This is my all-time favorite food group! We have so much to choose from, and the methods to prepare them are endless.
Luckily, this is the food group we can pretty much eat as much as we want from; unfortunately, most of us don't eat enough of them. If you're hungry, reach for some fruit or vegetables. Your body will thank you.
Today, we focus on Fruits and Vegetables.
First, why worry about it?
Fruits and vegetables provide a plethora of beneficial vitamins and minerals. They are naturally low in fat, high in fiber, relatively low in calories, and have no added sugar- and for all that they are nutrient dense, the perfect kind of snack or basis for your meals.
The key to this food group, like others, is variety. No single fruit or vegetable contains exactly the same kind of nutrition, so your best bet is to change them up, and change them often.
Fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of developing certain kinds of cancers and heart disease, can assist in maintaining healthy vision, and can help assist with weight loss.
The Canada Food Guide determination for servings of Fruits and Vegetables is age dependent. From 2-3 years old, both boys and girls need 4 serving of fruits/vegetables per day. From 4-8, that jumps to 5 servings per day for both sexes. From 9-13, they recommend 6.
From 14-18, girls need 7 and boys need 8, and while it varies slightly with adults, it basically hovers around the same as you age, with an extra serving or two for men until age 50, and drops to an equal 7 per day for both sexes after that.
What constitutes a serving?
Simply put, a medium fruit or a half cup of fresh, frozen, or canned is considered 1 serving. For those times of life when you don't have much fresh in your fridge, it's good to know that canned or frozen counts, right? Just try to buy food that's not canned in syrup- fruit juice or water- and watch for added sodium on canned vegetables. I find frozen fruit works best in smoothies, and frozen vegetables taste best if they're steamed before serving.
Some specific examples include:
One thing to note about dried fruit- because it's been dehydrated, it's very calorie dense, for a fruit. Try to eat dried fruit with some protein to help lessen blood sugar spikes. Sometimes commercially prepared dried fruit also contain added sugar, so do keep an eye on the labels.
In this picture, 1 peach, half the bowl of cubed watermelon, 2 plums, half that huge gala apple, the strips of bell pepper, all those green grapes, 1 banana, all the cucumber or zucchini, grape tomatoes, or carrots, or all that cantaloupe equals one serving of fruit.
For your school lunches, pick one fruit and one vegetable. Serve fruit and vegetables with every snack and meal, and make it easy and quick to eat when it comes to school lunches- remember, if they don't have time to eat it, they'll likely throw it out. When I was a lunch supervisor at school, I used to see all sorts of food hit the trash can.
Well friends, that's it for the school lunch series. What do you think? What do you want to see more of? There will be some blogging later in October on how you can pack multiple food groups into school lunches. In the meantime, I wish you healthy and happy lunches, and look forward to hearing how lunches are making a healthier shift.
Please like and share! Peace, friends.
This food group, along with fruits and vegetables, comprises of what we most need to eat in any given day. Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation lately with all sorts of diets designed to get rid of them, but in truth, carbs are a necessary component for our bodily functions. Our cells use them to fuel our daily activities, and when we don't eat them, our bodies take what they can from elsewhere, to our detriment.
The caveat I want to stress, however, is that whole grains are the ones you need to eat. Processed grains, also referred to as refined, don't really do much for our bodies. They give us calories without the health benefit, and really, what's the point of that? They also tend to be high in sugar, which our bodies deal with by over-producing insulin. Not only that, but they lack fibre, which means that hunger will strike more quickly given the rate at which the foods are digested. It leads to an unhealthy cycle of spikes and crashes. These are referred to as "high GI" foods. Examples include white bread/rolls, cake/cookies, short grain rice, bran/corn flakes, crispy rice cereal, soda crackers, pretzels, rice cakes, cheesy fish shaped crackers, and so on.
Today, we focus on Breads and Cereals.
First, why worry about it?
