Friday, August 13, 2010

What I know for sure...about school lunches & a Granola Bar recipe

Last year when my son entered Kindergarten I had 2 goals for his school lunch: the first was to send my son with a lunch that was as littlerless as possible, the second was to provide a lunch that was healthy and appealing. My goal of furnishing a littlerless lunch everyday was mostly realized (minus the granola bars I keep buying!?). I started by dropping a bit of cash on good quality reusable containers which turned out to be well worth it for several reasons:
  1. Less waste
  2. No chemicals leaching out of plastic and into food.
  3. Financially: No need to keep buying plastic wrap or plastic self sealing bags.
I bought Greentainers online and they have held up well and will be used again this year and hopefully for many years to come. His stainless steel water bottle didn't make it through the year, and I really should have bought him a Klean Kanteen, as my husband's has survived construction work sites and some serious falls. These bottles can be ordered on-line from the Canadian site Mom Knows Best (listed below). They are also available at Indigo/Chapters Book Stores.

Litterless Lunch Product sites I liked best
(some product overlap):
My goal of providing a healthy and appealing lunch was more of a challenge. My son likes vegetables but wasn't eating them when I put them in his lunch. I started putting his vegetables: i.e.: carrot, celery, red pepper & cucumber sticks in the same container as his sandwich, and low an behold he started eating them. Having the sandwich container open in front of him meant that he would just absentmindedly munch on his veg while eating his sandwich. Fruit seems to be eaten only when processed in some way i.e.: cut up in small chunks or wedges. As for the tried and true sandwich, my then five year old couldn't eat a whole one so I started giving him half sandwiches or very small ones instead. How did I know he wasn't finishing them? I always asked him to bring back what he hadn't eaten. This enabled me, over time, to pack just the right amount.

Too many sweet things: I fell into the habit of providing too many sweet snacks for my son out of my wish to please him. However one sweet snack is enough (not including fruit.) Cubes of cheese, hard boiled eggs (get them in there while you can because by grade 2 or 3 kids refuse to bring them), and other protein sources are best to keep energy up.

My son did complain once in a while that he wanted some of the stuff other kids were eating like yogurt in a tube and other super sugary fare masquerading as healthy food. Lets' not kid ourselves granola bars and a lot of yogurts have a lot of sugar. I often buy Kashi brand granola bars as they have a lot of flavor and much less sugar than other bars. As for yogurt your best bet is plain probiotic yogurt with fruit and say a sweetener like honey or jam added. Then you are in charge of the sugar. My 3 year old daughter likes to mix in her own ingredients.

When buying prepared snacks for your kids be aware that :
Food manufacturers like to add sugar in several forms, so that no single sugar ingredient shows near the top of the ingredient list. It's likely you will spot multiple types of added sugars in an ingredient list.

Source Laura Dudley

My son and I have been learning together what constitutes a treat and what constitutes a snack (it seems to be taking me a life time to learn). Snacks are needed in between meals to provide energy. The best is when a snack is a combination of both: delicious and nutritious. Smarties, chips and ice cream are not snacks!!

My 6 year old son's favorite lunch items:

  • Sweet stuff: banana bread, cranberry orange muffins, blueberry muffins, granola bars, fruit leather, fresh fruit, apple sauce, yogurt, dried fruit & Nature's Path Crispy Rice bars.
  • Sandwiches & other: brie, ham* and Dijon with sprouts, tuna salad (packed with small dice of veg.), tofu spread and seeded cucumber, sardine and salmon salad, macaroni and cheese, chicken noodle soup, cold chicken drum sticks, and of course cold left over homemade pizza.
  • Savoury snacks: raw vegetable sticks with tzaziki or hummus, cheese and crackers, PC Mini Chefs' cheese alligator crackers, hard boiled egg.
* Nitrate free

Recipes Ideas for Lunches:
I have vowed since reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck recently to cut way back on the tuna in my son's lunch and up the salmon instead as he likes them both equally.
Canned salmon is generally considered safe for kids to eat daily. Due to its mercury content, Health Canada recommends only one serving a week of canned albacore tuna for children aged 1 to 4. Older children may have two servings a week.


Its' all about Biomagnification. Salmon is lower down on the food chain and contains a lot less mercury than tuna. It's my new favorite word and is a term that I came across in Slow Death by Rubber Duck, and I think that anyone who eats or happens to feeds others should be better acquainted with this term.

What always keeps me on track when making my son's lunch is a simple mantra that is easy to follow no matter how tired you are when you approach lunch making:

Vegetables, Fruit, and Protein.

Included these three things and the rest will fall in line. What about carbs? Well they seem to find themselves paired up with all of the above more often than not. Whole grain crackers or bread are good additions. Oh and don't forget the water bottle!

Here is a tasty recipe for a granola bar for a nut free environment. I am going to try and stop buying them and I will be testing out various granola bar recipes over the next few months.

Oats, Pumpkin Seed and Raisin bar

1 large egg
1 large egg white
125 ml / 1/2 cup honey
15 ml / 1 tablespoon canola oil
5 ml / 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ml / 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
375 ml / 1 1/2 cup toasted oats*
170 ml / 2/3 cup raisins, chopped
70ml/ 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
15 ml / 1 tablespoon all purpose or spelt flour

Pre-heat oven to 160 C / 325 F. Line an 8 by 11 inch pan with parchment paper. Whisk egg, egg white, honey, oil, cinnamon, salt and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in oats, raisins, pumpkin seeds and flour. Spread in pan. Bake until golden brown for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely and then divide with a knife as desired.

*Toast oats on a baking tray in oven until golden (about 15 minutes at 160 F / 325 F).

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