March is Nutrition Month, and P.E.I.’s Healthy Eating Alliance has issued challenges aimed at engaging Island children in learning about healthy eating.
Although the official registration deadline was March 8, anyone interested who let the deadline slip by can contact the Healthy Eating Alliance at 620-3672 or email@example.com to see how they can participate.
Early learning centres and childcare centres have a Nutrition Month recipe challenge. They are being encouraged to choose a theme, serve a new recipe that fits into that theme and to conduct a healthy eating activity that will help children learn more about healthy eating. Healthy Eating Alliance staff members have provided a tool kit with four ideas for themes and a selection of recipes to go with them, as well as activities.
Parents can use the themes to make mealtimes fun at home during Nutrition Month and follow up by creating themes of their own throughout the year. Suggested themes are Under the Sea, Vegetarian Lunch, Mexican Fiesta and Healthier Kid Favourites.
There has been a recipe for tuna noodle casserole circulating since I was a child, and I suspect that most adult Islanders are familiar with it. It contains canned cream soup (high fat, high salt), white noodles (low fibre) and is often topped with crushed potato chips (high salt). Healthy Eating Alliance has provided a healthier option that childcare centres might use as part of their Under the Sea meal.
Here’s the six-serving recipe. They also provide a 40-serving version in the resource handout.
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Adapted by P.E.I. Healthy Eating Alliance from www.skinnytaste.com
90 g (1 cup) whole wheat fusilli noodles (uncooked)
15 mL (1 tbsp) margarine or vegetable oil
½ medium onion, finely minced
20 mL (1 1/2 tbsp) all purpose flour
250 mL (1 cup) low-sodium chicken broth
125 mL (1/2 cup) 1 per cent milk
5 sliced mushrooms (about 2/3 cup) You could also use celery, carrots or broccoli
125 mL (1/2 cup) frozen peas (thawed)
1 170 g can light tuna in water, drained
60 g (½ cup) lower-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (21% M.F. or less)
15 mL (1 tbsp) Parmesan cheese, shredded
15 mL (1 tbsp) seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
Cook noodles according to directions on package. Drain. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F). Lightly spray a 23 cm x 30 cm (9” x 12”) casserole dish with cooking spray.
Warm oil in a large deep skillet. Add onions and cook over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the flour and stir well, cooking an additional 2 -3 minutes over medium-low heat.
Slowly whisk in the chicken broth until well combined, increasing heat to medium and whisking well for 30 seconds. Then add the milk and bring to a boil. When boiling, add mushrooms and peas, and simmer on medium, mixing occasionally until the mixture thickens (about six to seven minutes).
Add drained tuna and stir for another minute.
Remove from heat and add 250 mL (1 cup) lower-fat cheddar cheese (shredded cheese melts faster) and mix well until it melts. Add the noodles to the sauce and mix well until evenly coated. Pour into the prepared casserole dish and top with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Place under the broiler for a few minutes to get the crumbs crisp (be careful not to burn).
Elementary and Consolidated School classes are challenged to “build a healthy plate.” The goal is to plan a healthy meal, and a corresponding grocery list.
Students will illustrate the foods served using a place mat template representing a round plate divided into four equal segments.
Two of the segments will be filled with vegetables, one with grain products and one with meat and alternatives. They can plan a breakfast, lunch or supper, and illustrate it using pictures either clipped from grocery flyers or hand-drawn and glued to the template. Having planned their healthy plates, students will describe how their meals are balanced and healthy.
The Healthy Eating Alliance has developed a tip sheet to help students make healthy choices from each of the food groups. For example, one of the tips under Vegetables and Fruits is “choose colourful vegetables such as carrots, celery, bell peppers, spinach and sweet potatoes” and one of the Milk and Alternatives tips is “Choose milk or soy milk instead of juice and soda.”
To adapt this activity for use at home, parents could make a child responsible for planning one dinner a week. The child would plan the meal to meet the healthy plate standards, create the shopping list, and (depending on the age and level of skill) prepare the family meal.
At some point, budgeting can be incorporated into the activity as well. It allows the child to learn about healthy eating, and develop food skills, while adding variety to family meals and giving the usual cook a night off.
Skills developed in completing Healthy Plate Challenge form the basis for meal planning, including menu planning and preparing for grocery shopping.
These are activities that adults responsible for their own or their family meals do regularly. Everyone does it their own way, using their own criteria. By learning to incorporate healthy eating principles into meal planning, youth will be better prepared to do it well.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.