As briefly stated above, our bodies use the nutrition found in whole grains, such as fibre, to reduce cholesterol, keep hunger at bay, keep our body's waste system working optimally, and reduce the risk of colon cancer. We also get several other vitamins from whole grains such as several B vitamins- riboflavin, folate, thiamine, and niacin- known to help our metabolism do its' job- and minerals, such as iron, zinc, and magnesium. Here's a great article about some of the other benefits of whole grains.
I'm going to take a detour from the Canada Food Guide, now, because it suggests that half of our daily consumption from this food group be comprised of whole grains. My personal opinion is that this food group has a great opportunity for us to make or break our health. It makes very little difference to eat a few whole grain servings in a day but spend the rest of the day eating high GI, low nutritional value foods such as macaroni and cheese, waffles, most store bought granola bars/snack foods, and white bread toast.
There is a certain segment of the population that absolutely cannot eat gluten, found in all wheat products, that have a disease known as Celiac Disease. They cannot process gluten, and with continued ingestion, can do long-term damage to their small intestines. Fortunately, there are other foods they can eat that satisfy the whole grain requirement, such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats. The most important thing to remember is to read the food labels. Cross contamination can occur.
The Canada Food Guide determination for servings of Breads and Cereals is age dependent. From 2-3 years old, both boys and girls need 3 serving of breads/cereals per day. From 4-8, that jumps to 4 servings per day for both sexes. From 9-13, girls and boys need 6 servings.
From 14-18, girls need 6 and boys need 7, and while it varies slightly with adults, it basically hovers around the same as you age.
What constitutes a serving?
Note: Look at ingredient labels! You are looking for the words "whole grain", whenever possible!
So what does this look like in a typical school lunch?
Here are some ideas that you could send in your typical school lunch. Luckily, gluten intolerance doesn't extend to people by being in the same room as gluten, so unless kids share their lunches with a celiac friend, there shouldn't be a problem.
I've got a homemade chocolate banana bran muffin, some sliced whole grain pita bread (about half a pita), a plain slice of whole grain whole wheat bread cut into quarters (my second son likes plain if he can't have peanut butter!), some original triscuit crackers, shreddies, cooked brown rice, cheerios, and popcorn. Rice is a terrific base for school lunches. You can send it as leftovers from dinner the night before- think rice pilaf or fried rice- or as dessert- like the rice pudding I'm putting in the slow cooker tonight.
Most of these are full servings- the pita bread and triscuits are just over and just under one serving, respectively.
Out of all of these, just pick one! For my second son, he only needs 4 servings in a day- my first son, 6 servings. If we think about a typical breakfast involving (usually) toast or cereal, the usual dinner involving some sort of starchy side like rice or buns, and there's always a bedtime snack in our house (because we eat dinner really early) I know they're getting their recommended servings.
I just want to say, I don't completely limit my kids' food choices when it comes to breads and cereals...or anything, actually. From time to time I'll buy the Presidents Choice version of those little fish crackers. When we travel, I usually bring a box of granola bars. We do eat really well, most of the time. I don't generally buy what I consider junk food, because if it's in the house, we'll eat it, and I'd rather spend our grocery budget on nutrition. I try to make my own desserts (like banana bread, zucchini loaf, cookies, etc). I feel that sometimes we really do want a cookie- so I'll try to make them. But life is busy, and sometimes I will buy them. I still try to buy the better of the processed snacks- keep reading food labels! And I will limit how much we can have in a day- and always, overall, choose nutrition over calories.
Please like, comment and share as you like! I can't wait to see our kids mobilized to making healthier choices even when we aren't watching! And as always, if you have some suggestions to add to this list, I welcome them. Please add your voice to my blog posts!
All the best,
I just learned what "charcuterie" was, and it is such a fun word to say. Being The Meals Maven, and obsessed with making sure vegetables and fruits are something eaten for every meal and snack, my version of charcuterie involves more than just meat and pickled things.
It's an easy enough meal to prepare, and one my family really enjoyed eating. We brought out our Avengers divided dinner plates to make it easier to eat lots of the healthier choices.
