Hey, kids and parents, school is back in session in about three weeks (and for some, it's already back on). Naturally, the idea of getting back on track after vacation and getting ready for back-to-school season was the theme for the monthly newsletter at work. I decided to share some healthy, transportable lunch ideas (good for adults too!) and inevitably found myself on a quiet campaign...
...to bring back the Thermos!
Hear me out for a moment, people - yes, there are microwaves in a lot of schools now, but not enough to service a lunchroom full of kids who have one hour to eat and play outside. So, they either have to waste their time standing in line, or put their food in at the same time as all the other kids, so they all end up with food that's still cold in some parts, or worse, food that might make them sick because it wasn't heated properly. You can stick to foods that don't need heating, like sandwiches and salads, but having the option of something hot, in a Thermos, opens the door to lots of other potential lunch foods.
Now that we're on the topic of my nutrition "campaigns", here's another one I want to get started - Stop fretting about how late dinner is! I always cringe a little when my clients come in and they guiltily say, "Oh, I eat dinner at 7... sometimes even 8." Because, uh... that's how late I eat dinner. Oprah and personal trainers everywhere have led people to believe that our body slows down at a certain hour - that's simply not true. Our hearts are still beating. Our lungs are still breathing. Our guts are still digesting. Our brains are still thinking. Sure, you may not be moving, but as long as you've done some moving during the day, you should be fine.
Some people may argue, "but what about that study in Obesity that found that mice fed during the day (their sleeping time) gained significantly more weight than mice fed the same amount of food at night (their waking time)? Well, first of all, that is just one study, using animals. I can show you another study with animals that gives the opposite conclusion. But even if our circadian rhythms did have an effect on our metabolism/weight gain, they are affected by our environment (see: jet lag) so the answer is not as simple as not eating after a certain time.
The main reason why I want people to stop fretting about how late dinner is, is that perhaps by subconsciously pressuring ourselves to get dinner on the table by a certain time or make dinner within a certain timeframe, we rely on convenience foods instead of taking the time to prepare a healthy meal. Or maybe we disallow ourselves from having an afternoon snack at 4 or 5 so as not to "spoil" dinner, only to find ourselves nibbling on the vegetables that we're chopping or the chips that are in the cupboard as we are preparing dinner. I would much rather see someone eating a meal that they took the time to prepare from scratch using fresh ingredients at 8 PM, versus someone eating a microwaveable dinner or take-out at 6 PM. Just sayin'.
So, hamburger soup!
Two of my coworkers actually have a pretty good hamburger soup recipe, but when it came time to write my newsletter article, strangely they were both away. So this recipe actually comes from Healthy U, the government of Alberta's healthy living website - I figured they would have some easy, family-friendly recipes. They actually have three versions of hamburger soup... I think that says a lot about my province.
This recipe is aimed toward the busy parent and is very basic - you chop up some vegetables, open up a few cans and throw everything into the pot. And I'd like to think anything with the word "hamburger" in it would be welcome to little kids (unless you were me, and your mom didn't like hamburgers so you grew up on Filet O' Fishes) If you are averse to canned tomato soup, tomato paste can be used, though you may want to add some sugar to taste. You can also substitute the canned tomatoes for fresh. Once you get the basic formula down, feel free to play! Substitute the ground beef for another ground meat or even TVP, swap in your favourite vegetables, herbs and spices, or use a gluten-free grain instead of barley, etc.
Adapted from Healthy U
Makes about 12 cups
- 1 tsp (5 mL) vegetable oil
- 1½ lb (700 g) extra-lean ground beef
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cups (1 L) water
- 2 cups (500 mL) low-sodium beef broth
- 1 × 284 mL can (10 fl oz) low-sodium condensed tomato soup or 1 × 156 mL (5½ fl oz) tomato paste
- 1 × 796 mL can (28 fl oz) diced tomatoes, undrained or 3 fresh, ripe tomatoes, diced (save as much of the juice as possible)
- 4 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- ½ cup (125 mL) pearl barley, uncooked
- 1 tsp (5 mL) dried parsley or 1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh, chopped
- ½ tsp (2 mL) dried thyme or 1½ tsp (7 mL) fresh, chopped
- Black pepper to taste
Nutrition Info (per cup): 173 calories, 6 g fat (2 g saturated), 36 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrate (3 g fibre, 5 g sugar), 14 g protein, 264 mg sodium. An excellent source of zinc and selenium. A good source of vitamin A, niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, iron and potassium.
- In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Brown ground beef, garlic and onions over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. Drain off any excess fat.
- Add remaining ingredients and bring the soup to a boil before lowering heat. Simmer until barley has fully expanded, about an hour (if you are impatient the soup should be edible within 25-30 minutes.)