This previously published story is now available for FREE reprint.
Simply include my byline and drop me a note indicating when and where it will appear.
The lunch-box is one opportunity for parents to ensure kids receive the protein, vitamins, minerals, and calories growing bodies need for a busy day at school, and a myriad of extra-curricular activities. School-age kids can whip up these delicious snacks with minimal assistance at the beginning of the week, to be conveniently packed into lunch-boxes or backpacks each morning. Ingredients are provided for a 5-day school week, allowing variety while monitoring portion sizes.
All-Your-Favorites Trail Mix: No two trail mixes need be alike! Every kid (or adult!) can create a signature mixture. Bulk bins at the grocery store offer endless combinations of nuts, dried fruits, seeds, and low-fat granola. Steer clear of sugared candies, and choose only raw or roasted unsalted nuts and seeds. Experiment, enabling your children to explore different tastes. Combine ½-cup of mixture in colored cellophane or zip-lock bags per serving.
Yogurt Parfaits: Sprinkle low-fat granola in the bottoms of five 1-cup containers. (Tip: save old single-serving yogurt containers!) Add a spoonful of lemon or vanilla low-fat yogurt. Add ¼-cup fruit of your choice in each and top with more yogurt. Sprinkle low-fat granola on top.
Or, try this savory, Mexican-inspired alternative!
Cottage Cheese Parfaits: Replace yogurt with low-fat cottage cheese, and substitute cooked beans and salsa.
Food Fact! The calcium in these foods has been found to lower the liver’s output of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and builds the bones of rapidly growing kids. Calcium has also been linked to the prevention of colds, allergies and cancer, and helps prevent dangerous intestinal infections. Low-fat dairy products are an excellent source of protein.
Fruit ‘n Cheese Kebabs: Alternate fruit and part-skim mozzarella cheese on kebab skewers or toothpicks. Choose dried or fresh fruit, such as apricots, figs, bananas, pears, plums, peaches, melon wedges, oranges, or pineapple. Be careful of sharp points or splinters.
Raw Veggies & Dip: Slice broccoli and cauliflower florets, zucchini and cucumber slices, green pepper rings, carrot and celery sticks. If a child is allowed to help choose the veggies and takes part in the washing, cutting and packaging, she or he will be more likely to enjoy them. Create a simple and delicious dipping sauce by blending plain non-fat yogurt with cottage cheese. Add your favorite herbs, if desired.
Yummy Bugs: Spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter on 10 round or oval whole wheat crackers. Place 6 thin carrot sticks in the peanut butter on each, for the bug’s legs. Put 2 raisins at one end of each to make eyes, and gently squeeze the remaining crackers on top.
Food Fact! In the legume or bean family, peanut butter is a terrific protein source, containing mostly beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and vitamin E, shown to act as an antioxidant. A winner with most kids, P.B. is also a source of essential minerals such as magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
Bahama-rama: Mix 1-cup of low-fat cream cheese with 2½ tablespoons chopped walnuts, and 2½ tablespoons crushed pineapple in its own juice. Spread on 5 whole wheat English muffins. Try this spread on celery sticks with raisins, or on whole wheat crackers.
Food Fact! Whole-grain breads provide your kids with energy, vitamins, and iron, and most are low in fat. A good source of dietary fiber, whole-grain breads will keep your child satisfied longer. To be sure what you buy is whole-grain, read the label carefully; Whole grain should be the first ingredient listed. Not all dark breads are whole grain.
Remember, crackers, biscuits, and other grain products can be high in sodium or fat. Check nutrition labels to find those that are lower in fat and sodium.
Bran Apple Bars: Apples and bran cereal add dietary fiber. Using egg whites in place of a whole egg keeps cholesterol to a trace.
1. Preheat oven to 350F (moderate). Grease a 9×9-inch baking pan.
2. Soak 1-cup of whole-bran cereal (i.e.: All Bran®) in ½-cup of skim or non-fat milk until milk is absorbed.
3. Mix 1-cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg thoroughly.
4. Beat 1/3-cup butter or margarine and 1/3-cup brown sugar until creamy. Add 2 egg whites and beat well. Stir in 1-cup chopped apples, and the bran mixture. Add dry ingredients, mix well.
5. Pour into pan. Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Note: Some whole-bran cereals contain almost twice as much sodium as others, check the nutrition label. Makes 16 bars: two weeks’ supply, or enough to share with friends!
Snacks often provide a substantial amount of a child’s food intake—your child’s snack choices are important. However, all snacks are not equal! Nutritious snacks like these will help children get all the vitamins and minerals they need each day.
**For a fun, easy and nutritious snack, try making Raw Brownies with Icing!