Thursday, April 4, 2013

Avoiding processed foods: My four favourite (healthy) 30-minute meals

This is the closest I'll let my kids get to Kraft dinner and its questionable food dyes.
I have a friend who told me one day she looked in her grocery cart and realised that almost everything was in a box. It was a bit of a shock for her to see it all piled together, even though she was the one who put it there.
The environmental impact of processed foods goes beyond all of the packaging. Food additives used in the packaged foods industry come with their own list of concerns. From preserving agents to artificial colours and other additives, the general consensus is that processed foods are contributing to the explosion in chronic diseases.
The additives that concern environmental groups aren’t often on the government’s radar so it’s up to the average Joe to figure it out.
Take Kraft Dinner, for example.

Kraft Foods recently received a petition that was more than 270,000 strong asking them to remove the #5 yellow dye in their popular yellow pasta dinner.  Also known as tartrazine, there is a body of research that considers the artificial dye a carcinogen, and connects it to hyper activity in children and allergic reactions.
Kraft Dinner produced for European market doesn’t have this ingredient because it’s banned in the EU. In fact, the ingredient list on KD sold overseas is a lot smaller and simpler than the ingredient list on the product sold in Canada and The U.S.  

Lesson learned: The only way to avoid unhealthy additives (known and unknown) is to stay away from highly processed foods.

But we all need to eat.
In the suppertime chaos that can be the norm for busy families, finding time to prepare homemade food has become the greatest challenge and the reason why it’s so easy to turn to convenience foods. And not everyone likes to cook, busy family or not.

That’s why I love 30-minute meals, the kind of from-scratch suppers that can be prepared in about half an hour and leave you time to sit down as a family to catch up on your day.

Four of my favourite, kid-friendly, 30-minute meals:

Baked fish with lemon:

Sprinkle fish fillets with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice (herbs too, and lemon zest). Bake at 350 F until done to your liking.

Whole grain pasta with pesto:

Use good-quality prepared pesto and 100% whole grain pasta. Add beans or leftover diced chicken, lemon juice and zest, and feta. I serve it alongside roasted cauliflower (simply tossed with oil, salt & pepper and roasted at 400 F for about 25 min).


Just heat a mishmash of leftovers and serve with avocado slices and a simple carrot cabbage salad (grated carrot and cabbage tossed with dressing).

Speedy soup:

Throw together in a pot 1 diced onion, 2 diced potatoes, 1 diced carrot, 1 cauliflower head chopped, 4 cups water or broth. Put the lid on and let it cook away.  Puree if you like. Season with salt & pepper and your favourite herb (thyme is nice). Add a handful of cheese at the end. You can also cook a broccoli version of this.

“Live right now” is a healthy-living initiative launched by CBC a couple of years ago to inspire Canadians to get healthier. This year’s challenge is to get more families sitting down to eat meals together. Their goal is to have 100,000 family meals logged on their site by the end of April and they’ll match each meal with a donation to Food Banks Canada. Visit to have your family mealtime counted.




No comments: