Sporting Snacks for School and Play
Posted: January 4, 2013
Wit the school year in full swing, it is a good time to think about healthy snacks for hungry children returning home after school or those taking part in after school activities, such as sports, marching band, drama and other activities requiring long hours. How to cope with the unending appetites while providing good fuel for health requires planning. Montana State University Extension (Buy, Eat, Live Better Newsletter v.10, Issue 6) recommends packing two clear-sided snack boxes – one for the refrigerator for the homecoming snackers and one for the cupboard for morning “take-out”.
Think about the events for the week before shopping and purchase enough snacks for the week. Make a list of snacks to keep in each box, so replenishing the box is easy. Having a variety of foods that will satisfy everyone means including foods that are crunchy, chewy, creamy and juicy. Put the “to go” snack box on the kitchen table in the morning for children to choose snacks for their activities that day. Pull out the “chilled” snacks from the refrigerator when hot and thirsty school-bus warriors return home.
Snacks should represent all of the MyPlate food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, milk/dairy and protein. For the “to go” box, include fruit cups, applesauce, dried fruit, and small age-appropriate pop-top canned fruits. For protein, any kind of nuts, peanuts, soy nuts and nut butters in small packs or containers can be included, depending on school regulations for nut products. Mini pouches of tuna or tuna/chicken salad with crackers are also an option. Pudding packs and grain foods round out the offerings – try to choose whole grain pita chips, pita bread, mini-bagels or crackers and healthily prepared popcorn or rice cakes. Snack bags of home-made snack mix with whole grain cereals, pretzels, whole grain fish-shaped crackers and nuts or dried fruits go well. Shop-and-go snackers can supplement these shelf stable snacks with travel friendly fresh fruit from the kitchen fruit bowl or frozen, aseptically packaged “brick” packs of milk or 100% fruit juice from the freezer on their way out the door! (The beverages should be thawed in time for “shake and drink” afternoon consumption.)
For the “chill box”, consider small bags of sturdy veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery or cherry tomatoes – a great way to get some veggies into children prior to dinner. Include some small containers of hummus, bean dip or light ranch dressing, using veggies as dippers. Some chilled versions of the fruits used for the cupboard box can be included, as well as small bags of grapes, cherries, blueberries or other seasonal fruit such as easy-peel clementine tangerines. The chill box is a great place to stock yogurt, cottage cheese with fruit, string cheese, cheese slices or cheese wheels.
Economizing on snacks may mean buying large containers and more pre-packaging by the family – this can be an engaging family affair, with the added benefit of providing the children “ownership” of the snacks they have bagged or containerized. Low-cost snacks include whole-grain crackers, graham crackers, pretzels and whole-grain cereals. Less expensive fruits are canned fruit, applesauce, raisins and some other dried fruits. Baby carrots, celery, bananas, apples and buy-one get-one (bogo) deals on berries are also good values.
Children and teens need snacks because of growth spurts, physical activities and because small children have less stomach capacity. Instead of buying high cost “snack items” typically high in fat, sugar and sodium, consider snacks as mini-meals and use these basic foods high in nutrition. Snacks are then a major part of the day’s nutrition. Don’t forget to have some yourself!
Rayna Cooper is a Registered Dietitian and Family & Consumer Sciences/Nutrition Educator serving Penn State Extension in Adams County. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce. Penn State Extension in Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg, PA 17325, phone 334-6271, email email@example.com.