Today Life in Pleasantville is happy to welcome Theresa Albert, a Toronto nutritionist. Theresa shares her advice for parents who may be stuck in the BBQ hotdog and potato chip rut of summer and are looking for a “healthy re-boot” come back-to-school time. – Ed.
Dear whoever is in charge,
Please help me through another back to school season; I know that the summer’s loose, lovely ways will give in to the hectic juggle of school, homework, housework, activities, work and stress. I can feel it already. If you have tips to keep my family on track or ways to help me keep everyone healthy with as little effort as possible, I am all ears!
Parenting is hard enough
I hate to tell you, but you are in charge. No matter who is in your support network, religion or household, you asked the question and so you get to do everything because you cared enough to dare.
I am inundated with products during this time of year from organizations who wish to spread the word. They all want your attention but most of them get tossed because they are unhealthy, some of them get eaten by me or a pack of teens as treats but I can’t in all good conscience recommend them. I end up working with a very few of them that are impressive by being bang on the delicious/healthy target. As a nutritionist, I know that there are shortcuts and I want you to take only the good ones.
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, Vegetable, Fruit, Carbohydrate. 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 bore.
Gather the whole household and prep veggies and fruits on the weekends. This way, they are ready to be lunchbox loaded.
Double up on Dinners
- Baked chicken, bbq’d pork or beef and grilled tofu are all great cubed as protein.
- 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.
- Think about using other things than bread as wraps: rice paper, sushi nor, 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 can happen once a week, like an ice cream on the weekends. But, there is more evidence that daily sugar consumption is directly related to not only diabetes, cavities and obesity but also dementia. In fact, the World Health Organization has reduced the adult consumption of sugar 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 suggest 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. Don’t be fooled by some products that say they are “naturally sweetened” but still contain too much. These treats have an average of 1.5 teaspoons 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.
Think about using Xyla as a sweetener in baking etc 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 being that it is lower on the glycemic index which makes it safe for diabetics and it has 33% fewer calories. Canadian born, Xyla is and derived from hardwood and looks like sugar, tastes like sugar and bakes like sugar and can be swapped 1:1 in any recipe. 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. (So, I guess even if you did allow some sugar adding this post sugar clean up step solves at least one sugar issue.)
- Parents decide what gets served, kids can decide how much.
- Food is the only fuel that grows the cells needed 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, which will happen in just a few short years…believe me!
Image Sources: WikiCommons