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The humble but mighty Oat packs a nutritional punch

Looking for a nutritious and hearty grain? Take note of the humble oat!

oats-400×400Eclipsed by other gluten-free grains in recent years, oats are an often overlooked option for people who can’t digest gluten, or are looking to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diets. Oats pack a punch from a nutrition standpoint. They are a good source of many nutrients, most surprisingly, protein. Oats’ protein quality is as high as that found in soy, which according to the World Health Organization, is equal to the protein content of meat, milk and eggs. Take that quinoa! Good-quality protein is important for growth and body maintenance and keeps the stomach feeling fuller for longer because it takes longer to digest than other nutrients. For those on vegetarian or vegan diets, oats are also a good source of iron. Most people don’t even think of oats as sources of these nutrients.

Oats are milled from groats from which the hull has been removed. Oats come in many forms: steel-cut, rolled and instant oats are the most common formats found in the cereal aisle of the grocery store. Steel-cut oats are groats that are coarsely cut and take the most time to prepare. Rolled or quick-cooking oats are probably the best choice for making snacks like oatmeal porridge and granola snacks. Oats are also used to make breads that the Scottish have been eating for centuries. You can make your own flour from oats by placing them in the blender or food processor. The flour can then be used as a substitute for wheat or other flours in your favorite snack or treat recipes.

Now a traditional breakfast staple for cold winter mornings, oats were ignored as a useless weed before cultivation began in Europe around the time of the ancient Romans. By comparison, wheat and barley have been harvested for at least 10,000 years. Russia is the largest oat producer, while Canada ranks second and the U.S. sixth.

Oats enjoyed a brief surge in popularity during the 1980s, when researchers found that a diet rich in oats, most specifically oat fiber, could help lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol levels.  One snack brand went so far as to add oat bran to its pretzels! Subsequent food trends came and went, and while oats have continued to find their way into oat breads, granola and granola bars, they have been somewhat overshadowed by the emergence of quinoa and resurgence of ancient grains like millet and buckwheat.

If you don’t have time to eat a hot breakfast or make your own oat snacks, MadeGood® Granola Snacks offer a convenient alternative.  MadeGood makes granola bars and minis that kids love.  We use 1 million pounds of organic oats annually.  All our products are school-safe, and do not contain any nuts. In fact, we have a dedicated peanut and nut-free facility. And, our snacks contain a carefully freeze dried vegetable powder made from broccoli, carrots, beets, spinach, shitake mushrooms and spinach that delivers the nutrition of one serving of vegetables.  MadeGood keeps it simple with ingredients you can recognize and probably have in your kitchen.

Surviving School Lunches

Making school lunches day in and day out is no walk in the park.  Parents try hard to get the nutrition right and pack foods their kids will eat and even enjoy at school.  From grade school to high school, students’ meal and snack choices at school can affect their health, weight and school success – both in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. It’s important that kids actually EAT their lunch and snacks during the school day! Eating approximately every 3-5 hours is ideal for keeping up energy levels and prevent excessive hunger. Here are some timely tips to keep lunches healthy, encourage kids to eat it and save you time with the preparation.

school lunches

NUTRITIOUS LUNCHES

  • Think food groups.  Aim to have at least 3 out of 4 in your kids’ lunch. Kids love snacks in their lunch bags too. Include at least 2 food groups in snacks. For example, mix easy to eat veggies and a favourite fruit like apples, bananas or melons with cereals or granolas from the grains group.
  • Lunch energy comes from carbs, protein & fat, all needed for growth and development.
  • Many schools have a nut-free policy.  Find out more about the allergy policy at your child’s school and pack ‘allergen friendly’ school safe meals and snacks.  MadeGood® Organic Granola Minis and Bars are made in a peanut free and tree nut free facility so they can be safely sent to school.
  • Add color, crunch and a dip. The more green, red, white, yellow veggies in the bag the more it will be in your kids tummy!  Kids love to dip. Pack hummus, yoghurt or guacamole.
  • Build a healthy lunchbox relationship with kids. Ask them how they liked lunch & brainstorm for improvements.

TIME CRUNCH

  • Stock up on a healthy nutritious food pantry.  Great ingredients are whole grain breads/wraps, lean cooked meat, sliced veggies, grated cheese, pre-washed baby spinach, whole fruits like bananas or apples.
  • Cook leftovers with a plan. Double your recipes on weekends or at dinners and pack “planned overs” for lunch.
  • Keep supplies handy to make lunch packing easier. Have a container drawer, open up a shelf on the fridge.
  • Some days kids’ activities at lunch leave them with little time to eat. Portable foods like wraps, or extra easy to eat snacks like granola bars or balls, dried or cut up fruit/veggies work well on such busy days.
  • Set aside time in the evening to pack lunches and snacks. You’ll be glad the next morning.

Author: Lucia Weiler is a Registered Dietitian (Nutritionist) and Professional Home Economist with a passion for food, health and wellness. She is the President of Weiler Nutrition Communications Inc. a consulting practice that provides expert services in nutrition trends, education, food safety and labelling compliance.  Lucia is a pro at translating the science of nutrition into easy to understand, practical advice for Canadians. She is faculty at Humber College and Member of the Board of Directors for Dietitians of Canada.

For more insightful nutrition tips visit www.weilernutrition.com or follow on Twitter/Instagram @LuciaWeilerRD

 References:   Duyff, AND Complete Food and Nutrition Guide (2017)