From top of picture, and then left to right:
Do you have a Good Friday dinner tradition? This might become ours.
Here was my dinner plate from tonight. Notice how 1/2 the plate is full of bright vegetables, a 1/4 is a measured serving of brown rice, and 1/4 a measured serving of salmon.
Thoughts? Have a great week, friends!
Yesterday morning after we finished breakfast and exchanging gifts, I went back to bed to the calm and quiet to "plan my day", as I call it. My first son came to find me and apologized for waking me up, but I wasn't asleep. I was thinking about what we were doing, where were going, when to put the different parts of dinner on, and how to get everything hot at the right time before serving. That planning is as much an essential part of meal preparation as the actual standing in the kitchen and cooking.
I find if I don't take a few minutes to order my thoughts and my day, chaos ensues.
We settled on this menu:
Stuffing (dressing- cooked in the slow cooker)
Roasted sweet and russet potatoes
Roasted orange and red peppers
Steamed carrots and celery
Homemade apple pie
Vanilla ice cream
If you'll look at the plate, there are lots of vegetables. Portion sizes over "the holidays" is something most of us forget to think about, but it's never too late to start eyeballing your plate. If half your plate is vegetable and/or fruit, you're off to a good start. I did actually add some carrots and celery after I took this picture :) Imagine a hockey puck, and that's your protein. Stuffing, being mostly bread chunks, count as your breads/cereals- the amount of stuffing pictured was about 2 slices of bread.
I designed my own spice blend for the turkey and stuffing this year, and it was definitely most enjoyable. Over the next day or two I'll be posting a few recipes for what we ate on Christmas day. I'd be happy to hear how your meals turned out! Did you try anything new? Discover a new favorite? Is there anything you'd like me to post about over the next few days?
Enjoy your weekend, friends.
In our world, the transition to Mediterranean-style eating isn't too hard, because we already like and eat a lot of the required foods. The biggest change I've found is rearranging our current understandings of the Canada Food Guide into different orderings.
The rule of thumb for the biggest food consumption at the bottom of the pyramid is whole grains, fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, olive oil at every meal and snack. The next two levels are seafood and poultry. How I am interpreting this is to minimize the consumption of typical protein sources and increase consumption of alternative (beans, nuts, etc) and not worry too much about healthy fats such as olive oil. That being said, I'm still watching portion sizes. Nuts are delicious, but very high in calories and fat. Portion sizes still matter, even when eating healthy options.
We're definitely in for an interesting month!
We had a guest for dinner last night. We had Greek Chicken Pitas with a Greek Salad on the side. Between 5 of us there were 7 chicken thighs in the meal, cut up into bite-sized chunks, cooked with a lot of vegetables. Whole wheat pitas were stuffed with fresh spinach, a little bit of feta cheese, and topped up with the chicken and vegetable mixture. On the side was a generous helping of salad, of which there are plenty of leftovers. Those will be eaten over the next couple of days. As our friend and I discussed the Mediterranean food pyramid, he remarked that the meat is more like a side dish. I concur, agreeing that vegetables and fruit are the "star" of the meals.
Today looks like this:
I'm excited to share our month of Mediterranean-inspired eating with you. Can you think of one healthy change you can make to how you eat? I'll post soon about simple changes everyone can make to how they eat and drink to get on the road to being healthier.
Have an excellent Monday!
Have you ever wondered how many servings of anything you should try to get your kids to consume in a day? Or what constitutes a serving? It's especially hard when you are serving something like soup, which my picky second son enjoys the most.
As a mom, I wonder about the best way to figure out if they're eating enough, or too much? Both kids from time to time seem to be constantly hungry, or full way too soon. I wonder if they're being creative at evading a meal that isn't their favorite by claiming they're full, or if they've actually had enough. I won't force them to finish what's on their plate- I figure it's their job to decide that they're done, and I don't want to plague them with a lifetime of overeating and related health problems. On the other hand, sometimes they seem to be hungry ridiculously close to the end of the last meal.
