down.
  • Consider using ingredients other than bread for sandwiches and wraps such as: rice paper, sushi nori, lettuce leaves, steamed cabbage or kale leaves. They are just as good at holding fillings as bread but contain more nutrients and less sugar and salt.

Treats and Snacks:

  • Pure, unadulterated treats are fine once a week, like an ice cream on the weekends.  But, there is more evidence that daily sugar consumption isn’t just about cavities anymore. A diet too high in sugar can be directly related to diabetes, obesity but also dementia. In fact, the World Health Organization has reduced the recommendation of sugar consumption to about 6 teaspoons per day for an adult and less for children. One “fruit filled” snack bar can contain about 3 teaspoons if you don’t make the right choice.

 

  • I am frequently asked if there are any treat bars that I will endorse and I have discovered Nature’s Path Envirokidz line.  They are made with whole grain flours, natural sweeteners (like brown rice syrup, cane sugar and molasses) and are low sodium non-gmo, wheat and gluten free. These treats have an average of 1.5 teaspoons of sugar per bar, less than half of some of the more popular ones. Since they contain fibre and protein the sugar is slower on the uptake so your kid won’t be. Don’t be fooled by some products that say they are “naturally sweetened” but still contain too much sugar.

 

 

  • Consider using Xyla (often referred to as Xylitol) as a sweetener instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners. It is a natural sweetener derived from the sugar molecule but only has one portion of the entire composition. The net result is that it is lower on the glycemic index which makes it safe for diabetics and it has 33% fewer calories.  Canadian born, Xyla is derived from hardwood and looks like sugar, tastes like sugar and bakes like sugar and can be swapped 1:1 in any recipe. Yet unlike sugar, there are actually benefits to its consumption. It blew me away to discover that Xyla actually protects tooth enamel by changing the PH of saliva. It has also been shown to prevent ear infections in children. Xyla is available in a free pour bag but it is also used in products like sugar free ketchup (the ubiquitous kid dip), toothpaste and mouthwash.

And finally here are some of my personal food rules I consider non-negotiable no matter what time of year it is as I believe they help kids to become adults that can feed themselves well!

  • Parents decide what gets served, kids can decide how much.
  • Food is the fuel for our cells allowing us to function, think and grow. It shall be respected.
  • We will not fight or finagle over food.
  • The goal is to get kids to grow into adults who can feed themselves well when they are on their own (in a few short years…believe me)
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