With a new school year officially underway, the daily task of having to come up with novel and appealing meals for your child can be challenging, especially when trying to decide what foods are a healthy option. According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, kids who eat better and move more are likely to have better attendance, improved concentration and steadier behavior, which can ultimately lead to improved overall test scores.
The amount of vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and dairy that should be consumed each day is based on a child’s age and activity level. As a general rule of thumb, half of a child’s plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, with the other half being grains and a protein (such as meat, beans, soy, etc.).
It is recommended that whole grains make up half of the grains eaten each day. Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, oats, plain popcorn, brown rice, quinoa, corn, rye, buckwheat etc. Dairy is very important for growth (among other things), with 2-3 cups recommended daily.
Treats such as candy, cakes, pies, donuts, soda, sugar sweetened beverages – including juice -- and other sugary foods/beverages should be limited in anyone’s diet -- but keeping down the intake of those foods is especially important for children who require concentration and focus to get through a successful day at school.
To help fill lunchboxes with easy and nutritious foods, here are a few snack ideas and several recipes that I’m sure your whole family will enjoy.
Health Snack Ideas
- Veggie sticks with hummus
- Ants on a log
- String cheese with fruit
- Cheese and crackers
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Ham and cheese roll-ups with
- Yogurt and fruit smoothie
- Hard boiled eggs with carrot sticks
Spiced Whole-Grain Mini Muffins
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- 2 eggs
- 2 ripe mashed bananas
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a blend of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg)
Preheat oven to 355°F. Grease or line a mini-muffin tin set aside. Using a food processor or electric mixer, add each ingredient one at a time; mix until smooth. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Enjoy! Yield: 24 muffins.
Serves: 2 mini-muffins.
Ham and Cheese Roll-ups
- 4 slices of ham deli meat
- 2 slices of swiss cheese (or cheddar etc.)
Cut each thin slice of cheese in half, to give 4 total slices. Lay each slice of deli meat on a plate, place the cheese slice in the middle and roll up! Serve with whole grain crackers or veggies as a side!
Yogurt and Fruit Smoothie
- 1/2 cup frozen berries (any kind will work)
- 1/2 banana
- 1 cup (or one small container) plain low-fat yogurt
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 1-2 tsp maple syrup or honey (to taste)*
Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds, or until desired consistency is achieved. Serves: 2-3
*Honey should not be served to children younger than 1 year of age.
Ants on a Log
- 3 celery stalks – cut in half or thirds (giving you 6-8 sticks)
- Peanut butter
- Cream cheese
Cut and wash celery sticks. Spread peanut butter on 3 to 4 sticks, using cream cheese on the remaining celery sections. Top with raisins. Enjoy!