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School Lunch

What should a parent do when a child only wants to buy school lunch and it isn't healthy, or a child is bored with the lunches you pack from home? And really, does one meal a day make a difference? Yes. When kids get used to eating high fat food, this can form a long-term habit (fat does taste good). The time to set permanent healthy behavior is early and reinforcing during school is no exception.

Depending on the age of your child, have her help plan lunch or even prepare part of it. This can be done just once or twice a week to get your child involved.

Remember that children love to get out and play and sometimes will eat very little so they can have more time on the school playground. Packing a snack for early or late recess may be a good idea (peanuts and cashews are full of fiber and protein). Don't be upset with them if their lunch is only half consumed. She is just a social butterfly. Offer sliced peaches and plain yogurt when she gets home. Make a fruit smoothie with your son using frozen fruit, vanilla yogurt, and milk.

Talk to your child about the lunch program and help him choose a healthy option. Although it is quite convenient not to pack a lunch, try a bag lunch at least two times a week. For older kids this can help your budget as kids who can go off campus can spend a lot on lunch (of questionable nutritional value).

Healthy things to pack:

  • Edamame (soybean) or sugar snap peas (good source of protein)
  • Cube cheese and offer it on a toothpick
  • Trail mix (nuts, dried cranberries stick pretzels)
  • Sliced mango, kiwi, or apples (use orange juice to help prevent browning)
  • Vanilla yogurt with raspberries and granola or nuts on top (place it in a small plastic container (use an ice pack to keep it cold)
  • Use leftover chicken from dinner last night and make a sandwich vs. processed sandwich meat which is high in sodium (salt)
  • Use a cookie cutter to shape sandwiches into hearts, flowers, etc (young kids love to eat fun-shaped sandwiches)
  • Open faced bagel with cream cheese and a face (use raisin for the eyes, a cashew for the nose etc.)
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich – apples will work too.
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese in a tortilla
  • Use a thermos in the cold months and fill it up with soup or pasta with a little bit of chicken broth for added taste
  • Cereal. Just make sure it is high in fiber (5 grams) and low in sugar (under 10 grams). Provide a container with a top and a spoon; your child can add the milk provided at school.

This family wellness article is provided by Nourish Interactive, visitwww.nourishinteractive.com for nutrition articles, family wellness tips, free children's healthy games, and tools. Available in English and Spanish.

Copyright ©2009 Nourish Interactive – All Rights Reserved.

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Tips for Making Healthy Choices

Want to eat well, but find it a challenge when you have to eat and run?

Luckily, many “fast food” restaurants are making it easier with healthier menu options. These tips will help you choose wisely!

Downsize it

Super-sized portions usually cost only a little extra, but can pack a whopping nutritional blow. Research shows the larger the serving in front of us, the more we tend to eat.Keep in mind: double the portion = double the calories.

Compare the Calories,
Fat and Sugar
Total Calories Fat
(grams)
Sugar
(grams)
Double patty hamburger
with dressing or mayonnaise
+ large fries + large drink
1570 66 91
Double patty hamburger
+ large fries + large soft drink
1200 40 90
Single patty hamburger
+ small fries + smll soft drink
620 18 47
Single patty hamburger
+ side salad* + 2% milk
435 16 23

* with low fat dressing

Tip: If you can't bear to pass on a deal, consider splitting a large portion with someone else. Smaller serving sizes are especially important for young children.

Watch the “extras”

Those little “extras” like salad dressings, sandwich sauces, mayo, spreads nd gravy can add a lot of fat and calories to your meal. Choose:

  • veggies as a tasty garnish for sandwiches
  • lower-fat condiments like ketchup, mustards and relish
  • lower-fat salad dressings and use only a small amount

Design it yourself

Looking for more ways to keep the calories and fat in check? Want to boost your nutrient and fibre intake? Made-to-orderoptions are a great solution. When you order a sandwich, burger, wrap, salad or pizza, opt for:

Be balanced

Healthy eating is a matter of balancing your food choices over time. So if you overindulge at one meal, try to make healthier choices at your next meals.

Tip: Change your order to add some variety. Take your taste buds on a global adventure with sushi, shwarma or stir-fry.

Go for the grill

Grilled foods are usually much lower in fat and calories than deep fried foods. Go for grilled meats, poultry, fish and veggies rather than deep fried. For example, a battered and deep fried chicken sandwich may have more than twice as much fat as a grilled chicken sandwich.

Salad savvy

Not all salads are created equal. The dressings can make them extra high in fat and calories. For example, a chicken Caesar salad with dressing can have about as many calories and as much fat as a deep fried chicken sandwich.

Drink smart

Large servings of soft drink and other sweetened beverages provide empty calories. A large soft drink typically contains about a third of a cup (85 mL) of sugar. Shakes can be very high in fat and calories too. Quench your thirst with water, milk, 100% fruit juices, fruit smoothies and vegetable cocktails.

Tip: Add milk to tea and coffee instead of cream to save calories and fat. Keep in mind that flavoured syrups and whipped cream added to some coffees and teas may net you as much as 200 to 300 calories or more.

Breakfast basics

Make wise breakfast choices to give you the energy and nutrients you need for a great start to your day. Choose at least 3 of the 4 food groups.

Tip: Try to limit higher fat options like doughnuts, pastries, muffins, croissants, bacon, sausages and fried hash browns.

Fill up on fibre

Make fibre-rich choices more often: whole grain breads; vegetables and fruit; beans, lentils and chickpeas (in chili, salads, and falafel); nuts and seeds.

Desserts

Think fresh and light when it comes to dessert. Fresh fruit, frozen yogurts, ice milk and fruit sherbets are nutritious alternatives to baked or fried goods and ice creams. And be portion wise, some large cookies may add as much as 400 or more calories.

Get the facts

Ask for nutrition facts at the restaurant. Compare the calories, fat, sugar, fibre and key nutrients – you may be surprised!

Source: Dietitians of Canada. Reproduced with permission.

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