Packing the BEST School Snacks!

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School Snacks: Stay on Track and Pack the Best

By Susan Clair

How can it be that the new school term is starting already? Didn’t we just celebrate the summer solstice and figure out what to do on our summer vacation?

Along with buying school supplies and new clothes, it’s time to consider healthful foods that can be easily packed for snacks and lunches. Transportability is important, but it’s essential to pack nutritious foods that your children like and will eat, so the foods don’t end up in the trash or get traded for highly processed, sugary “food-like products,” as described by Clean Gut author Dr. Alejandro Junger.

Two of my friends are K-6 teachers, and they spend many hours talking with parents about healthful foods that their children can easily bring to school. Many parents get it and their kids come to school with creatively prepared, tasty and nutritious foods. Because others don’t get it, the classroom can sometimes become a difficult environment for learning. The day after Halloween is always the worst, they say, when kids’ backpacks are loaded with sugary treats collected at parties the previous evening. Many of the children have eaten several pieces of Halloween candy by the time they arrive at school. With several ounces of refined sugar or, worse, high-fructose corn syrup coursing through their system, the last thing these children are able to do is focus on classroom activities or even sit still for more than a minute. My friends, the teachers, are constantly amazed at how many parents still do not make the connection between out-of-control behaviors and ingested low-quality products.

When helping people to understand the importance of eating real foods, I offer an analogy of fueling one’s vehicle. We would never consider pouring Kool-Aid into the gas tank of our car and expect it to run properly. So, why would we think we can eat highly processed, sugary food-like items and expect our body to function properly and keep us from getting sick? In other words, why do we take better care of our cars than our bodies and our children’s bodies?

Teaching children to choose foods that are healthful and will build strong bodies that will grow into brain-nourished healthy adults is no simple task. Avoiding sugary, high-sodium, over processed foods is the first place to start. Fresh is always best. Most of us are familiar with the array of available whole fruits and fresh veggies. These foods are “alive” and full of nutrients that the body recognizes and can absorb for energy and structural growth and repair. With a little creativity and a few minutes of prep time, we can provide school snacks and lunches that the children will actually eat and not trade away.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make a fruit smoothie or green drink, and pour it into a thermos or other nonbreakable container.
  • Heat up the previous night’s homemade chunky vegetable soup, pinto beans and brown rice, or quinoa pilaf, and scoop it into a preheated, wide-mouth thermos.
  • Spread almond or peanut butter onto celery stalks.
  • Fill a baggie with a variety of bite-sized fresh foods:  grapes, berries, dates, figs, veggie florets, and a few nuts.
  • Fill a whole wheat tortilla or pita pocket with easy-to-make hummus, sprouts, avocados, sliced cucumbers or other veggies.
  • Scoop bite-size pieces of melon into a nonbreakable container.
  • Slice a prebaked sweet potato, sprinkle cinnamon on the slices, and reheat. Cool overnight in the refrigerator and, in the morning, wrap the slices in wax paper to take to school.
  • Dry your own fruit:  apples, apricots, pears, peaches, nectarines, bananas, and more.

New Mexico’s arid climate makes drying food easy with a nonelectric, sun-drying food dehydrator, available for about $70 (http://www.herbkits.com/food-pantrie-dehydrator). Or make your own hanging food dryer for just a few dollars (http://www.ehow.com/how_7699049_make-hanging-food-dehydrator.html). Science project, anyone?

Make this school term the best ever; with a little imagination and planning, you and your children can come up with many tasty, nutritious snacks and lunches!

Eating for your Health

For more than four years, I have been helping people learn how to stay healthy through organic, plant-based nutrition. I invite you to join me at the next “Eating for Your Health” workshop on Saturday August 30, at 10:30am at the Highland Senior Activity Center, 131 Monroe NE. Registration is required, seating limited. Suggested donation is $5.  For more information call 505-281-9888 or email clair@nmia.com.

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