It’s back to school for many kids and adults. Remember: The mind and body go together! It is important to think “feed the brain,” not only the stomach. The brain requires nutrients to function, just like the body. Snacks are great time to get in those nutrients.
If you pack lunch for your child, choose foods that fit the grade. Sweet and salty snacks with little nutrition will not help feed the brain. After-school snacks should be considered as well to help them do their best on homework.
ChooseMyPlate.gov is an excellent guide to follow when choosing snacks. Vegetables and fruit are great for grazing. Place a cold pack in with carrots, cucumbers and green pepper strips. Dried fruits and vegetables like dried peas can be healthy noshes as well.
Try to include whole grain foods. Food manufactures have added whole grains to many favorite cereals. Just read the food label to see if whole grain is the first ingredient. If whole grain is the second ingredient, most likely the cereal contains 50 percent or less of whole grain.
Popcorn is a whole grain. Air popped popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese is a great snack with very few calories.
Dairy can also be a good choice for in-between meals. Yogurt, low-fat milk and puddings enriched with dry milk can be good sources of protein and calcium along with vitamin D. These foods can be kept fresh in a lunch box with a frozen cold pack.
Protein is the nutrient which usually gets left out of a snack. It’s important because it takes longer to digest than a carbohydrate like grains, vegetables and fruits and keeps the hunger pains away. Great protein nibbles include nuts and beans, such as dried peas and garbanzo beans.
Plan to make smart snacks this school year. Set aside time on the weekend to make this recipe. It can be placed in baggies for easy reach after school or as part of a lunch. Note, the dairy and vegetable groups may be the toughest dried ingredient to find. Although almonds and calcium fortified dried cereal are not in the dairy group, they give us calcium like dairy foods. Each one of these ingredients represents a food group on MyPlate.
MyPlate School Mix
1 cup banana chips or raisins
1 cup dried peas or beans
1 cup soy nuts
1 cup whole grain circle oats cereal or whole grain wheat squares cereal
1 cup yogurt-covered raisins, almonds or calcium fortified dried cereal
Mix together and package in snack size bags. Makes 5 cups or 10 one half cup servings. Enjoy!
Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.