Back to School Cool…Lunches

It’s that time of year again, September is just around the corner and that means back to school and back to packing daily lunches. To get your kids off to a good start make sure you pack them healthy balanced lunches to ensure they have the energy to play and learn at school.

A healthy lunch will contain at least 3 out of the 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide (Vegetables and fruits, grain products, milk and alternatives and meat and alternatives).

Lunches should contain two servings from the vegetables and fruit group daily. Get creative in ways to introduce new fruits and veggies into your kids lunches. Try making fruit or vegetable skewers, a fruit salad or pack a dip to go along with the fruits and veggies (try hummus, low fat yogurt dip or cottage cheese). Also if your child sends back cucumbers 2 days in a row, don’t get frustrated and stop packing vegetables; it takes some kids up to 20 times of trying a new food before they enjoy it. So keep packing cucumbers (and other veggies) but maybe try it in different ways such as sliced into a sandwich, cut up into a Greek salad or sliced to dip in hummus.

When it comes to grains, change up the boring same old meat and cheese sandwich with a half a whole wheat pita filled with cheese, meat and veggies, wrap sandwich fillings in a small whole wheat tortilla or pack some toppings and let your kids build their own pita, wrap or sandwich. Get creative with different breads try whole wheat sandwich buns, pumpernickle or rye breads instead of just plain whole what sliced bread. Kids like to have fun with their food so try making shapes from food using cookie cutters for sandwiches or building smiley faces using veggies and fruits. Or try something completely different and pack a grain salad try a vegetable and pasta salad or a quinoa salad.

To get a serving from the milk and alternatives try 1 cup of plain milk as the beverage or include cheese slices to build with crackers. Yogurt is another great alternative just watch flavoured yogurts which could be packed with sugar. Next time you shop for yogurt keep in mind that children should get no more than 14-23 grams of added sugars per day, so packing them a yoplait “Go-Gurt” with 7g of added sugars will be the equivalent of about half their daily recommended intake. Why not try some plain yogurt drizzeled with honey and cinnamon or just toss  fresh fruit in with plain yogurt. If your kids really don’t like the sourness of plain yogurt try mixing it with a flavoured yogurt to cut back on some of the added sugars.

Schools are increasingly becoming allergy aware and most schools these days are peanut and nut free making the easy go to of peanut butter sandwiches a no go. Use this as an excuse to try out new foods that your child may have not experienced before. Remember I said some children need up to 20 tries before they like a food so don’t worry if you’re first hummus and cheese sandwich comes back uneaten, just make sure you’ve packed other foods you know your child enjoys so that they don’t get hungry at school. There are a number of peanut free “peanut-butter” alternative spreads out there such as WOWbutter and other soy butters, just remember that these are pretty costly and it might be a better idea to try other proteins like low sodium deli slices, fresh cooked meats (why not cut up that leftover chicken breast and throw it into a pita) and beans (bean salad or chilli anyone?).

Food Safety is another thing to keep in mind when paking your childs lunch. Most schools do not provide fridges for kids to keep their lunches in so make sure you pack their lunch in an insulated lunch kit with an ice pack to keep the cold foods cold. If you’re packing leftovers or food you need to keep warm, pack them in a thermos already heated to desirable temperature.  Another idea for an ice pack is of course to use frozen juice boxes that your kids can drink with their lunches, however remember that fruit juices are packed with sugar and in my opinion are just like pop with added vitamins and minerals so best to save this for a treat day and pack a forzen water bottle instead.

The best way to get your kids to eat healthy is to get them involved in what their eating. Have them help with grocery shopping and picking out what they want for their lunches each day of the week. Also if your kids are old enough have them help prepare and pack their lunches.

Here are some other great ideas from one of my favourite kids eating blogs, Better Together.


Better Together – blog about healthy eating for kids and families

EatRightOntario – run by the registered dietitians of Ontario

Kids Health


Here’s a Tip: Don’t Talk on the Phone While Baking

It’s no wonder why they’ve banned cell phone use while driving, I’m learning just how hard it is to concentrate in the kitchen while chatting away on the phone let alone driving! You think I would have learned the first time I strained black beans all over my kitchen counter that I shouldn’t talk on the phone while trying to cook. But no, I have done it countless times since then from forgetting the baking soda in my cookies, to today forgetting the egg in my blueberry bran muffins. I was talking on the phone with my friend triple checking my recipe to make sure I had all of the ingredients and I had just filled the last muffin tin, when I realized I forgot the egg in my recipe…I managed to scoop all of the batter back into the bowl, quickly whipped up the egg and threw it into my batter. Thinking I had maybe salvaged my muffins.

