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Kids are back to school…and eating better

Young child washing veggies in the sink.
Father with little son washes vegetables on the kitchen before eating

Image source: Bigstock

With back to school, it’s time to get those lunch bags busy again. A recent study published in the Public Health Nutrition journal found that school kids are eating better than they did 15 years ago. But there’s still room for improvement.

The study, led by researchers at University of British Columbia, compared the diets of about 7,000 kids aged 6 to 17 between 2004 and 2015. The nutritional value of the foods were judged using the Canadian Healthy Eating Index, which considers 11 dietary components such as total vegetables and fruit, whole fruit, whole grain products, saturated fat and sodium.

Overall, there was a 13% improvement in the foods that kids were eating during the school day. Specifically, school kids were eating more vegetables and fruit, as well as eating fewer calories from “minimally nutritious foods” including sugary drinks and salty prepackaged choices.

That’s the good news, but we can do better. Kids still aren’t eating enough dark green and orange vegetables (important for folate and vitamin A) – think spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots and sweet potato. Kids are also falling short on whole fruit and whole grains.

Here’s what you can do:

• Get kids involved in the food experience.
 Ask them to wash veggies, chop ingredients and help with the cooking. Bonus – kids are more likely to eat the meals that they’ve made.
Set them up for success. Make lunches together. Include a variety of fruit, veggies and whole grains. Keep portions manageable for your child’s appetite.
Be a great role model. Monkey see, monkey do. When you eat broccoli, there’s a better chance that junior will too.
• Advocate for healthy eating.
 Canada is the only G7 country without a national school food program. With the upcoming federal election, let’s put this on the agenda to nourish our future generations.

Food Innovation Winners at the SIAL 2019 Show

One of my favourite food shows is SIAL – it’s the premier event for food innovation and food inspiration. Here are just a few highlights from this year’s event in Toronto.


Winners of the SIAL Innovation Contest

It’s always exciting to see the winners unveiled at this 12th annual international competition. This year’s three grand-prize winners are:

GOLD Grand Prize – Vegan Keto Buns by Unbun Keto Foods: Described as 100% plant-based, these buns are made with almond flour, pumpkin seed protein powder, coconut flour, psyllium husk, flax meal and chia seed meal. According to the company’s website, the buns are gluten-free, vegan, keto, grain-free, starch-free and paleo. Each bun (87g) contains 260 calories, 18 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 14 g carbohydrates, 11 g fibre, 1 g sugars, 11 g protein and 370 mg sodium.

SILVER Prize – Yummy Doh Raw Cookie Dough: It’s exactly what it’s says it is – a vegan cookie dough that is safe to eat raw (there’s no egg product) and can also be baked into cookies. Made with heat treated enriched wheat flour, a 2 Tablespoon serving contains 120 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 16 g carbohydrates, 1 g fibre, 8 g sugars, 1 g protein and 120 mg sodium.

Bronze prize – ICE Oat-based Coffee: This innovation is an oat-based coffee drink that’s made from oats and cold pressed sunflower oil. It’s marketed as a dairy-free, vegan drink for coffee lovers. The cylinder-shaped cardboard package is cool! In 100 mL, the nutritional profile is 54 calories, 1.2 g fat, 9.6 g carbohydrates, 4.8 g sugars, 0.2 g fibre, 1.1 g protein, 74 mg caffeine per can.

Hopeful Prize – Partake Pale Ale-Craft Non-Alcoholic Beer: This new award recognizes food startups. Made with water, barley, hops and yeast, and 0.3% ABV, the beer contains 10 calories per 355 ml can.

Canadian Plate Challenge
New to SIAL this year was a culinary competition hosted by the University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Institute. Four chefs from across the country were challenged to create a healthy, sustainable dish that “tastes like Canada”, using 13 ingredients from each province and territory. The competing chefs were:
– Andrea Carlson of Burdock and Co. in Vancouver, British Columbia
– Laura Maxwell of Le Sélect Bistro in Toronto, Ontario
– Josh Crowe of Monkland Taverne in Montreal, Quebec
– Pierre Richard of Little Louis’ Oyster Bar in Moncton, New Brunswick

And the winner is…Pierre Richard for a twist on his traditional chowder. Using a variety of ingredients like dried morel mushrooms from the Yukon and snow crab from Newfoundland and Labrador, Pierre plated the dish with a bannock-inspired tuile and a pour over ‘Ocean Nage’ intended to represent the coming tide of The Bay of Fundy.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Written by: Sue Mah, Registered Dietitian & Founder, Nutrition Solutions Inc.

[Images: SIAL Canada]

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