School’s started up again and making sure your child stays focused and alert during the day depends a lot on what and how much they are eating! Encourage mid-morning or afternoon snacks to keep you little ones energized. Tuck one of these healthy goodies into their backpack so they can have something to nibble on during the long school day.
The snacks below are packed with the flavors kids love, and the critical protein, whole grains, and vitamins they need to be their best! Each one provides a bit of sweetness for flavor and a burst of energy, plus vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Having a tasty snack to munch on after school (when they are always impatient for some sort of food) also helps your children to avoid cheap junk food that may be available around or on school grounds. Try five these snacks out to have a Chipper school year!
1) Ants on a Log
This healthy snack is one that kids can make all on their own. Simply spread some crunchy peanut butter and sweet raisins over celery for a smart snacking option.
• 5 stalks celery
• 1/2 cup peanut butter
• 1/4 cup raisins
Cut the celery stalks in half. Spread with peanut butter. Sprinkle with raisins.
2) Apple Cinnamon Bran Mini-Muffins
A big muffin is often too much for a little kid. These bite-size bran muffins, made with the goodness of apple and cinnamon, are perfect for preschoolers to preteens and are just the right size for snacking between meals.
• 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) natural bran (not cereal)
• 1 cup (250 mL) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar
• 2-1/2 tsp. (12 mL) baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. (2 mL) cinnamon
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
• 1/3 cup (75 mL) vegetable oil
• 2 eggs
• 1 medium apple, peeled and finely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease the cups in two mini muffin pans.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the bran, flour, brown sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, oil and eggs. Add the milk mixture to the bran mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the chopped apple.
3. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup to the top. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
4. Makes 20 to 22 miniature muffins. Enjoy!
3) Apple Autumn Salad
This tart and tangy fruit salad tosses together tart green apples, dried cranberries, cherries and almonds in a refreshing vanilla yogurt for a delightful taste of fall.
• 4 tart green apples, cored and chopped
• 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds, toasted
• 1/4 cup dried cranberries
• 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
• 1 (8 ounce) container vanilla yogurt
In a medium bowl, stir together the apples, almonds, cranberries, cherries and yogurt until evenly coated.
4) Banana and Peanut Butter Wraps
Kids go bananas for these simple after-school snacks. The peanut butter and banana filling, sprinkled with raisins and drizzled with honey, is a wholesome way to satisfy their sweet and salty cravings.
• 1 (6 inch) flour tortilla
• 2 tablespoons peanut butter
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1 banana
• 2 tablespoons raisins
Lay tortilla flat. Spread peanut butter and honey on tortilla. Place banana in the middle and sprinkle in the raisins. Wrap, and serve.
5) Juicy Fruit Salad
Juicy to the core, this tropical blend of pineapple chunks, orange segments, diced apple, banana slices and grapes makes a sweet gesture for your little ones when they’re looking for a quick snack.
• 1 (15 ounce) can pineapple chunks with juice
• 1 apple – peeled, cored and diced
• 1 orange – peeled, diced and juice reserved
• 1 banana, sliced
• 1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
In a large bowl, toss together the pineapple, apple, orange, banana and grapes. Add the juice from the pineapple and orange and let chill until serving.
School Lunch Advice for Kids at Every Age
Try the tips below to make your child’s lunch healthy AND worth looking forward to.
For home-packed lunches:
• Avoid the morning rush by preparing lunch the night before and chilling it in the refrigerator.
• Put slices of tomatoes in a separate bag or container so they don’t make sandwiches soggy.
• Instead potato or corn chips, pack a healthier alternative like veggie chips, bagel rounds, or baked tortilla crisps.
• Round out the meal with kid-sized veggies—baby carrots, celery sticks, or broccoli florets—and a low-fat or fat-free dip.
• Low-fat, high fiber mini muffins make a great dessert alternative to cupcakes or high-fat cookies.
• Use a cookie cutter to transform a plain square sandwich into something unique.
• Turn a container of yogurt into a complete meal by sending along some stir-ins like granola, trail mix, unsalted chopped nuts, or whole grain cereal.
• Consider alternatives to sandwich bread like burger buns, pita rounds, soft tortillas, and large lettuce leaves (for a no-sog wrap for savory fillings).
For school cafeteria lunches:
• Look over the cafeteria menu with your child ahead of time. Try to agree on items your child like and that are healthy.
• Ask the school’s parent-teacher group to arrange a presentation by the food service department. Express your interest in ensuring that healthy food choices be offered in school cafeterias and vending machines.
• Learn more about new laws requiring healthier school lunches at the Healthy Meals Resource System web site.
Advice and tips for safe lunches
To prevent food-related illness, following the guidelines below when preparing and packing lunches.
Watch the temperature. Harmful bacteria grow best between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, so it’s important to keep perishable foods outside this danger zone as much as possible. Foods susceptible to bacterial growth—especially high protein foods like meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs—should never be in the danger zone for more than two hours (one hour in warm weather conditions). Foods destined for the lunch box should be kept in the refrigerator until just before your child leaves for school.
To maintain lunch food at a cool temperature, pack a frozen juice box or water bottle in an insulated lunch bag; you can also use a freezable gel pack. Try to position the coldest item at the top of the bag since cool air settles.
Keep it clean. Always wash your hands (and your child’s) before preparing food. Wash them again after handling eggs or raw meat so you don’t cross contaminate other foods or surfaces. Be sure that utensils, counters, and cutting boards are also clean when you begin. If raw meat or eggs touches a surface, clean it with warm soapy water before allowing another food to come in contact with it.
Be aware of food hazards. Some common lunch foods pose health hazards than you might not expect. Some of the most common include:
• Raw eggs. Uncooked eggs may be contaminated with salmonella. Young children are especially susceptible to this harmful organism, so avoid giving them foods like homemade mayonnaise or uncooked eggnog.
• Peanuts. Children who are allergic to peanuts can have a life-threatening reaction to even microscopic amounts. This is why some schools have banned foods that contain peanuts. Unfortunately, many processed foods contain trace amounts of peanuts, even if they aren’t listed on the ingredient label. If you’re child attends school with a youngster who has a peanut allergy, be sure to pay attention to any guidelines given to you by the school. (To learn more about peanut and other food allergies, check out Medline.)
• Tuna. Albacore tuna—so-called “white” tuna—has relatively high levels of mercury. Though not considered dangerous for most adults, young children and pregnant women should avoid eating more than one meal (about six ounces) of albacore per week. Shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish have less mercury, and are safe for up to two meals per week.
Is There Lead in Your Child’s Lunch Bag?
In 2005, tests by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission revealed that some soft vinyl lunch carriers contained lead. Though the government insisted that the risk associated with these products is very low, parents have reason to be concerned. Lead is an insidious nerve toxin that can lead to retardation and other health problems. Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead.
Although the Food and Drug Administration has asked manufacturers and suppliers to stop using lead in the lunch carriers, it is possible that these products remain in homes and on store shelves. It is also possible, though not likely, that other types of plastic lunch carriers might have lead in them.
To protect your child, consider taking these safeguards:
• Avoid soft lunch carriers made from vinyl (or PVC).
• Look for carriers from reputable suppliers that are certified as lead free.
• If you have a soft lunch carrier and want to know if it contains lead, pick up a home lead testing kit at a well-stocked hardware store or home center.
Check out these Environmentally-Safe, Reusable Lunch Totes, perfect for school lunches or summer picnics!