4 Easy Ways To Make Healthy Ingredients Your Fast Food

Lulu Cohen-Farnell's company, Real Food for Real Kids, serves 15,000 lunches a day across the GTA, here's how she's learned to eat well on-the-go.

Add two brown bags to the 15,000 lunches Lulu Cohen-Farnell’s company, Real Food for Real Kids (RFRK) serves daily to children in the GTA, because the entrepreneur still has to pack lunches for her own son and daughter.

Cohen-Farnell and her husband run RFRK, which serves hot, healthy lunches to kids in daycare centres and elementary schools in and around Toronto. “Our mission is to make real food affordable and accessible,” says Cohen-Farnell, noting how each RFRK meal made with whole, unprocessed ingredients costs parents less than $5.

Since Cohen-Farnell is responsible for feeding 15,002 kids and a busy family, she’s got an arsenal of tips and tricks for eating well on the fly.

Be prepared

Cohen-Farnell always carries trail mix. It’s easy to throw together at home: combine your favourite nuts, seeds, dried fruit and even chocolate chips and then toss a container (or baggie) of this delicious mixture into your purse.

She also keeps track of what she has on hand at home with a list on her fridge. She gets her kids involved in marking down what they’re running low on so that their freezer, fridge and pantry are always well stocked.

“The easiest way to make anyone’s life easier is to be prepared,” says Cohen-Farnell.

Make your own convenience food

After her family goes grocery shopping on the weekend, Cohen-Farnell spends time cutting up her fruits and veggies before putting them away. She admits this process can be time consuming, but having containers filled with cauliflower florets and bags of spiralized zucchinis pays off in the long run. “That’s what I call convenience food,” says Cohen-Farnell. On busy weekdays, she can quickly throw together a salad or can even toss her pre-cut veggies in her blender to make an easy puréed soup.

She says that by filling her fridge with fruits and veggies — and by keeping some on her kitchen counter — she creates an environment where her kids are surrounded by fresh food. She thinks this will help them make better choices with what they eat in the long run.

Invest in a blender

A good blender does much more than make smoothies. “Don’t be cheap on your blender,” she says. Cohen-Farnell is a fan of the Vitamix and says it’s perfect for whipping up quick desserts, such as dairy-free ice cream. For this, she blends frozen fruit, coconut milk and vanilla extract together for a naturally low-sugar treat.

Along with using hers to make better-for-you ice cream, the Vitamix can whip up hot soup in minutes. Cohen-Farnell loves re-purposing ingredients and spending time being creative with food. She stresses — to parents and all home cooks — that there’s no such thing as messing up in the kitchen. If you forget broccoli in the oven and it ends up super mushy, for instance, she explains the blender will always come to the rescue because in just a few minutes you can make soup with those overcooked veggies. “It’s about recycling and reusing and transforming and playing; it’s just plain fun to me,” she says.

Pantry staples

For Cohen-Farnell, having lots of spices and herbs are essential. She also has dried beans and grains in her pantry at all times. Canned food, she says, doesn’t have to be the enemy — she recommends looking for BPA-free cans.

And don’t think of your grains and seeds as just side dishes or garnish. At RFRK, for instance, Cohen-Farnell serves alternative chicken nuggets called chicken meteorites. Instead of being deep fried, small pieces of chicken get baked with a coating of chickpea crumbs, herbs, spices, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds and rice flakes.

Vegan pantry staple nutritional yeast is also a star at RFRK where it’s used in mac and cheese, along with carrots and some Canadian cheddar, to give it a KD-inspired orange hue.

Have tools, such as good knives, cutting boards, the blender and even a slow cooker on hand as well. By doing the heavy lifting in advance, eating well on the go is a breeze. Soon you’ll be making lunches and reaching for snacks as colourful and delicious-looking as the ones Cohen-Farnell packs for her family.

Lulu Cohen-Farnell was a panelist at Chatelaine: The Big Dish event in Toronto on October 29. Click here for more interviews and stories from the women who took part.


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