Halloween is here! As parents most of us will have to face that huge pillow-sack full of candy that makes its way onto our kitchen table or living room floor, whether it is this year or in years to come. The question is, how will you deal with it as a parent? Do you let your kids have a candy free-for-all so that it disappears quicker, or do you allow only one or two treats per day so that it lasts until Christmas? Do you make it disappear in other ways like by getting your kids to trade it in for non-candy alternatives or donating it?
I have to admit, I'm thankful that my son is young enough that he doesn't really know what's going on-- he hasn't quite reached the stage where candy is the main attraction for Halloween. To be honest, I don't even think he knows what Halloween is. I'm hoping that my two-year-old will be excited enough to get into his Tiger Costume, go to see his Nana and Grandpa--who will "oooo" and "awww" and take lots of pictures-- and maybe taste one or two sugary treats. Do you think I can salvage one more year of candy innocence? We'll see.
How you choose to deal with Halloween as a parent is a personal thing and there isn't one right way to go about it. Why should we be worried about our kids consuming copious amounts of candy? If sugar-rich foods like candy are consumed too often and in large amounts, it can contribute to poor dental health, displacement of other nutrient-dense foods, and unhealthy weight gain. At the same time though, fun-foods like candy and chocolate are delicious (let's be honest!) and shouldn't be limited too much, or else your kids will desire them even more (this happens to us too)! Here's what I plan to do when my kids are at the stage where candy takes precedence over cute costumes.
Fuel up before venturing out: Make sure that your kids have a healthy and balanced dinner before heading out trick-or-treating. This way, they won't be ravenous candy-monsters by the time they come home. Ok, maybe they still will be, but they'll likely be more open to enjoying their treats in moderation instead of devouring it all in one sitting.
Pour it out and sort it out: Get your kids to pour out their entire bag of candy and sort through it. Have them create two piles—one for the candy that they can't live without and one for sketchy and sub-par candy (candy without a wrapper or with a punctured wrapper, unfamiliar candy, and candy that they can live without). Toss this pile in the garbage or put it in a "to donate" pile. What you do with the "to donate pile" is up to you. Some parents have their kids trade it in for a non-candy gift like a book or some crayons. Or some parents have their kids actually donate it to a local food bank or a dental office.
Divide it up: Give your kids a handful of small plastic sandwich bags and get them to divide up their "can't live without" candy pile into 3-4 treats per bag. This teaches your kids that it is ok to enjoy these "fun-foods" in moderation, even everyday! Keep these little bags out of sight unless it's treat time because you AND your kids will most likely fall victim to the "See-Food Syndrome" if the candy is within eye-sight all of the time.
Dig in! Try not to play food police with your kids—the more you hover over them and limit their treat intake (or ban it all together), the more curious they will be and the more appealing candy will become. Try not to label treat foods as "bad." One of life's great pleasures is tasting and enjoying different foods—including those that aren't healthy. Let your kids try out a few of their favourite treats and join in on the fun. C'mon, you know you want to!
I am leaving my family behind and jet setting off to Toronto in just 2 DAYS to finally meet all of the fabulous bloggers that I work with here at the Yummy Mummy Club. We have been lucky enough to score ourselves some tickets, courtesy of our amazing boss (thank you Erica Ehm!) to Blissdom, a Canadian blogger conference. Telling you that I am excited would be an understatement. I am flying all the way from Calgary (that's a long flight) and have flown enough times to know that planning what you're going to eat is essential (especially now that you have to pay for those disgusting airline sandwiches). So if you plan on travelling anytime soon (or ever), read on for some handy tips on how to travel healthfully.
Don't skip breakfast the morning of your travel: It's not good to skip breakfast EVER, but it's especially important on days that you are travelling for long periods of time. Even though you are likely going to be more sedentary than usual—you'll likely be sitting for most of the day—you still need to kick-start your metabolism, give yourself some energy and brain power and also curb cravings for later in the day. A good breakfast is key.
Focus on protein-rich foods for your pre-travel meal: Protein is essential for keeping you fuller longer because it is digested slowly. If you have a meal or snack that contains ONLY carbohydrate-rich foods (starchy foods or fruits), you'll find that your stomach will start to growl within an hour (or sooner) of eating it and you'll be looking for something carb-rich to snack on. When travelling for long periods, it's best to stick with high-protein foods such as lean meats, eggs, dairy foods, nuts/seeds, beans/lentils paired with veggies and/or fruits and a small serving of whole grain for your meals. This way your blood sugar level will remain stable and you'll be able to go longer periods without eating.
Pack nutritious snacks: Unless you want to eat little packages of trans-fat laidened cookies or "bits and bites" throughout your flight, pack healthy snacks that you enjoy. I've been able to get away with bringing a small cooler full of things such as individual Greek yogurts, individual cheeses, fruit, veggies and hummus. But if you feel more comfortable packing non-perishables, try high fibre granola bars (look for at least 4 grams of fibre, 7 grams of protein and less than 8 grams of sugar), make-your-own trail mix containing your favorite nuts, seeds, dried fruit and whole grain cereal, a high fibre cracker and peanut butter sandwich (I use Ryvita), or your an apple paired with some nuts. Healthy snack foods can be grouped together as a meal on the plane or can eaten in between meals. I recommend eating approximately every 3-4 hours to avoid overeating later once you get to your hotel or destination.
