Tina Stewart is a registered dietitian for the President’s Choice® product development team. As a busy Toronto mom of two, Tina has a number of tips to offer for choosing healthier foods and filling your grocery cart with them. (Keep reading for a bang-on dinner recipe, snack tips and solutions making sure you leave the grocery store with healthful products – even with the kids in tow.)
Q. What are your top 5 snacks to give kids?
I always look to balance nutrition and fun with snacks for my kids. Here are my five favourite go-to options:
1. Ants on a log! This classic snack is quick and easy to make: celery sticks with peanut butter (or any other kind of nut butter) in the groove topped with a few raisins as ants. My son has a peanut allergy, so I use soy butter. This snack provides carbohydrate and protein, and is a fun way to get your picky-eater to eat.
2. Veggies and Dip- An assortment of colourful vegetables such as mini carrots, celery and sliced peppers with a yogurt based dip is a great way to get vitamin, minerals and protein. I use PC 0% Plain Greek yogurt and mix with PCBM Ranch or Caesar dressing as a dip for vegetables. Another alternative is to try hummus as a dip for vegetables. These are both favourite after school snacks.
3. Crackers and Cheese. Choosing whole grain crackers that are source of fibre, improves the nutrient value of this snack, and cheese is an excellent source of calcium.
4. Creating a tasting plate. A selection of apple pieces, carrot sticks, crackers, cheese and/or nuts. You can add a new item every week, such as dried fruit, to help your child discover new foods they haven’t tried before.
5. Every once in a while, a frozen treat can be a great snack, but it’s about making the healthy selection for your kids. I give my kids the PC® Blue MenuTM Greek Yogurt Smoothie Bars in mango to devour. They’re incredibly creamy, so kids believe they are ice cream, but I know they are getting probiotic cultures, and they’re low in fat.
Q. When you’re at the grocery store with kids in tow, how do you make sure that healthy options get into your cart?
When you’re at the grocery store, reading nutrition labels is important to make the healthy choice, but that can be difficult with kids wanting to run up and down the aisles. Try to turn shopping into a game for your kids. At Real Canadian Superstore, they have added easy to view symbols on their PC® Blue MenuTM products which indicate increased fibre, or reduced fat and sodium, as examples. I enlist my own kids to help me find the foods with the arrows when we’re looking at a specific shelf. Not only does it keep the kids entertained and busy, but it has also helped me teach them about nutrition with the easy to view symbols.
Q. Favourite place to travel:
Although I have not been there for a while, I would say my favourite place to travel is Europe. I have a particular affinity for Italy and France. I love learning about history and the rich cultures of each of these countries. And of course, who could forget about the wonderful food!
Q. Cannot-live-without gadget
I cannot live without my blender. I use it to make smoothies for a quick addition to breakfast or as a snack. It also comes in very handy for pureeing my favourite vegetable soups.
Q. Go-to ‘Mom’ attire
My favourite go-to Mom attire is definitely yoga pants and t-shirt. When you are a busy mom on the-go, these can be paired with a comfy pair of runners and away you go.
Q. Favourite kid-friendly dinner to make.
We like to do theme nights at our house, and this gives the kids something to look forward to. The other day I made a twist on lasagna that they loved for Mexican night: a Burrito Casserole. Instead of traditional layers of pasta, I used the PC® Blue MenuTM 100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat Tortillas for a nutritious portion of fibre. For the filling I used vegetarian crumble as an alternative to meat, and then added vegetables to make the meal healthy, without sacrificing flavour. The recipe is found on PC.ca, but I want to share it with you. The kids, and my husband, loved it!
|2 tbsp (25 mL)||PC® 100% Pure Canola Oil|
|2||cloves garlic, minced|
|¾ tsp (4 mL)||ground cumin|
|1 pkg (454 g)||PC® Blue MenuTM Vegetarian Ground Crumble|
|1 pouch (283 g)||PC® Cooked Whole Grain Brown Rice Sides|
|1 can (19 oz/540 mL)||PC® Blue MenuTM Black Beans PC Blue Menu Black Beans|
|1 jar (430 mL)||PC® Salsa – Mild|
|1 pkg (390 g)||PC® Blue MenuTM 100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat Tortillas|
|2 cups (500 mL)||PC® Blue MenuTM Tex-Mex Light Shredded Cheese|
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Spray 13 x 9 inch (3 L) glass baking dish with cooking spray.
- In large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion for about 4 minutes, stirring, or until softened. Stir in garlic and cumin; cook for 1 minute. Stir in frozen meatless ground beef, frozen rice, beans, 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) of the salsa, and ½ cup (125 mL) water. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until heated through. Set aside.
- Cover bottom of prepared baking dish with two tortillas. Spread with half of burrito mixture and sprinkle with ½ cup (125 mL) of the cheese. Repeat layers. Cover with remaining 2 tortillas. Spread with remaining salsa and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil.
- Bake in centre of oven for 30 minutes. Uncover; broil for 3 minutes or until top is golden.
Serve sprinkled with 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped green onions, with light sour cream and sliced avocado on the side, if desired
Q. I’m currently reading this book..
Pride and Prejudice, a classic novel by Jane Austen. I think that this is the fourth time that I have read this book, but I just love it. I recently purchased an e-reader and it came pre-loaded with all the classics, so I am getting myself reacquainted with all my favorite novels.
Q. My child’s birthday party this year will involve…some kind of physical activity such as swimming, karate or an indoor play area. I have two very active boys that have energy to burn so I find that parties that include physical activity are a great way to provide some healthy fun!
Q. Is there 1 food that children should try to eat every week?
There isn’t just one food, in fact what is most important is that children—and adults too— eat a variety of foods from the different food groups each week, and each day. Fresh produce, protein, whole grain, and dairy product such as milk and cheese will help ensure your child consumes the necessary nutrients and vitamins they need to have energy for the day, while growing up healthy and strong. Planning your meals the week before can help you double check that you’ve included nutritious items each and every day, and save you from the “what should I make for dinner?” moment.
Q. What about ‘hiding’ nutritious food inside sauces and baking. Good idea or bad?
I think that “hiding” nutritious foods inside other items can be used to improve the nutrition of certain items such as extra vegetables in sauce or added fruit in muffins. I don’t think that this strategy should be used to trick our kids into eating fruits and vegetables. Children may need to try a food several times before they will accept it and just like adults there may be some foods that they will never accept. I think the focus should be on offering a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables and allowing children to develop a taste for these foods and eating habits that will last a lifetime.