Healthy Lunches

Healthy Lunches

By Lisa Van de Ven

Smart Decisions
The provincial Eat Smart! Cafeteria Program is designed to promote healthy lunches in high schools across Ontario. The program encour-ages simple changes like incorporating more of the four food groups into the daily specials, and bringing in things like whole grain breads and calorie-reduced dressings.
“It doesn’t mean that all junk food is removed,” says Angela Gueldenstubbe, health promoter for the Niagara Region’s Youth Connection Program and the woman behind Niagara’s Eat Smart! school initiative. “We just want to ensure that those options are there, because it attributes to a healthy school environment.”

So far, more than 100 schools in Ontario have implemented the healthy lunches program, including 13 in Gueldenstubbe’s region alone.

Salad Days

The Salad Bar program is run by the Toronto Partners for Student Nutrition and has been picked up at schools like James Cardinal McGuigan and Westview Centennial Secondary School. The focus is on providing locally-grown whole grains, vegetables, fruits and protein options to both elementary and high school students. “Students love to have the choice. When given that choice, they actually embrace a lovely display of fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Ulla Knowles, the organization’s Community Representative for Student Nutrition Programming. “They’re getting more and more savvy these days, wanting to eat healthy.”

Nutritious Brown Bagging

Looking to pack healthy lunches instead of taking your chance with the cafeteria options? Here are some tips:
• Incorporate at least two to three food groups.
• Read labels to avoid trans fats.
• Try the unexpected. A turkey pita, homemade guacamole or hummus with cold veggies are all nutritious and fun to make.
• Pack what you know you like. Otherwise, that salad you put together with good intentions in the morning might lose out to a craving for french fries come lunch.

Chickpea and Spinach Salad

• 1 1?2 cups cooked chickpeas (375 ml)
• 1 bunch spinach, washed, stems removed or use baby spinach (about
4 cups/1 litre)
• 1 small red onion, sliced (about 1 cup/ 250 ml)
• 1 tomato, cut in wedges (optional)
• Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

• 1 large garlic clove, chopped
• Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
• 1 tsp ground coriander (5 ml)
• pinch of cayenne
• 1?4 cup mint (60 ml)
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 tsp honey (5 ml)
• 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (15 ml)
• 1?4 cup extra virgin olive oil (60 ml)

Add the spinach, chickpeas, red onion and tomato to a large bowl. Toss with dressing to combine. Serve. Serves 4 to 6 depending on if served as a side or main.

With a mortar and pestle (or alternatively in a food processor), pound garlic, salt, pepper, coriander, cayenne and mint to a rough paste. Stir in the lemon juice, honey and pomegranate molasses. Drizzle in the olive oil. Stir to blend. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

SUPERFood: Fibre Facts
Fibre is an essential nutrient and an important part of a healthy diet. According to Dr. Jim Pfaff (2006,, most studies to date show a connection between diets high in fibre-rich foods and a lower risk of some cancers.

Meat, dairy and eggs do not contain fibre. Dietary fibre comes from plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and legumes. These foods contain different amounts of two kinds of fibre—fibres that don’t dissolve in water (insoluble) and fibres that do dissolve in water (soluble). Each offer different benefits and both are important.

Soluble fibre breaks down as it passes though the digestive tract, forming a gel that traps some substances related to high cholesterol. It can be found in oats and oat bran, brown rice, barley, legumes like dried peas and beans as well as lentils, and in pectin-rich fruits like apples, strawberries and oranges.
Insoluble fibre holds water like a sponge and helps maintain regularity. Key food sources of insoluble fibre include whole wheat products like wheat bran and whole wheat bread, corn bran, flax seeds, and many vegetables and fruit—eat the skins and double the fibre content!

When shopping, read the food labels and look for 100 per cent whole wheat or whole grains listed as the first ingredient. Products that contain at least 4 grams of fibre per serving are considered high in fibre. Foods with a daily value of 25 per cent or more are excellent sources of fibre.

Get your fibre fix!
Start your morning with a high-fibre cereal that gives you at least
5 grams of fibre per serving and top your cereal with nuts and/or dried fruit. Choose whole grain breads that contain at least 2 grams of fibre per slice—such as pumpernickel or rye. Snack on raw vegetables and fruit more often, and remember to drink plenty of fluids to help fibre work properly. At dinner, fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains or beans, and leave less than a third for lean meats and dairy products.