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Snacks and lunches to go

Spring can be a busy time so try these quick and nutritious food ideas

Spring break marks the home stretch for school and the start of spring farm work. For us home cooks, this means making more lunches and snacks to go.

Keeping your kids and farmers fuelled with good food will help them function at their best and prevent fatigue, constipation, energy crashes and dehydration. For the best options, offer plenty of variety with an emphasis on veggies, whole grains and protein-rich foods.

If you’re looking for new ideas to add to your list of family favourites, here are a few ideas to consider.

Sandwiches

Fred Penner sings “Sandwiches are beautiful, sandwiches are fine, I like sandwiches, I eat them all the time.” He’s right, sandwiches are fine. They’re a perfect combination of food groups, they’re easy to pack and can be made in endless variations. If you “eat them all the time” here are few ways to jazz them up.

Vary the bread. Try whole grain pitas, wraps, mini bagels, naan bread or English muffins.

Choose unique spreads. Try tzatziki, hummus, pesto, guacamole, salsa, refried beans or mayo mixed with Sriracha, curry paste or sun-dried tomatoes.

Experiment with new flavours and textures. Try coleslaw, roasted peppers, kimchi (fermented veggies), unique cheeses, shredded carrots, apple or pear slices, mushrooms, meatballs, etc.

Put these tips together and you might have whole grain English muffins with nut butter and sliced apples, pita pockets filled with spicy guacamole, black beans, corn and lettuce or a wrap with chicken, pesto and mozzarella cheese.

Leftovers

Quick and easy is the name of the game when you make lunches with last night’s dinner. It’s even better when you can pack leftovers that don’t require reheating like pizza, quesadillas, pasta salad, grain salad (quinoa or brown rice), bean salads, chicken pieces, frittata or hard-boiled eggs. Just keep these foods cold by packing in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack to keep them safe to eat.

Other foods like soup, stews or chili are good if you have a high-quality thermos to keep the food hot. The more liquid in your food, the longer and better your thermos will be able to keep food hot. Dense, dry food like mashed potatoes or dry pasta dishes are not recommended for thermoses because they’ll cool too quickly. Keep these leftovers for reheating in the microwave. Also, be sure to preheat your thermos by swirling around some boiling hot water and making sure the food going in is piping hot.

Small bites

Sometimes grazing on snacks throughout the day rather than stopping for a meal is the way to go. A series of healthy snacks can help prevent boredom and energy crashes. The key is to pack a variety of textures, flavours and food groups while avoiding sleep-inducing, highly processed foods like chips, candy and chocolate bars. For the healthiest selection, look for high fibre, whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies paired with a protein-rich food (cheese, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, dairy). Whenever possible choose homemade baked goods instead of store bought since homemade baked goods usually include more wholesome ingredients and are reasonably sized. Here are some examples.

  • Yogurt with granola and fruit, overnight oats, chia seed pudding (these are great in jam jars);
  • Whole grain crackers and cheese or cheese and grapes on a skewer;
  • Trail mix with nuts, seeds, dried fruit and dark chocolate;
  • Hard-boiled eggs and veggies with dip;
  • Whole grain muffins, granola bars, energy balls or oat cookies;
  • Hummus, black bean dip, guacamole or tzatziki with crackers, pita wedges and veggies;
  • Fruit with a nut butter and yogurt dip;
  • Popcorn, pistachios, roasted chickpeas, sunflower seeds, steamed edamame beans;
  • Apple sauce or fruit salad with nuts and seeds;
  • Grapes and cheese on skewers. A fun way to serve fruit and cheese while also controlling portion size.

Beverages

And finally, a word about beverages. Staying well hydrated is important and water is the beverage of choice. It’s not very exciting, but beverages high in sugar, caffeine, artificial sweeteners or alcohol are a poor choice for everyday consumption.

Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade are intended for high-intensity activities to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Unless you’re engaging in sweat-inducing activities, you’re just drinking a lot of empty calories that will likely lead to weight gain.

Energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster or Rockstar typically include caffeine, sugar and other ingredients with a promise to boost energy and concentration. While they may prevent sleep, these beverages can also cause nervousness, weight gain, high blood pressure, upset stomachs, diarrhea and headaches.

Water, water infused with cucumbers, lemons, limes, mint or other fruit, hot or cold herbal teas, soda water or soda water infused with fruit is your best option.

Water may be boring, but these two recipes certainly aren’t.

Nutty Fruity Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seeds are nutrient-dense seeds that swell to create a pudding-like texture. Mix with your favourite fruit and nuts for a delicious lunch or hearty snack.

  • 3 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 c. coconut milk (or water,almond milk, juice)
  • 2-3 tbsp. diced fruit (berries, apples, peaches)
  • 2 tbsp. dried nuts or seeds (almonds,walnuts, pepitas, sunflower, etc.)
  • 1/2 tbsp. honey or maple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a 2-cup container. Mix well and seal. Let soak for 1 to 2 hours to create a thick and delicious treat.

Chia seeds swell to create a thick pudding made flavourful with fruit, nuts, seeds and a little sweetener.
photo: Getty Stewart

Best-Ever Fruit Dip

  • 2 tbsp. almond butter(or favourite nut/seed butter)
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Combine almond butter and honey in small bowl. If too stiff, briefly heat in microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in yogurt, cinnamon and lemon juice. Mix well. Serve with your favourite sliced fruit or use as a spread on waffles or pancakes.

Recipes source: www.gettystewart.com

About the author

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Getty Stewart is a professional home economist, speaker and writer from Winnipeg. For more recipes, preserves and kitchen tips, visit www.gettystewart.com.

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