August 14th, 2018

From Our Table: Time to talk treats

By Medicine Hat News on August 29, 2017.

We are having such a spectacular summer and although summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 21, back to school time is right around the corner.

Every year when I write this column I cry, but not this year. Nope, I flatly refuse. Unlike some parents I do not at all look forward to back to school time and never have. I love every minute I get to spend with my kids and I don’t really like routine. I actually refer to myself as consistently inconsistent, this way I’d be really hard to stalk โ€” ๐Ÿ™‚

This year at back to school time we have some big changes in our household. Our two oldest completed their business degrees so won’t be going back to school this year. Our next son just got married last weekend so he and his wife are both going back to the University of Alberta in Edmonton. And yes I am over the moon happy to finally have a girl in the family and even better yet she’s totally amazing! Our youngest son will also be heading back to Edmonton to Concordia University.

I must admit that one thing I don’t really miss now that my kids are older is packing lunches. Packing back-to-school lunches can seem daunting but if you do a bit of planning it makes the task much easier.

First of all use Canada’s Food Guide as a template and make sure you pack food from each of the four food groups โ€” fruits and veggies, milk and milk products, grains and grain products; meat and alternatives. Make a little lunch menu for the week then get your groceries and prep the food ahead. For example wash and cut up veggies and put in bags so you just have to grab and go.

But there’s something else to prepare to pack that’s usually really important to kids young and old (probably adults too!).

It’s the treats. Don’t forget the treats. I remember my kids complaining about the lack of sugary treats in their lunches. I heard more then once, “just because you’re a dietitian doesn’t mean we can’t have sugar like other kids.” OK, I’m not that bad, I did on occasion, rare occasions, buy dunkaroos. I’m pretty sure I got a rash when I bought them.

But treats don’t have to be all about high sugar foods. Treats can be an endless variety of ideas. I recently read about a little girl asking her mom if she would pack a nice treat in her lunch. Her mom was getting ready to remind her that too much sugar is a bad idea when the daughter said, “You know, something fun like stickers or a note from you.” How awesome is that!

Treats can be fun non-food items like the stickers or a note I just mentioned. And what about a colourful pencil or a print of a silly picture of you and your child or a little water soluble tattoo or even a fun eraser or a note telling them about a fun activity you will do after school.

With food, treats can still be healthy. Fun food shapes are quick and easy. Try sandwiches cut into shapes or you can get shape cutouts similar to cookie cutters but bigger. You could also shape cutouts for cheese to make it fun.

One easy idea is taking a red apple and a green apple and cutting out a heart shape in the side of each, dip the apple and the heart in some lemon juice or use fruit fresh to keep it from going brown, then put the green heart in the red apple and the red heart in the green apple โ€” voila, instant shape fun!

You can also pack fun textures like the recipes included below. Lots of cookie or loaf recipes can be healthier choices with great textures.

Your kids will be so busy enjoying the flavour and texture they won’t even notice how healthy their treat is. When I’m talking treats I just have to include one of my all time favourite cookie recipes. I’ve shared it before, always with lots of positive feedback.

You might even want to get organized and make both of these recipes this week or weekend to be ready for the start of school in just one week. But it’s still summer for a few more weeks, I’m focusing on that and taking a few deep breaths and I almost made it without crying…

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Coconut Cookies – Nut Free, Gluten Free and Vegan

1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 cup tahini or sesame butter

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup currants

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

1/4 cup dried dates finely chopped

1/4 cup mixed dried fruit finely chopped (could use 1 cup mixed

dried fruit instead of dates, or 1 cup of dried fruit of choice)

Place 3/4 cup coconut, tahini, maple syrup, currants, sesame seeds and dried fruit of choice in a food processor and blend until the mixture is well combined.

Put mixture in a large bowl and freeze until firm, 30 -45 minutes

Use a tablespoon to scoop out a small amount and form into a ball then roll it in remaining coconut. When all the mixture has been rolled into balls put them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or the freezer for up to 3 months

Sunflower Cookies

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg beaten

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp hot water

1 cup unsalted shelled sunflower seeds

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup raisins

1/3 cup wheat germ

1/3 cup natural wheat bran

1 tsp salt

In a large bowl cream butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy. Stir in egg, vanilla and baking soda dissolved in hot water. Add sunflower seeds, flours, oats, chocolate chips, raisins, wheat germ, bran and salt. Combine thoroughly.

Drop batter by teaspoon full onto non stick or parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes.

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