Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween!

Or, happy Orange and Black day for many schools and teachers out there.

Halloween is usually a time when we indulge in too many treats. It can be difficult to not give into peer pressure and stuff our faces full of sugar, candy and chocolate. A healthy Halloween may seem like an oxymoron to you, but I've included some tips to try to be a good role model and make your Halloween as nutritious as possible.

Try these options to hand out to trick-or-treaters (adapted from

Alternatives to Food:
  • Temporary tattoos or stickers
  • Small plastic spiders, ghosts, or skeletons
  • Super bouncy balls
  • Halloween-themed pencils, erasers, or pencil toppers
  • Spooky plastic rings or false teeth
  • Bracelets or hair accessories
  • Toothbrushes
  • Coupons or certificates - if you don't get too many kids! (an example pictured below taken from Weighty Matters blog)

Healthier Food Options:
  • Individual packages of raisins or other dried fruit
  • 100% fruit leathers
  • 100% juice boxes
  • Small water bottles
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Mini bags of popcorn
  • Apples
  • Bags of nuts or seeds such as almonds or sunflower seeds
  • Crackers
  • Individual apple sauce
For candy, if you must, try:
  • Gum
  • Fruit-flavored snacks/rollups/gummies
  • Small lollypops (they last longer)
  • Fat-free or lowfat candy like Twizzlers, Skittles, York Peppermint Patties, or Junior Mints
  • Only giving out one fun-sized candy per child (whole handfuls reinforce over-indulgence)
Students are bound to have candy no matter how hard you try to provide nutritious or alternative options. Make sure students and children eat a healthy meal before trick or treating so they don't over indulge and the candy is seen as a dessert. During school hours, make sure children aren't only eating candy in their lunches. Have healthy options available and tell them they can eat their treats at the end of lunch.

This doesn't have to be a bad thing!

Vegetables are exciting!


Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Great Big Crunch

If you hear some loud crunches around London today, don't be alarmed, The Great Big Crunch is here! Schools will be celebrating with activities, assemblies and by simultaneously crunching into delicious apples today. Fresh apples were delivered by Smith Fruit to 17 VON Student Nutrition Program funded schools.
The Great Big Crunch is a community-wide event where students and staff crunch into fresh apples simultaneously time to promote, celebrate and enjoy healthy snacks and school nutrition programs. Students across London and Middlesex take one big bite toward healthy living through healthy eating. The Great Big Crunch is used to raise awareness about the Student Nutrition Program. Nutrition programs improve the learning abilities of children, decrease absenteeism, decrease disruptive behaviour in the classroom, and provide a chance for children to learn healthy habits for lifelong healthy development.

Through a donation by the VON Student Nutrition Program, the Children's Nutrition Network (CNN) is able to cover the costs of over 6,500 apples for 17 London and Middlesex schools.

The CNN is supported by Investing in Children in partnership with Middlesex-London Health Unit, MayCourt Club, City of London, London District Catholic School Board, Thames Valley District School Board and Cooking for Kids/London InterCommunity Health Centre

We would also like to thank all the volunteers, parents, teachers and Public Health Nurses who assisted with washing apples. Public Health Nurses from the Middlesex London Health Unit have been behind the coordination of this event for the London area for several years.

Schools that participated this year: Academie de la Tamise, Princess Elizabeth, Knollwood Park, Northbrae, St Pius X, Victoria, St. Robert, St. Anne, Chippewa, Aberdeen, Woodland Heights, JP Robarts, C.C. Carrothers, Sir Isaac Brock, Bishop Townshend, Our Lady Immaculate and St. Vincent de Paul.
About Children’s Nutrition Network. The Children’s Nutrition Network (CNN) is the local contact group for the Student Nutrition Program across London and Middlesex County. We work directly with local schools, programs and the community to raise funds, awareness and to support 72 nutrition programs in the London area. The CNN is directly affiliated with Investing in Children and in partnership with: Middlesex-London Health Unit, MayCourt Club, City of London, London District Catholic School Board, Thames Valley District School Board and Cooking for Kids/London InterCommunity Heath Centre. For more information see

A sneak peak of a student 'crunching' away. More to come! So stay tuned!


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

It's Pumpkin Time!

Fall is my favourite season for so many reasons. The crisp, cool fresh air, the colours, the holidays and the produce! Pumpkins are a symbol for the Autumn season and, although it can take a bit of work and planning, there is so much you can do with pumpkins in the classroom and in your nutrition programs.

