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Healthy School-Day Snack Ideas

Snacks are an important part of children s nutritional needs because often they cannot eat enough at meals to satisfy all their needs. The word snack sometimes has a bad connotation, but well-chosen snacks can add variety to our diet and keep kids fuelled for school.

Think of snacks as mini-meals that can fill nutrition gaps. Are family members falling short of current nutrition recommendations for fruits and vegetables? Try keeping a bowl with apples and bananas on the counter, ready to grab or pack some baby carrots in their lunch bag.

When you shop for snacks, compare labels to get the most nutritional value for your money. Read Nutrition Facts labels, and use Per Cent Daily Value when you compare foods. A food with five per cent or less of the daily value is considered low in that nutrient. A food product with 20 per cent or more of the daily value is high in that nutrient. Check out the calories per serving, sodium, fibre, sugar and other components.

When selecting food for snacks, try to include foods from at least two new food groups, such as a smoothie made with yogurt and fruit, or a simple snack mix with whole-grain cereal, dried fruit and nuts. Try a mozzarella cheese stick and whole-grain crackers for a ready-to-go snack.

Here are some ideas for creative snacks for kids:

Smoothie creations:Blend fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk with fruit pieces and crushed ice. Use fresh, frozen and/or canned fruits. Try bananas, berries, peaches and/or pineapple. If you use frozen fruit, you won t need ice.

Delicious dippers:Whip up a quick veggie dip with low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt with herbs or garlic. Serve with raw veggies such as broccoli, carrots, peppers and cauliflower.

Caterpillar kabobs:Assemble chunks of melons, apples,

oranges and pears on skewers. Alternatively, use vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, squash, sweet peppers or tomatoes.

Personalized pizzas:Use whole wheat English muffins, bagels or pita bread as the crust. Top with tomato sauce or pizza sauce, shredded cheese and your favourite veggie toppings.

Fruity peanut butterfly:Start with carrot sticks or celery for the body. Attach wings made of thinly sliced apples with peanut butter and decorate with halved grapes or dried fruit.

Frosty fruits:Put fresh fruits such as melon chunks in the freezer. Make popsicles by inserting sticks into peeled bananas and freezing.

Bugs on a log:Use celery, cucumber or carrot sticks as the log and add peanut butter. Top with dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries.

Homemade trail mix:Use your favourite whole-grain cereal plus nuts and dried fruits, such as unsalted peanuts, cashews, walnuts or sunflower seeds mixed with dried apples, pineapple, cherries, apricots or raisins.

Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota

State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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