When I looked at them baking in the oven I could see that they had already formed peaks (not what you want in your muffins). Although they didn’t look that great they were pretty tasty at least.

My Peaked muffins, looks more like a smurf hat


Why didn’t my muffins turn out with the beautiful golden domed tops that you expect? Well forgetting the egg was only the first bit.

The Muffin Method is a very delicate mixing technique for making muffins. The gist of it is that you add wet ingredients (milk, oil, EGG), into your dry ingredients (flour, leavening agents, spices). This requires a gentle hand when mixing because you don’t want to form too much gluten, this will result in muffins with large peaks and a tunneled interior. You should only mix until the ingredients are just combined and you see no pockets of flour. Best is to sift the dry ingredients together, make a well in the dry ingredients and fold the wet ingredients in. Because I added my egg at the end after my liquid ingredients were already tossed in, I ended up having to mix pretty vigorously to ensure that all of the egg was well incorporated.

Despite my mistake and my sabotaging the muffin method, my muffins were pretty tasty and I would recommend you trying to make them.

So I will provide the recipe here:

Blueberry Bran Muffins
(adapted from Joy of Baking)


1 1/3 cup flour (can mix white and whole wheat, I only had white)
3/4 cup wheat bran
1/3 cup + 1tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp oil
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice)
1 cup fresh blueberries


1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, wheat bran, salt, baking powder and baking soda, sugar)
3. In a separate bowl whisk together the wet ingredients (egg, vanilla, oil and buttermilk)
4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients, fold until just combined
5. Fold in the blueberries and line a muffin tin (3/4 full)
6. Bake 18-20min

It’s Blueberry Season!


Today I went to the local farmers market here in Prince George, and among other fresh and locally grown produce I bought 2lb of blueberries. I’ve already snacked on almost half the container….

Did you know that blueberries are one of the few fruits native to North America? They are also in season in BC from July until early October. And word on the street is this is one of the best of the blueberry seasons.

Honestly I think blueberries are a totally underpresented fruit. They just don’t get the same hype as other berries like strawberries and cherries but they are packed with nutrition and great taste. For example, did you know that blueberries are the most antioxidant rich food in the world??! It’s true! The antioxidant properties in blueberries, (and other antioxidant rich foods) help to stave off aging, reduce cell damage that can lead to cancer and increases HDL (good) cholesterol which can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Blueberries also contain tanins that can help to prevent against urinary tract infections.  Although blueberries are not part of the “Dirty Dozen” (foods you should purchase organic according to the Environmental Working Group), studies have found that organically grown blueberries have higher concentrations of antioxidants than conventional blueberries. This being said, as with all the fruits and vegetables, if you can’t find or can’t afford organic it’s best to buy locally grown produce. And blueberries are packed full with antioxidants regardless so just buy local grown berries from the farm stand or grocery store.

Some new research is suggesting that blueberries help with cognition and brain function. One such study found that older adults who consumed 2-2.5lb of blueberries in the form of juice, had improved cognitive function including improved memory. Keep in mind that this is a new study and that the participants were drinking juice which I would not recommend because you lose some of the fibre and other health benefits of blueberries by juicing them (for more informaiton see my post on juicing). I still think it’s worth it to note that blueberries may have an impact on brain function and even if they don’t it does’t hurt to eat lots of them 🙂

Blueberries and other berries are also great for your waist line as they are low on the glycemic index and also low in calories and fat (like most fruit and vegetables) so pick them for your dessert instead of the cheesecake.

What I’m really trying to get at here is that blueberries are delicious and they are in season now so go to your local fruit stand and buy a whole bunch! A great idea would be to stock up on blueberries now and freeze them so that you can keep the health benefits of blueberries and can enjoy them all year long.

Here are some other ideas for ways to enjoy blueberries this summer:

  • by the handful on their own, they would make a great snack for your next movie (and no micorwave popping or loud chewing required)
  • topped on plain low fat greek yogurt with a sprinkle of chia seeds, hemp seeds and a small handfull of bran buds or low fat granola
  • tossed in your morning cereal or oatmeal
  • tossed in your ice cream
  • blended into a smoothie with plain yogurt, milk, a banana and spinach
  • blueberry bran muffins (recipe to come)
  • add to pancake batter (make sure to place into batter once already in the frying pan not just add to the batter in the bowl, it will turn your pancakes blue…)

While i recommend eating blueberries in their raw form and not baked into cookies and cakes to get their best health value, the BC Blueberry Council does have some great recipes listed that I might have to try out.

Stay tuned for a post or two from the recipes I try.