Fuelling the bodies of our little scholars with nutritional foods not only keeps them satiated, but also promotes active learners and healthy brains. As parents, we often grapple with what to provide our little ones that will please and excite them while meeting their nutritional needs. To help us with this endeavour, we spoke with Monique Zizzy, a Holistic Nutritionist who offers insight into preparing and presenting fresh, quick and brain-boosting foods.
yymm: What are some healthy snacks to pack in the lunch box?
MZ: Finger foods that are colourful with fun textures are a hit with many kids. A few that I really enjoy are homemade crispy yam chips and crunchy chickpeas. They can be made a day ahead with a touch of coconut oil and different spices, depending on what you have on hand. Yam chips are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates and Vitamin A while chickpeas offer protein and fiber. Both items can be packed into the lunch box in a little container or be used as an addition to an evening salad. See the recipes below to give these heart-healthy items a try.
yymm: What are the do’s and don’ts of packing a healthy lunch for kids?
MZ: Presentation is really key. Try to look for bento box style lunch boxes that have little compartments to keep foods separate and colourful. Dishes look more appealing and fun to eat when they have their own little space. It gives kids an opportunity to explore various foods one at a time and enjoy the bursts of different flavours – even if this is as simple as cut up fruits in one area and fresh vegetables in another area. This experience adds appeal and adventure to the overall meal.
Try to avoid packing everything into one big open space; flavours mix, textures mix and the enjoyment is often a bit lost. For foods your children are not too fond of, try packing them in a creative fashion to gain their appeal, such as putting small cubes of vegetables onto a skewer stick along with cheese and fruit. The act of pulling the pieces off one by one adds to the enjoyment of eating.
yymm: What are your suggestions for dealing with picky eaters?
MZ: Picky eating is frustrating for everyone but the trick is to stay positive and continue to be creative and consistent with different foods. Children’s taste buds are very different from adults and often much stronger. This doesn’t help with the desire to try new foods yet it doesn’t mean you stop offering. Keep adding variety to the plate every day. Always try to include foods your child likes but also incorporate items you are eating or would like your child to eat. Avoid adding pressure and stress around eating as this will make things worse – you don’t want your child to associate eating with stress. Having a family meal lets kids see that you also enjoy eating the same foods and kids love to be included. So go on and eat together, explore new foods, keep offering and enjoy the conversations along the way!
I find finger foods are really a hit with picky eaters. This doesn’t mean everything has to be pizza, French fries and chicken fingers. Be creative! Try hamburgers on a stick without the bun, homemade coconut battered halibut fingers with fruit salsa or mini chicken/fish tacos with creamy avocado sauce. Grilled crunchy broccoli with creamy zesty homemade dipping sauce can turn the pickiest of eaters around. The goal is to keep it fun and tasty!
yymm: What are your time-saving tips for mama’s and dada’s on the go?
MZ: Meal planning is really key here. Everyone is busy and getting the children off to school while also meeting the demands of your schedule can be challenging. The best tip is planning ahead as much as possible. Take time as a family to plan your week. Get a chalk board, ask the children what they want to eat and write up a meal plan for the whole family to see. Create a list and go shopping. Prepare snacks, such as cut up fruits and vegetables ahead of time and leave them in the fridge or a quick grab-and-go. Build in time on Sunday to accomplish these tasks as a family. Pack lunches the night before. If you are baking something for lunch, make a big batch and freeze individually for the week, which can easily be taken out one day at a time.
Much like adults, children eat with their eyes and as Ms. Zizzy points out, presentation is key when packing lunches. Using bento boxes and containers allows food to maintain textures and keeps food separated while also reducing a significant amount of waste. As being ‘green’ is a priority for many school districts, the use of BPA-free plastic containers allows us to be creative and environmentally-friendly at the same time.
We hope the wisdom shared by our nutritional guru encourages parents to be imaginative, fun and ecologically conscious in our approach to offering our children brain-boosting and healthy meals. Our children’s bodies and minds, and the Earth will thank us for it!
Yam Chips Recipe
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1 or 2 large yams
Salt and pepper
Peel the yams and chop them into thin wedges like a chip (I find thinner is better if you like a slight crunch). Put them into a bowl and toss with almost all of the melted coconut oil. Add salt and pepper and coat. Place onto a greased baking sheet with some of leftover coconut oil.
Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until slightly chewy. Take out and flip them over once.
Roasted Spiced Chickpeas Recipe
15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and dried
2-3 tbsp grapeseed oil or melted coconut oil
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt (or to taste)
Preheat oven to 375.
Toss chickpeas with oil and spices until evenly coated. Spread on rimmed baking sheet. Roast, shaking pan occasionally, until chickpeas are golden and crunchy, usually about 30 minutes.
Let cool and store in airtight container for up to 1 weeks.
Ms. Monique Zizzy is a Holistic Nutritionist and works at the Restoration Health Clinic in North Vancouver. She graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition as a Registered Holistic Nutrition (RHN). Monique believes that nutrition fits into every aspect of our day and lives – it’s about balance and finding harmony that works for each unique individual. She is a busy mother of a toddler and is passionate about children and women’s health, detoxification and food allergies. Her idea of a perfect day on the West Coast is spending it with a long trail run followed by a picnic and swim with her family in the ocean. She lives by the motto that ‘Life is busy. Keep the foods we eat simple, delicious, whole and alive to help increase our vitality and find balance.’
Yo mamas and dadas want more tips for healthy family meals?
By: Yasmin Remtulla