Whether your child is returning to school in person or virtually this fall, snacks are an important part of their learning. Prepackaged snacks can be costly and are higher in fat and sodium providing very few vitamins and minerals. This blog will guide you on why healthy snacks are important and how you can easily prepare snacks that are delicious, nutritious, and easy on your wallet.
Simple steps to keep in mind as your child returns to school this September:
- Plan ahead if you can make and pack your child’s lunch box with sensible snacks, delicious lunch, and water, you will have smoother mornings.
- Involve your child-they will be more inclined to eat what is in their lunch box. Children can peel, assemble, measure, scoop, slice, package, pour, and create and name their own special snack.
- Try using fun bento boxes/containers/snack bags/icepacks-have your child put stickers on paper bags for their “super special snack-of-the-day!”
- Most classrooms have a small snack time window, so keep snacks simple but well-balanced to include 2 or more of the food groups.
- Water is the best beverage for snack time-it’s sugar-free and all-natural.
Why Snacks Are So Important
According to MyPlate.gov, our daily meals need to provide a healthy balance of whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. This may seem overwhelming each day, but snack time is a great way to boost your child’s nutrition and energy with some of the suggested snack items you will find in this blog. Each bite will provide benefits that will build a better and healthier future for your child. Sensible snacks support your child’s behavior, learning ability, attention, and memory. Try to create snack mixtures that consist of fruits, vegetables, and grain with a protein or dairy item. These types of combinations will fill their bellies and allow them to make it through the day alert and satisfied. Other benefits include increased brain health, getting more restful sleep, and maintaining a healthy weight. Sensible snacks fuel children’s growing bodies, and their learning potential and supports their physical activity levels.
Your child’s health starts with you. You are the role model. They see everything you do and do it in turn. If you eat fruits and vegetables, you will be more willing to try them and eventually enjoy them. Keep in mind, it may take many offerings. One of the key messages from MyPlate.gov is to “Eat the rainbow.” Offer your child a variety of fruits and vegetables that can be found at your grocery store or local farmers’ market. Also, include your child in the decision-making by giving them healthy options from which to choose on their own. Supporting their independence and including them in the snack preparation process will lead to children sending home empty lunch boxes. A great family activity is to Make-Your-Own Trail mix. Offer a few different kinds of dried fruits, seeds, coconut, pretzels, low-sugar cereals, and whole wheat cracker items. Your child can add their preferences to their snack baggie. They will eat what they like and save you money in the long run.
Food Group Combination Snacks with a Powerful Punch
Combining two or more of the food groups will ensure that your child will coast easily through the school day until it is lunchtime or dinnertime. Here is a chart to show you some satisfying options:
|Shaved Carrots||Low-fat cottage cheese||Cinnamon|
|Watermelon Slice||Mini Cheese Wheel/Stick|
|Cucumber slices||Whole Wheat Pita Bread Triangles||Hummus|
|Cherry Tomatoes||Whole Wheat Crackers||Deli Turkey slice||Your child’s favorite cheese||Stacked in a box|
|Clementine oranges||Whole Grain Pretzels|
|Cantaloupe||Popcorn||Yogurt fruit dip|
|Salsa||Whole grain tortilla chips|
|Strawberries||Mini Rice Cakes|
|Cinnamon Apple Chips||Low-fat Greek Yogurt|
If you need to purchase the quick option of grab-and-go snack packs, try to buy fruit cups (packed in 100% juice), salsa single packs, guacamole cups, low-fat and low-sugar yogurt tubes, cottage cheese, or hummus packs. By adding fruit or a vegetable along with a whole grain option, you will provide your child with a snack that will sustain them throughout the school day.
These next snack ideas may take a bit more time, but they will save you money. Like bulk shopping, bulk cooking is a cost-effective process. You make one item that you can use in multiple instances. For example, making your own granola can be used as a breakfast cereal, a yogurt topping or in parfaits, or an ingredient in making your own snack bars.
The variety of muffins is endless. You can find recipes for all kinds of muffins that contain blueberry, cranberry, lemon, zucchini, pumpkin, strawberry, raspberry, carrot, apple, and more. What is great is that for additional protein and antioxidants, you can mix in nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts), seeds (poppy, flax), and/or spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg) to your child’s liking. Muffins are easy to pack, hold, and freeze.
Have you ever thought about sending a snack of a peeled, hard-boiled egg? Not all children may request this every week, but for the child that loves eggs, this is a great snack option. Also, try making Watermelon Pizza (Triangular slice of watermelon, shmear of Greek yogurt, sprinkled with flax seeds) or Baked Zucchini Boats (halved zucchini the long way, topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella, and Italian seasonings).
As with the options listed above, here and below have your child help with the snack preparation, cooking, and storing process.
Make-Your-Own Snacks Recipes
Baked Apple Chips https://www.foodhero.org/recipes/baked-apple-chips
Guacamole Hummus https://www.chopchopfamily.org/recipe/hummus-however-you-like-it/
Alternative Snack Options
- Instead of your typical Ants on a Log (celery stick with cream cheese or peanut butter with raisin ants) try making Celery Caterpillars (celery sticks with cheese/nut butter with grapes/blueberries) or Celery Snails (celery stick with cream cheese, one round slice of cucumber and a head made of a cherry tomato or blueberry).
- Instead of a Fruit Salad, make Fruit Kabobs using a fruit/vegetable/cheese cube combination.
- Instead of a Cracker Stacked Sandwich, use cored-apple circle slices with nut butter/oats/raisins OR offer turkey and cheese circles between two slices of cucumber.
Books on Sensible Nutrition
When children learn about good nutrition and develop positive attitudes about eating, it goes a long way toward lifelong health. These books may help with your picky eater, getting your child to try new foods, participating in the kitchen, and understanding where the fruits and vegetables we eat are grown.
- I Can Eat a Rainbow, by Olena Rose, 2021, for ages Infant to 8 years
- N is for Nutrition, by Todd Skene & Dr. Amneet Aulakh, 2018, for 4-8 years
- Eat for Energy-Choose Good Food, by Gina Bellisario, 2021, for 6-8 years
- Eat Your Greens, Reds, Yellows, and Purples: Children’s Cookbook, by DK, 2016, for 8-12 years
- Eat More Colors: A Children’s Illustrated Guide to Eating Right and Healthy!, by Breon Williams, 2018, for 9-12 years.
YouTube Video on a Book Reading of Healthy Snacks:
Healthy Snacks on MyPlate, by Mari Shuh; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSEKz5w6ZCE