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Make after-school snacks a healthy part of eating

By Bonnie Coblentz

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Schools are making sure children have healthy food options during the day, and parents should do their part to see that healthy eating continues at home.

The U.S. Department of Education, as part of the Child Nutrition Act, is requiring all schools this year to adopt a wellness policy, and is encouraging all schools to offer only healthy foods and drinks off serving lines and in vending machines. To continue the day's healthy diet, parents are being encouraged to stock healthy snack and supper options at home.

“Parents should positively reinforce the school's policy on healthy foods,” said Peggy Walker, a nutrition and food safety agent in Panola County with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Don't say things like, ‘you can't have the good food at school anymore.'”

Good snacks are planned. Walker said a refrigerator and cupboard full of sweets and unhealthy food choices make it easy for a child or an adult to make unwise food choices.

“Hold a family conference and ask what new fruits the family would like to try this week,” Walker said. “Find out if they would like pretzels or rice cakes, and what vegetables they would like to snack on.”

Carefully chosen snacks are a good way for a person to meet their recommended daily intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Good snacks include food from two food groups.

The Mississippi Department of Education offers menu ideas online for schools, and parents can use these same guidelines at home. According to their guidelines, choose two of the following four foods for an after-school snack: milk; fruit or vegetable juice; cereal or bread; and meat or meal alternative. Do not serve milk and juice together for a snack and do not choose two foods from the same category as a snack.

Healthy snacks could be juice and wheat crackers, watermelon and soft pretzels, milk and oatmeal cookies, kiwi fruit and a bagel, and baked apples and cheese cubes. Walker said simpler snacks include milk and cereal, peanut butter and apples, cheese and crackers, and carrot sticks and low-fat dressing.

The snack size depends on the age and activity level of the child. View the U.S. Department of Agriculture's guidelines at Be sure to follow the guidelines for children available at this site.

Walker said obesity is a problem caused by a lack of activity and poor eating choices.

“Make sure your child has something active to do when they get home from school,” Walker said. “They may be able to go to a park, play in the backyard or stay inside and do some chores, but make sure they don't sit idle all evening.”

Jane Clary, Extension health promotion specialist, encouraged consumers to read labels on the foods they buy. Many of the convenience foods and typical snack foods are high in fat.

“While healthy snacks are best, sweets are okay in moderation when balanced with physical activity,” Clary said. “Make mealtime a family event and model good eating behavior for your children.”


Released: July 13, 2006
Contact: Peggy Walker, (662) 563-6260

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