By Casey Seidenberg
Back-to-school means so many things to so many people. Kids feel a combination of excitement and nervousness. Parents look forward to regular schedules and knowing their kids will be learning after a summer of fun. But for some parents, it can also mean the dreaded snack duty, that unlikable task of providing a healthful snack for an entire class of children. The stress that this task causes some parents has been parodied in movies and television shows, and has been a topic between working and stay-at-home parents. Many find themselves confused when kids in the class have allergies and the school says that snacks have to be healthful. What exactly does that mean? What constitutes a healthful snack?
Besides boycotting, which isn’t really an option because children, especially small ones, need a snack or two during the day to carry them from mealtime to mealtime, what else can a parent do?
Start by ensuring a snack has protein and healthful fat, otherwise, it won’t do its job of providing lasting energy. Protein is a main source of energy for our bodies and helps to build our brains, making it an important ingredient in a child’s school day. Healthful fats are also a concentrated source of energy for the body, are building blocks for the brain, and slow absorption of other parts of our meal, helping us remain full longer.
Then think about adding a fruit or vegetable to every snack. It can be challenging to get enough fruits and vegetables into our children’s bodies through their three main meals, yet kids need the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that these foods supply.
Here are some ideas for whole-food snacks that can be made in bulk and sent into school. They are grouped by protein source. Items with healthful fats are highlighted. Ideas of how to incorporate fruits and vegetables follow at the end. Visit www.nourishschools.com for recipes.
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Bite-sized egg salad sandwiches
- Frittata slices
- Homemade muffins and breads
- Cheese and whole grain crackers
- Cheese and fruit kabobs
- Dates or other dried fruit with cheese
- Pasta salad with tomatoes and mozzarella
Beans and legumes
- Dips such as hummus or black bean with whole-grain crackers and raw vegetables
- Crispy chickpeas
- Mini lentil or black bean cakes
Nuts and seeds
- Homemade trail mix
- Homemade granola or granola bars
- Make-your-own yogurt parfaits with nuts and dried fruit toppings
- Vegetable sushi or brown rice balls rolled in sesame seeds
- Mini sandwiches such as peanut butter and jelly or apple miso almond butter
- Celery and carrots with nut butter dip
- Oat, dried fruit and nut butter balls
- Almond or peanut butter cookies
- Steamed edamame in the shell, lightly salted
- Guacamole with whole-grain chips
- Mini meatloaf muffins
- Nutritional yeast and sea salt sprinkled on popcorn
Add a fruit or vegetable:
- Fruit or veggie salsa (try mango or peach)
- Sliced vegetables to dip in guacamole or hummus
- Dried fruit in granola, granola bars, muffins and breads
- Fresh fruit or fruit salad on the side
- Sliced vegetable of choice on the side
- Dried seaweed
First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, August 23, 2012.