Healthy Eating in a Hurry

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How can my family eat healthy when we're so busy?

It is possible to fit healthy eating into you and your child’s busy schedule, even when your family is short on time. There are many healthy options that are as quick as they are nutritious. Planning ahead helps make healthy eating choices easier because:

  • Decisions about what to eat are made ahead of meal or snack time. This helps limit last minute calorie-laden convenience food choices such as potato chips. By planning your child’s meals and snack ideas before they happen, you will avoid excess sugar, salt and fat in your choices.
  • You’re more likely to have healthy food options on hand. Here’s a list to help stock your pantry.
  • You’ll be able to enjoy a variety of foods using a meal plan. You can involve your child in planning meals and snacks as well to teach them healthy eating habits.

What are some ideas for healthy foods to have on hand?

  • Stock up on these staples: eggs, low-fat milk, unsweetened soy milk, low-fat or Greek yogurt, low-fat or partly skimmed cheese, hummus or bean dips, nut butters with no added salt or sugar, unsalted nuts and seeds, cans of tuna or salmon packed in water, fresh, canned or dried unsweetened fruits like apples or bananas and canned chickpeas or black beans.
  • Chop fresh vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, celery and cherry tomatoes and place them in see-through containers in the fridge where your child can easily see them.
  • Have 100 per cent whole grain breads, crackers or tortilla wraps on hand.

What are some healthy grab and go breakfast ideas?

Breakfast is important to give your children the needed nutrition boost to start their day. Here are some easy choices:

  • Hard boiled eggs (prepared the night before) with a scoop of guacamole.
  • Fresh fruit or canned unsweetened applesauce or fruit such as peach slices with low-fat yogurt.
  • English muffins or bagels spread with a nut butter.
  • Fruity muesli or overnight oatmeal made the night before for a healthy on-the-go breakfast.
  • Scrambled egg quesadilla is easy to eat on the go. Serve in a napkin for maximum convenience.
  • Breakfast frittata in a muffin tin made the night before makes a perfect to-go breakfast .
  • Apple blueberry smoothies made in the morning or the night before, poured into a travel mug.

What are some lunch ideas?

  • Whole grain pancakes or waffles with fruit and yogurt
  • Build your own pizza with English muffin or pita, tomato sauce, toppings and grated cheese
  • Falafel or whole wheat pita with veggies
  • Pasta salad, milk, fruit
  • Hard cooked egg, whole grain crackers, red pepper strips
  • Soft taco with bean dip and veggies
  • Homemade whole grain muffins:
  • Banana bran muffin and cheese
    • Oatmeal carrot muffin and cottage cheese
    • Cornmeal muffin with BBQ chicken or chili
    • Bran muffin with yogurt and veggie sticks

Dunk-a-lunch

Finger food and dunking are always fun! Try these combinations for a healthy choice:

  • Hummus, bean, or cottage cheese dip served with assorted veggies and pita bread cut into triangles
  • Fresh cut fruit and yogurt
  • French toast with yogurt or applesauce
  • Whole grain bread sticks with fresh tomato salsa and guacamole

Wrap or pita pocket combos

Moisten with plain yogurt mixed with salad dressing.

  • Hard cooked egg, chopped cucumber, onion
  • Chicken chunks, sliced seedless grapes
  • Turkey or marinated cooked tofu chunks, grated carrot, shredded lettuce
  • Salmon or tuna or cooked fish, red and green pepper slices
  • Ricotta cheese, fruit
  • Chopped ham, pineapple
  • Hummus and vegetables
  • Shredded cheese, sliced cucumber
  • Cheese, lettuce, tomato (wrapped separately)
  • Instead of a tortilla, try a “lettuce leaf” wrap with any of the above combinations

Dairy

  • Carrot, celery or bread stick wrapped in cheese
  • Cored apple filled with cheese chunks
  • Finely grated cheese rolled into small balls
  • Chilled milk or fortified soy drink
  • Milk-based pudding
  • Yogurt parfait: Layer plain yogurt, fruit and granola or a high fibre cereal

Veggies and fruit

  • Cauliflower or broccoli florets
  • Baby corn, fresh sweet radishes
  • Pepper strips (yellow, green, red, orange)
  • Turnip or zucchini sticks
  • Peas in a pod or snow pea pods
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Melon balls, cherries, berries
  • Kiwi, pears, peaches
  • Papaya, mango

Packing a safe lunch

  • Use clean kitchen equipment to prepare lunches.
  • Refrigerate lunches that are prepared ahead of time.
  • Use an insulated bag with a freezer pack or chilled thermos to keep food cool.
  • Chill milk or freeze drinking water or juice in plastic containers to keep food cool.
  • Use a wide mouth thermos to keep hot food hot. Preheat the thermos with hot water before filling.
  • Wash all vegetables thoroughly, even those in packages labelled “prewashed.”
  • Wash lunch containers every night to keep bacteria from growing.
  • Don’t reuse plastic bags – they can hold bacteria.

Tips to avoid choking

  • Soften hard vegetables by cooking them slightly.
  • Grate vegetables such as carrots.
  • Chop fruit into small pieces (even grapes), and be sure to remove large seeds or pits.
  • Cut hot dogs in half lengthwise.
  • Spread nut butters thinly on toast or crackers.
  • Avoid hard or sticky foods like nuts, seeds, popcorn, hard candies, gum.

What are some ideas for healthy after-school snacks?

Most children do need a snack after school to tide them over until the evening meal. Everyone from young children to teens can benefit from a nutritious after-school snack to help keep them energized until supper time. The best snacks are those containing both protein and fibre. Here are some ideas that offer maximum nutrition:

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