Children love carving pumpkins and scooping out the insides. There's something about getting your hands dirty that most students enjoy.While you do this, there are some great math activities you can complete with students. Have students estimate the number of lines on the pumpkin or number of seeds within. They can write their estimates on notes and arrange them in a graph.

Also, when you're finished counting the seeds, they make for a great snack! You can season the seeds in any way. Salty, sweet, spicy or plain - they are very versatile. Below I've included two ways you could roast the seeds and enjoy as a snack.

Seasoned Pumpkin Seeds  
Servings: 2 cups

Seeds from 1 large Ontario Pumpkin
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil or melted butter

Sugar Sweet Seasoning:
2 tbsp (25 mL) packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (0.5 mL) nutmeg
In small dish, combine sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Makes enough for 2 cups (500 mL) seeds.

Remove all strings and any remaining pulp from pumpkin seeds. Spread 2 cups (500 ml) seeds on large baking sheet with sides. Let stand at room temperature to dry, 3 to 4 hours or overnight, stirring once or twice.
When they are dry, gather seeds into middle of baking sheet; drizzle with oil or butter and sprinkle with salt, stirring until evenly coated. Spread out seeds on sheet. Leave them as is for a salty seasoning or sprinkle with sugar sweet seasoning, stirring to evenly coat seeds. Roast on bottom rack of 350ºF (180ºC) oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden, stirring every 5 minutes. Turn into bowl.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Fundraiser Friday!

For an effective nutrition program to run, it is very important to see fundraisers as an opportunity to not only fund the program directly, but promote the program and engage the community.

Thinking up new ideas to use in schools can be difficult. You want fundraisers that are simple and effective. I wanted to highlight a particular idea I think is great because it is simple, versatile and has options.

A Canadian Tire Money Fundraiser:

We all have that little stash of Canadian Tire money. How many of us actually use it? Why not make a fundraiser out of it.

Ask students, teachers and staff to bring in any Canadian Tire Money they have at home. You can do this for a month, two months, or all year long. The money raised can be used to purchase equipment and materials needed for your nutrition program.

Collect the money from each classroom at the beginning of every week and keep track of what has been raised. By keeping a tally, you can have a healthy prize for the winning class as an incentive.

If you are interested in using this idea, leave a comment below and I can send you a newsletter template, excel spreadsheet template and labels.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Snack Time!

For those of you with snack nutrition programs, I'm told over and over again, having single serving options is easiest. Which is why apples, bananas or other single serving fruit is a simple way to get kids snacking. However, having the same kinds of snacks over and over again can be boring for kids and part of our job is to educate and get them excited about healthy choices. It can be difficult to come up with creative snacks to serve students, especially in a single serving.

Below you'll find some ideas for single serving snacks that kids love and are pretty easy to put together. All of these great snacks were prepared by our After School Program Coordinator at Princess Elizabeth, Denise Ritchie. She is full of great ideas! 

In these pictures: Strawberries, raspberries, pears, apple, pineapple, kiwi, peaches

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Toast Pita Chips

Cut up fresh (or canned fruit) into tiny pieces, similar to salsa. Mix together in a large bowl. Add a squeeze of lemon to stop the apples from going brown. Portion into small individual bowls or cups.

Slice up whole wheat pitas. Drizzle with olive oil.Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.Warm in the oven. Place in the bowl or cup. (Or you can cut the pitas up and place them in the cups without warming or adding cinnamon to save on time).

Any fruit will work but I would avoid bananas because they would go too mushy.

In these pictures: Carrot and celery sticks

Veggies and Pitas with Dip in a Cup

Step One: wash and cup up vegetables into long, thin pieces.
(cut them long enough to stick out of the cup, but not too long to tip it over)

Step two: add dip to the bottom of each cup.
(you need enough dip to hold the cup upright, about 2 - 3 tbsp.)
Make your own dip using low fat sour cream and onion soup mix or simply buy your own like hummus or ranch.

Step three: fill with veggies and pita bread.
(put the veggies in first and wedge the pita bread triangles on top so they are not touching the dip and get soggy)


In these smoothies: Strawberries, bananas, ice and 100% orange juice

Non Dairy Smoothies:

Ingredients: Fruit, Ice, Juice

Add all the ingredients to a blender and puree. If you don't want to use ice you can simply use frozen fruit and water. There is also the option to make dairy smoothies by adding yogurt or using milk instead of juice. Smoothies are great because you can customize them to how you like them. 

I even add spinach or kale to mine for an extra vitamin and nutrient boost. They usually turn out pretty green but challenging your students to try new foods can be fun! (And you can't taste the spinach - trust me!)

Happy Snacking!