Food bank donations can easily be made healthier… (tips for you too)

Food bank donations can easily be made healthier…             (tips for you too)

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Think about it!  Share it!  What do you typically donate to food drives/food banks?  What is your favorite tip here?

Kathleen Rose (left) and Norma Hergott, volunteers with the Waterloo Region Food Bank,
show some healthier food options people might consider donating as the holidays approach.

From a recent article published December 1, 2012, here are some tips to remember when donating to food banks:

  • Less processed foods are ideal (convenience isn’t always the best)
  • Choose items lower in salt, sugar, and fat 
  • Choose items higher in fiber
  • “Low in sodium” claims may mean the item is lower than the original version but not low in salt overall
  • Don’t be fooled by items you think qualify as healthy (such as granola bars loaded with sugar)
  • Quinoa, canned fish, and peanut butter are good sources of protein
  • Barley, chickpeas, lentils, or dried beans are great picks (think, things that can be found in the bulk section)
  • Spices are often overlooked, but can add tons of flavor to food (without the addition of salt)
  • Top needed items:  peanut butter, canned meat, canned fish, rice and cereal

Now, don’t forget to look at the labels…

“Peanuts” is the only
ingredient listed
  • Crackers and granola bars:  3 grams or more of fiber per serving
  • Cereals:  8 grams or less of sugar and 5 grams or more of fiber
  • Soups:  less than 15% of the daily value of sodium
  • Canned foods:  reduced or no salt added
  • Grains: whole (whole grain crackers, pasta, brown rice)
  • Peanut butter: look at the ingredient list, ideal is “peanuts” only listed

And think of the kiddos…

  • Look for unsweetened applesauce
  • Fruit in juice with no added sugars
  • Dried fruits
  • Unsalted nuts or seeds
  • Plain (no butter or sugar) popcorn

Instant Dry Milk is shelf-stable

And the lactose intolerant…

  • opt for powdered milk or milk substitutes (rice, almond, or soy milk) that are shelf-stable 

And learn how to cook with these items…

  • Soup: add beans, pasta, or veggies
  • Kraft macaroni: add canned tuna or veggies
  • Canned veggies: rinse before to get rid of any added salt
  • Beans: use in pasta or as a base for brownies (it’s true!!!)
  • Oats: use for breakfast as a cold or hot cereal OR as granola OR in cookies

Think this before buying for donation: “What would you serve your family?”

And even after you donate, refer back to these pointers to help you and your family develop healthy menus in a budget-friendly way.  

WINForum recommends healthy well balanced eating that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and low-fat dairy. We offer nutrition information for coaches, athletes, trainers and parents that emphasizes the importance of healthy eating for peak performance. For more information visit

About the author

The Washington Interscholastic Nutrition Forum (WINforum) is a research based sport nutrition resource for student-athletes, parents, coaches, and professionals in the field of athletics. Our team of Sports Nutritionists (Registered Dieitians with a specialty in sports nutrition) keep our website stocked with accurate, science based nutrition information and sport nutrition tips, in order to help athletes and coaches reach their full potential on and off the field.