Elizabeth Ward shares some innovative ideas for back-to-school lunches and snacks.
Host: Gloria Tsang, RD
Guest: Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
The million dollar question for many parents dealing with back-to-school season has got to be “What am I going to feed the kids?” By now, the kids are back to school for a week, are you running out of ideas already? Elizabeth Ward, mother of 3 and author of a new book Expect The Best is here today to share some innovative ideas for back-to-school lunches and snacks.
Gloria Tsang, RD: The million dollar question for many parents dealing with back-to-school season has got to be “What am I going to feed the kids?” By now, the kids are back to school for a week , are you running out of ideas already? Welcome to the Nutrition Tidbits podcast. This is Gloria Tsang, Editor-in-Chief for HealthCastle.com. Joining me today is nutritionist Elizabeth Ward, mother of 3 and author of a new book Expect The Best. She is here today to share some innovative ideas for back-to-school lunches and snacks. Thanks for joining us again, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: Thanks for having me.
Gloria Tsang, RD: One of the main challenges for parents is to ensure the lunch they pack ends up in the kid’s tummy instead of in the trash can. What are some of your favorite lunch box staples?
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: Well the first thing I do at the beginning of every new school year and periodical throughout is ask my child what they like for lunch. And I give it to them within reason. So I definitely have some favorite staples based on what they would like to eat and what I would like them to eat. I think that there is always a happy medium. That is always the trick is to find the happy medium between those two things don’t you think?
Gloria Tsang, RD: Yes, exactly. So what are some of the staples that you will pack for most of the days?
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: Well, here is what I have in my house right now. I do have 100% fruit juice containers that will actually get you two servings of fruit in one container. I have milk, flavoured and plain, in eight ounce containers. I have fruit bars in the house, like a Nutri-Grain bar. I have hard-cooked eggs on deck and ready to go. I have things like yogurt and of course, all the traditional sandwich fixings, which you can just do a variety of things to make a lunch.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Some of our audience may have little ones heading off to pre-school for the very first time. Any recommendations for toddler friendly snacks?
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: Definitely limit the amount of sugar in the snacks. You know, these kids need to concentrate in their new environment. They need to pay attention and not be bouncing off the walls because they just had a juice drink or sugary drink and a few cookies. So focus on foods that you would actually give them at a meal. That’s what I always say about snacks. Snacks should be me mini meals and not meal wreckers. So whatever you might give them at a meal, give it to them as a snack. It could even be a quarter of a sandwich or a small yogurt. Give them healthy foods so that they can actually concentrate in school, in that new environment.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Let’s talk about yogurt. It’s a very popular item in a lunch box. Recently, when we did our review for the GoUndiet Review tool, we know that not all yogurts are created equal. Could you share some tips for picking out the healthy choices?
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: If you taste it as a parent and it tastes super sweet, believe me, it has a lot of added sugar. The more added sugar you have in a food, the less nutrition you are going to have in general speaking because the sugar displaces the other nutrients. So take a look and go for the lowest sugar ones that you can find. Do not give your child the yogurts that have the toppings, like cookies crushed on the top, or the high fat granola cereal on the top. Sometimes, they come with candy. Then we are talking about a dessert rather than a healthy food. Definitely do age appropriate portions with your kids. Some yogurts come in eight ounce cups and some come in four ounce containers. Decide which one your child should get. And the last thing to do would be to look for yogurts that actually have active cultures in them as they are good for your child’s belly and health. Some of them actually come with added Vitamin D now and that’s quite a benefit for your child.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Good idea to look for the Vitamin D. Now, what’s your take on cereal bars with those puree apples. Some people call it fruit bars, some people call it cereal bars. Are they good for kids?
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: Generally speaking, they are good for kids. But I would want a child to eat the less processed form of the fruit. I would prefer the child to eat a piece of fruit. But I think if you can get a lower sugar cereal bar, some of them are made with more whole grains than others, they are basically an ok snack. Again, be sure to include a source of protein like yogurt or eight ounces of milk.
Gloria Tsang, RD: At HealthCastle.com, we always encourage our users to eat more plant-based protein. You know nut allergy is so prevalent in school. Kids now don’t pack nuts as snacks anymore. So what other kid friendly, plant-based, high protein choice would you recommend?
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: For snacks or for a sandwich?
Gloria Tsang, RD: For both.
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: Well, my daughter loves what I have come to call the Mediterranean wrap. It’s basically a whole wheat sandwich wrap. We put tabbouleh, hummus and feta cheese. We roll that up and that’s her sandwich. She has that with some milk and fruit. And that is a vegetarian based sandwich. So definitely keep hummus in the house. You can use it in sandwiches and you can use it as a dip for raw vegetables or whole grain crackers. That’s really great. Certainly, anything made with tofu would be certainly fine. Kids like edamame beans, they are really fun. You can give them some of those. You need to think outside of the box, outside of the lunch box if you will. It doesn’t always have to be a sandwich going to school. It could be something like a rice bowl where you do brown rice and cooked vegetable and put some form of a soy, either as a tofu chunks or edamame in with it, and your child might love that. You just put some Tamari sauce or soy cause on that and your child would probably eat that right up.
Gloria Tsang, RD: So how do we deal with kids when they ask for junk foods like candy bars and soda?
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: As a parent, you have to have that policy where we do not eat that on a daily basis. I was telling my children that there are foods to grow on and there are foods that are occasional foods. We do not have cookies, chips and candy bar all in the same meal. That’s just our policy as a family. It’s really hard to stick to that, I am not saying it’s easy. But if you give them a little bit of leeway and power in planning their meal and choosing when they are going to have treats. I think it will be easier for them to swallow those kinds of ideas.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Great idea! Thank you again for joining me Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD: Thanks for having me.
Gloria Tsang, RD: We have been talking to Elizabeth Ward, author of the book Expect the Best. For more healthy eating tidbits and information about this show, go to HealthCastle.com.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.