Healthy Back to School Shortcuts
It’s Back to School, ladies!
Getting healthy meals and snacks on the table in a hurry can pose a bigger challenge than ever during the school year. As parents, we often rely on sandwiches to fill hungry little tummies. Kids love sandwiches; they’re easy and quick. What parent hasn’t fallen back on the old sandwich-and-soup trick at the end of a long day?
Sandwiches have earned a bad reputation in part because they’re the basis of fast food. Recently, we even heard in the news about some bread containing ingredients found in foam yoga mats! How can we be sure we’re giving our children the best?
Very likely, our kids will be eating lots of sandwiches this school year, so the best thing to do is make them count, nutritionally speaking. In this column, I want to tell you how to make sure your kids’ sandwiches are healthy.
Naturally, a sandwich is built from two components: bread and filling. Let’s take a look at each:
It’s important to read labels. When you check the ingredients of most grocery store bread, you will find a very long list. Typically, that list looks like the one on the left.
Notice that many ingredients cannot even be pronounced. What is this stuff, and why is it in there? Bread does not need all of these additives, because it is a very simple food. Bread only requires four or five ingredients. Good flour, water, yeast, salt and maybe a bit of oil or sweetener is all it takes.
Organic bread typically has cleaner ingredients. If you have access to certified organic bread, it is definitely worth the extra money, because this is a major part of what your child’s diet.
It’s not always easy to find good, healthy bread that is also very affordable, so why not try making it? I promise, it isn’t that hard. Making bread is a very kid-friendly activity – and the results are so much fun. Make a big batch, and freeze several loaves, so that you’ll have a supply of good bread on hand. Once you have healthy bread in the house, you’re halfway to a better sandwich.
Next, let’s take a look at the fillings. This is the easy part, because just about anything is better on good bread. My child loves hard-boiled egg mashed down with ripe avocado – a nutritional powerhouse. Minced or shredded vegetables, mixed with cream cheese, nut butter with fresh or dried fruit, cheese and fruit, leftover roasted meats sliced thinly – just about anything good and healthy can be turned into a sandwich. Tea-time classics like cucumber or radish sandwiches with butter and sea salt also make a fun, healthy snack.
Look for fillings that are free of added sugar, salt and preservatives. Fresh is best, but if you use pickles, condiments, jams and jellies, check the labels to make sure these items are free of high fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial colorings and preservatives.
Once you have the basics – healthy bread and wholesome fillings – be sure to enjoy the ease and simplicity of sandwiches. You don’t have to feel bad about taking shortcuts when you know the result is yummy – AND nutritious.
In my next column I am going to talk about healthy yummy alternatives to everyday meals, making slight changes to make everyday meals more nutritious without compromising taste, stay tune..