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Tips for Healthy Snacks to Bring to School

As we head into the new school year, it's time to think about the snacks your kids will eat at school as they are part of their overall diet. Packing healthy snacks may be required by their school, or it may be a decision you make as a family. In either case, healthy snacking habits help teach them how to make good food choices and avoid weight problems later in life.

Snacks can help provide the nutrients they need to grow and maintain a healthy weight. Prepare single-serving snacks for younger kids to help them get just enough to satisfy their hunger. Let older kids prepare their own snacks by keeping healthy foods in the kitchen.

Visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to help you and your kids select a healthy, satisfying snack. Or try some of these helpful tips.

SAVE TIME. Slice vegetables to save time. Store sliced veggies in the refrigerator and serve with dips, such as hummus, or low-fat dressing. Top half a whole-wheat English muffin with spaghetti sauce, chopped vegetables and low-fat shredded mozzarella and melt in the microwave.

MIX IT UP.  For older school-age kids, mix dried fruit, unsalted nuts, and popcorn in a snack-size bag for a quick trail mix. Blend plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt with 100 percent fruit juice and frozen peaches for a tasty smoothie.

GO FOR GREAT WHOLE GRAINS. Offer whole-wheat breads, popcorn and whole-oat cereals that are high in fiber and low in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium. Limit refined-grain products such as snack bars, cakes and sweetened cereals.

NIBBLE ON LEAN PROTEIN. Choose lean protein foods such as low-sodium deli meats, unsalted nuts or eggs. Wrap sliced, low-sodium deli turkey or ham around an apple wedge. Store unsalted nuts in the pantry or peeled, hard-cooked (boiled) eggs in the refrigerator for kids to enjoy any time.

KEEP AN EYE ON THE SIZE.  Snacks should not replace a meal, so look for ways to help your kids understand how much is enough. Store snack-size bags in the cupboard, and use them to control serving sizes.

QUICK AND EASY FRUITS. Fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits can be easy "grab-and-go" options that need little preparation. Offer whole fruit and limit the amount of 100 percent juice served.

CONSIDER CONVENIENCE.  A single-serving container of low-fat or fat-free yogurt or individually wrapped string cheese can be just enough for a snack.

SELECT WHOLE-GRAIN FOODS.  Healthy whole-grain snacks include rice cakes, crackers, cereal, popcorn, granola bars and whole-grain pretzels and baked tortilla chips. Check the ingredient list to avoid products that contain artificial ingredients or preservatives.

SWAP OUT THE SUGAR.  Keep healthier foods handy so kids avoid cookies, pastries or candies between meals. Add seltzer water to one-half cup of 100 percent fruit juice instead of offering soda or sugary drinks. Avoid the added sugars of juice drinks, punches, fruit cocktail drinks or lemonade.

Drinks that contain at least 50 percent juice and no additional caloric sweeteners also are healthful options. To find 100 percent juice, look at beverage nutrition labels for the percentage of the beverage that is juice. Orange, grapefruit and pineapple juices are more nutrient-dense and healthier than apple, grape and pear juices.

PREPARE HOMEMADE GOODIES. For homemade sweets, add dried fruits such as apricots or raisins and reduce the amount of sugar. Adjust recipes that include butter, shortening and other fats by using unsweetened applesauce or prune puree for half the amount of fat.

By providing nutritious snack choices, you can help get your kids off to a healthy start at school.

Instead of purchasing processed snack options at the store, make some healthy snacks. Store your home-baked snacks in air-tight containers or freeze in individual-wrapped portions to pack for school or work. Need some ideas? Here are two recipes that are both tasty and nutritious.

 

BAKED TORTILLA CHIPS

  • 6 (10-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
  • Canola oil spray
  • Salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Spray canola oil spray on one side of each tortilla; sprinkle, if desired, with salt. Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges. Arrange tortilla wedges in a single layer on baking sheets. 

Bake 8 minutes or until golden and crisp. Serve warm or cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container. You can serve plain or with salsa or hummus.  For a variation on the recipe, instead of using salt, add cinnamon and sugar, or a Mexican spice mix. Serves 4.

 

OATMEAL BARS

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup jam (raspberry, apricot or your favorite flavor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flours, oats, brown sugar and baking soda. Add the applesauce and oil; stir with a fork until evenly moist and crumbly.  Set aside 3/4 cup of the crumb mixture to use as topping. Press remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of the baking pan. Spread the jam in a thin layer over the crumb layer. Sprinkle with the reserved crumbs, pressing gently.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the edges are golden. Cool and cut into 12 bars. Serves 12.

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