Scout out healthy choices at the airport: There's no harm in grabbing something at the airport before your flight or to take on your flight. But do your research first. Depending on the airport, there may be slim pickings in the healthy eating department. Check to see if there are healthier options. Try a chicken or turkey sandwich from Tim Hortons or SUBWAY paired with some veggies or fruit, or a latte from Starbucks paired with a yogurt parfait or a breakfast sandwich. Grab a chicken wrap and small smoothie from Jugo Juice, a pre-made salad with some chicken or a hard-boiled egg on top or some sushi if that's available.
Stick with familiar, easily-digestible foods: If you are going to be sitting—in close quarters—with people you don't know very well, you'll probably want to stick with foods that you know your tummy can handle. Stay away from really high fibre, greasy, or spicy foods right before a long flight or drive. These foods might produce cramping, bloating, discomfort, and frequent trips to the bathroom, which let's be honest, is not ideal.
Stay Hydrated: Don't rely on the flight attendants to keep filling your water cup. Purchase a water bottle after you've gone through security and bring it with you on the plane. It's easy to get dehydrate while in the air, so you'll need to drink more than usual.
I'm sure that most of you know that lean meats, poultry, and fish provide an excellent source of protein, iron, and other essential nutrients. But did you know that you can still reap the benefits of these important nutrients without the meat? Eating meat-free is a wonderful way to expose yourself and your kids to other nutrient-dense foods that provide the same nutrition as meat, in a quicker, cheaper, and, often, healthier way. Choosing to cook without meat can be a huge time-saver if you're a busy Mom, like me. And if you know how to prepare a healthy meatless meal, it will likely be higher in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than a meal containing meat.
Going meatless, even if only once or twice a week, may help to decrease your risk of many chronic diseases, such certain cancers, heart disease, and diabetes type 2. Decreasing your meat consumption may even help you achieve a healthier weight. But it's not as simple as just removing the meat from your meal—creating healthy and balanced meatless meals requires some thought and planning. But trust me, it's worth it!
Step 1: Choose a protein-rich meat alternative
If you're removing the meat, poultry, or fish from your meal, you're also removing most of the protein from your meal. Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients in our food supply—it functions as the building blocks of our body tissues (muscles, bones, skin, and cartilage), as well as hormones, enzymes, and antibodies. Protein also helps to control your appetite, by keeping you fuller longer. Healthy protein-rich meat alternatives include: eggs, dairy products (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese), beans, lentils, soy products, nuts, and seeds. Quinoa, a healthy whole grain product, also contains protein. Make sure the protein-rich foods make up about one-quarter to one-third of your meal.
Step 2: Balance your meal
It was once thought that if you chose a plant-based source of protein for your meal—such as beans, lentils, nuts or seeds—you needed to carefully pair it with a complementary source of protein—such as rice, quinoa, barley, tofu, eggs, or dairy—to render it a high-quality source of protein. Now we know that as long as you eat a variety of protein-rich foods, whole grain foods, fruits, and veggies within a twenty-four hour period, your body will get all the protein that it needs. If you followed a strict vegan diet, you may need to be more diligent with pairing complementary protein sources at your meals.
Balancing your meatless meal is as easy as choosing three or four foods: A protein-rich food (or two), as mentioned above, some vegetables and/or fruit (try to choose bright, colourful ones most of the time), and a whole grain food or starchy vegetable (rice, whole grain pasta, bread, quinoa, potato, sweet potato, etc.). Make sure to include a healthy source of mono- or poly-unsaturated fats coming from foods, such as oil, nuts, seeds, or avocado.
Healthy meal examples, suitable for toddlers, kids, and adults:
Step 3: Relax
Meatless meals are great for many reasons, including the fact that they are QUICK and EASY! Instead of having to worry about thawing meat before prepping your meal, you can easily grab the eggs, a can of chickpeas, or some cottage cheese, instead. If your family is used to having meat-filled meals, don't panic—they will probably adapt easily to the occasional meatless meal, and appreciate the variety.
Meatless meals can also save you money! Meat alternatives, such as eggs, dairy, beans, and lentils, tend to be cheaper than meat, yet packed full of the same nutritional benefits. And don't bother spending a ton of money on vegetarian cookbooks—keep it simple—just replace beef or chicken in your favourite dishes, with tofu, eggs, beans, or lentils. Have breakfast for dinner and cook up some french toast with yogurt and berries, or make a veggie omelette.
If you are new to this, try making one or two meatless meals a week. You'll likely save money and time, improve your family's health, and add some variety to your weekly menu.
Spill it! What's your favourite meatless meal?