Eating Outside the Box

How to avoid the fat, sugar and salt of packaged food.

Eating Outside the Box

Photo: Gerri Photography


In our fast-paced world, ensuring kids get good nutrition can be a challenge. With so many convenience food options, parents can easily be lulled into making choices that are not necessarily the most nutritious. This has nothing to do with being a bad parent. There is so much conflicting information out there, it’s hard to know what’s a good product and what’s clever marketing.

Even kids are swayed by these ads. For instance, my nephew tried to convince me to buy a popular juice beverage because TV ads say it has the recommended daily vitamin C intake in one serving.

What the ad doesn’t talk about is the long list of ingredients contained in this product, the second of which is sugar. Just one cup of this beverage has 27 grams or six teaspoons of sugar! An orange has many more nutrients with fewer calories and no added sugar.

Unfortunately, small companies manufacture many of the best foods. But you won’t see their ads during prime time because they have small advertising budgets. So buyer beware. There’s no way around it. You must read labels because you can’t always believe what you’re told.

Choose unprocessed foods

The good news for parents is that whole foods have high nutritional value. Processed food is usually not as nutritious as whole foods because it tends to be high in fat, sugar, salt and artificial colour and flavorings. Real food does not have ingredients.

Here are a few whole food products that supply excellent nutrients to both kids and adults:

Carob: Many parents are concerned about their kids having too much chocolate. There is an alter-
native – carob, which is made from the ground seeds and pods of a tree from the legume family. Carob has no caffeine or fat and has three times as 

much calcium as chocolate so it is a nutritious substitute for kids. The taste is not exactly like chocolate, though kids rarely notice the difference when it’s used in baking. Carob comes as a powder and as baking chips.

Hemp hearts: These are shelled hemp seeds harvested from the cannabis sativa plant, which has been grown in Canada since 1998. All products manufactured from hemp are environmentally friendly, sustainable and psychoactive free (they won’t make you high). Hemp is an excellent source of protein (4 tbsp equals 15 grams) and omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs).EFAs have been shown to be important for healthy and efficient brain development. Hemp hearts are incredibly versatile – add them to fruit, yogurt, salads, smoothies, baked goods – almost anything. They have a very mild taste and the consistency of crushed walnuts so kids won’t detect them!

Almonds: Almonds are a good source of vitamin E, calcium and iron. Kids tend to like nuts and although nut allergies are becoming more common, almonds are one of the safest. Many people are concerned about the fat content in nuts. However, research shows that almonds can actually help reduce cholesterol levels. The best choice are raw almonds that you toast yourself for extra flavour and better nutrient absorption. Almond butter is also a nice alternative to peanut butter, especially if you can find it freshly ground. So the next time you’re out shopping, why not pick up some almonds to have as a snack food, incorporate in baking or to sprinkle on cooked veggies.

Hemp and carob can be found at most bulk or health food stores.

Author: Louise Racine

Louise Racine is a certified nutritional practitioner and owner of Thirteen Moons Culinary Wellness Retreat. Visit the website for info and recipes Thirteen Moons.

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