Busy families know how hard it can be to find the time to eat a proper home cooked meal together every day. In my own family, between school and work, Sparks and karate class, housework and errands, finding the time to cook homemade meals and sit around the table together is an ongoing challenge. But dinnertime is often the only time of the day when we’re all together at the same time, so we work hard to make it happen. My girls are still young, and we’re creating habits now that I hope will last a lifetime. One of those is making sure we eat together!
This was on my mind when I met with Whitney, the friendly neighbourhood registered dietitian at my local Loblaws grocery store. Loblaw in-store Registered Dietitians work with customers to provide personalized nutrition advice and help you plan and shop for healthy meals that your family will enjoy. Whitney toured me through the store and showed me some time-saving ideas and tips for healthy meals I can whip up for my family, even on busy weeknights.
In celebration of PC Eat Together Day earlier this month, I knew I wanted to share these tips with you too!
- When you’re shopping at any Loblaw store, look for the Guiding Stars on the label to help you choose healthier options. Foods are credited for vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, whole grains, and omega-3s, and debited for saturated fats, trans fats, added sodium, and added sugars. Three stars mean it’s the healthiest option, so look for more stars!
- Buying pre-washed, pre-cut veggies can save you a ton of time. Honestly, it’s not the cooking time that turns me off making stir fries most nights, it’s all the prep work. When I’m short on time, it’s worth it to me to spend a little bit extra on veggies that have already been washed and cut up for me. It can make the difference between a home cooked meal or take-out, and I know which I’d rather feed my family.
- The same concept applies when it comes to salads. Bags of pre-washed, mixed greens are a big reason why we eat healthy salads every night. Mix it up by adding toppings like crumbled goat cheese, diced apples, dried cranberries, seeds, or nuts to a bed of fresh salad greens.
- If you can’t finish all those leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.), freeze the leftovers instead of throwing them away. You can throw those frozen greens in your breakfast smoothies or stir fries for less waste and more nutrition!
- Save time by picking up pre-marinated cuts of meat ready for cooking or grilling as soon as you walk in the door.
- Many Loblaw stores have trained butchers in the back who prepare meat fresh on site so you’re not limited to just what you see in the meat case. You can ask for custom cuts and packages to suit your family’s needs. Want a different cut? Need a smaller or larger portion? Just ask!
- Of course breakfast is important, but it’s also the time of day when we’re rushing the most. For a quick, healthy breakfast that’ll keep the kids going all day, cook up a big batch of steel cut oatmeal at the beginning of the week and keep it in the fridge. Warm up a bowl in the morning with some milk and fresh berries for a healthy, stick-to-their-ribs weekday breakfast.
- Speaking of breakfast, skip the fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt which is usually full of unnecessary sugars. Buy plain yogurt instead and add some fresh fruit or toppings yourself. Get creative with flavours like banana pistachio or orange coconut!
- When choosing milk alternatives like nut or soy, look for unsweetened and calcium-fortified milks.
- Don’t demand perfection in your produce. You can save a lot of money and help reduce food waste by buying “ugly” produce that’s misshapen or an unusual size. These “imperfect” fruit and veggies typically get thrown out, simply because they don’t fit the cosmetic standards grocers have for produce. That doesn’t make sense to me! Loblaw offers “Imperfectly Perfect” frozen fruit and veggies. Get the same taste and the same nutrition, but at a lower cost!
Bonus tip: Curious about an alternative, sustainable source of protein? Cricket powder or cricket “flour” is made from 100% crickets! Compared to beef, it’s estimated that cricket farming takes 80% less water to produce double the amount of edible product. For you adventurous types, check out this recipe for chocolate coconut cricket bars!
- 1 cup (250 mL) quick-cooking (not instant) rolled oats
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 3/4 cup (175 mL) pitted dates
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) PC 100% Cricket Powder
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) praline pecans
- 1/3 cup (75 mL) maple syrup
- 1/4 cup (50 mL) cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup (50 mL) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
- Pinch (0.5 mL) cayenne pepper
- Mist 8-inch (2 L) square glass baking dish with cooking spray; line with parchment paper, leaving 1-inch (2.5 cm) overhang on 2 opposite sides. Set aside.
- Pulse oats in food processor until chopped. Add coconut, dates, cricket powder, pecans, maple syrup, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, vanilla, salt and cayenne pepper. Pulse just until mixture comes together, 2 to 3 times. Add 1 tbsp water; pulse, adding more water, 1 tsp at a time, if necessary, until mixture is sticky and holds together when pressed between fingers, 10 to 15 seconds.
- Press into prepared baking dish. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours. Lifting with parchment, transfer to cutting board. Cut into 12 bars.
- The bars need at least 3 hours in the fridge to set, but you can make them up to 2 days ahead. Once the bars are sliced, store them in an airtight container, layered between parchment paper, in the fridge or freezer.
Loblaw Registered Dietitians
The team of registered dietitians at Loblaw stores is an incredible resource for your busy family! Registered dietitians are health professionals with a four year Bachelor of Science degree and a year-long internship. They can help you assess your dietary habits, provide one-on-one nutrition counselling to help you make healthy food choices for your family, assist with meal planning, and provide guidance around the best ways to eat for chronic conditions like diabetes, celiac disease, food allergies, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.
Book a consultation to review your current health status, learn about feeding your young family, get more easy dinner ideas, talk about quick and healthy school lunches, or any other subject you need help with. They also offer in-store food demonstrations and free group tours on a variety of topics (check the schedule in-store). Have a quick “Healthy in a Hurry” question? Call, email, or ask the customer service desk to page the dietitian for you!
Find a registered dietitian at your local Loblaws, Superstore, or Your Independent Grocer store.