Enter the Canada Food Guide. I'm sure it's not perfect, and not without its' share of controversy, but this is a resource I turn to often, and as I am the meals maven, it's a very handy and useful resource to look to.
As an example in how to use this guide, I will think about how my second son ate today. His recommended foods are:
5 servings of vegetables and fruit
4 servings of grain products
2 servings of milk products
1 serving of protein.
Allow me to stop right here and tell you today was an atypical day. My fruit, veges, and dairy are getting low, so I'm definitely shopping tomorrow. I can tell you he ate more than enough grain products and (surprisingly, since peanut butter counts) protein. He only ate half the vegetables and fruits, mostly in the form of watered down juice. He had only about half his milk products today as well.
What constitutes a serving? Let's focus on fruit and vegetables, since most of us don't get or give enough. In his case, for vegetables and fruits he typically eats carrots and apples every day. A serving of those is about a half-cup each. Our apples this week are small, so I treat an apple as one serving, and a carrot cut up into strips or coins as about a half cup. Keep in mind, he needs 5 servings a day, so if we serve fruit or vegetables with every snack and meal, he meets his recommended servings.
A typical daily meal plan for him is this (don't judge me! He's so picky! I know he eats a lot of nutella!)
Breakfast: 1/2 c. milk + 1 slice of bread with nutella on it + 1 apple
Snack: 1/2 c, yogurt + carrot sticks and a water cup
Lunch: 1/2 c. of watered down apple juice + 1 slice of bread with peanut butter on it
Snack: Cheese String + carrot sticks or apple slices and a water cup
Dinner: whatever we're having
Bedtime snack: 1/2 c. milk + 1 slice of bread with nutella on it
I try once or twice a week to cook for dinner whatever he will eat, and the rest of the time cook whatever we all want to eat. Most of the time he'll at least take a taste, which is all I can ask for at this stage, and way better than he used to be. Dinner always includes vegetables and/or fruit as half our plate (his plate is divided), a small section for protein, and a slightly larger section for carbs. What he drinks for dinner is often water, but sometimes, if we're eating something with a high iron content, such as beef and bean chili, we'll serve dinner with juice so that the iron can be better absorbed with the added vitamin c.
If you don't feel like looking up what you should eat, here's what I should eat as a woman of almost 40. Feel free to compare your needs to mine. It's probably similar, as there are not that many changes in this age range until you hit 51. Men require 1 or 2 extra vegetable/fruit, grain, and protein serving.
Vegetables and Fruits: 8-10
If you're anything like me, chances are good you look at your prepared chicken thighs and wonder how many of those you should eat. The nutritional information on the back of the package gives you the 100g serving information, but it turns out that the Canada Food Guide says 75g is one serving. So how do you tell?
I make heavy use of our kitchen scale. I know, it sounds so geeky, but that's the only real way to tell, and I did marry a geek. Our eyeballs and stomachs usually tell us to eat more than we should, especially if it's really tasty and pretty. If you are serious about watching what you eat, you should definitely invest in one of these handy kitchen gadgets.
The other thing you can do is to input your recipe (exact amounts matter though, so take a picture of your packaging and nutritional info before you toss it) into My Fitness Pal. This website has a great recipe builder section where your favorite recipes can be stored, and you can just enter your recipe in your daily meal tracking. This also really helps keep track of where you're at in the day, so you can tell after dinner if you should splurge on something or just stick to apples and carrots.
Good luck to you as you navigate this tricky world of nutrition. Let me know what you're doing to figure out nutritional needs for your family, and how your meals compare to mine!
Does anyone find it difficult to eyeball a meal and figure out how many servings of food you're actually consuming? I find it easy at home, when we've got a food scale and measuring tools handy. When eating out, however, it becomes more complicated.
My Lifestyle and Nutrition course linked to a portion sizes document that has some interesting ways to figure out how much you're eating- for example, one serving of peanut butter (2 tbsp) is equal to an amount the size of a golf ball. Helpful? Yes! Let me know if you've got some helpful hints to share!