Whether you’re a teacher planning healthy recess snacks for your students or a parent planning party treats for your child’s class, skip the traditional sugary fare and opt for healthy, delicious snack items. Many schools are now moving away from traditional snack items laden with sugar and preservatives and are requesting parents do the same. Check with your child’s teacher before preparing any home-made items for a classroom party-some districts now have policies forbidding home-made snacks in favor of pre-packed ones.
Begin trading out obvious sugary and fat-filled favorites, like sodas, greasy potato chips and candy bags. Instead, serve natural alternatives to reinforce your child’s lessons on the food pyramid. Skip sodas, even diet ones, in favor of no-sugar added juices, like V8 Splash or Mott’s Medleys. As you serve, give students a lesson in nutrition by telling them how many serving of fruit or vegetables they eat in a day and how many the glass of juice provides. Add a math lesson by letting some students study the nutrition label and report to the class on different vitamins and nutrients provided in the juice. Ask another group of children to read the ingredients and identify natural ingredients from additives.
To spice up juice, make a sparkling punch with juice, chopped fruit and sparkling water. This gives children the fun fizz of cola without the calcium sapping additives.
Choose baked apple chips or vegetable chips over traditional potato chips. Sun Chips also offer a multi-grain, lower-fat alternative. Or make home-made sweet potato fries with natural sugar and cinnamon topping. You can also make your own Burger King style apple fries by slicing fresh apples, and other fruits, into sticks and serving with a low-fat caramel dip or fresh yogurts.
You can also use fresh fruit chunks to make easy-to-serve fruit kabobs. Prepare these in advance for younger children or provide a fruit bar for older children to make their own. Choose colorful wooden kabob skewers, add a pattern of chunked apples, bananas, pears, pineapple, cherries, berries, apricots, and oranges. Add a few marshmallows or gummy snacks to dress them up without letting kids overdo it. Provide some exotic fruits and take time to discuss the vitamins in each one, where it is grown and why it is healthy for you. Encourage children to try at least one chunk of a new fruit on their kabob.
Skip high-fat ice cream for individually packaged fruit yogurt. Freeze Go-Gurt pouches during hot weather and children can eat them like frozen push-pops. Or push a popsicle stick through the top cover of each cup of packaged yogurt. Freeze the package, then pull apart the cups. Children can remove the paper top, pull out their frozen yogurt popsicle, and eat it off the stick.
Bake vegetables into holiday breads instead of cakes. Serve carrot bread, banana chocolate-chip bread or zucchini bread. Children may be more wiling to try a new veggie if it is baked into something familiar.
Raw vegetables can be scarier for school children. Make mini vegetable animals with toothpicks and pieces of different vegetables. Or provide a small bowl of cut veggies and toothpicks on each group of desks. Encourage children to make their own veggie animal, show it to the class, and then report on which veggies they liked best. Carrot sticks with dips, celery and peanut butter logs, and broccoli with low-fat ranch are staples that kids still respond to.
And remember, some adult favorites are enjoyed by children as well. Pass out small cups filled with air-popped popcorn, yogurt-covered pretzels, and trail mix. Cut holiday shapes out of thin slices of cheese and serve with multi-grain crackers.
Remind students that a little sugar and sweets are fine once in a while, and allow them some occasional favorite treats. But use these healthy alternatives to fill the bulk of classroom snack time and parties, and reinforce your health-class teaching about the food pyramid and nutrition.