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Planning makes healthy snacks easy for kids

By Susan Collins-Smith
MSU Ag Communications

Image of a child making a snack. click to enlarge
Kids can prepare easy, nutritious after-school snacks with little or no cooking when parents plan ahead. (Photo by Lifesize)

JACKSON – After school, most kids raid the kitchen before they hit the books. If fruit is not one of their favorites, a few simple recipes and a little planning can help kids make better snacking decisions.

“Kids probably won’t choose to eat an orange if they have to do the work of peeling it before they eat it,” said Dawn Vosbein, registered dietitian and family and consumer science agent with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service in Pearl River County. “If there is cut up fruit already in the fridge, all they have to do is grab it.”

While this approach may require parents to do more prep work, kids can and should help.

“Let them be involved in the entire process,” Vosbein said. “Take them to the grocery, and then get them in the kitchen. Kids who help make food will eat it, and they love playing with food. So make it fun – for example, create some fruity butterflies with peanut butter, carrots, apples and raisins.”

Some easy, nutritious options that require little or no preparation are frozen melon chunks, homemade trail mix, peanut butter and sliced apples, or frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, Vosbein said.

Margaret White, Extension program assistant in Neshoba County with the Family Nutrition Education Program, said dairy products are a great way to add more calcium to an after school snack.

“Milk and yogurt are good items to keep on hand. Kids can easily make sundaes with yogurt and fresh fruit. Yogurt is also a great base for dips, and milk is a much better beverage choice than soda.”

Both White and Vosbein suggested that kids and adults check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate website, located at http://www.choosemyplate.gov, for videos, games, and printable publications with nutrition information. Several easy snack ideas and recipes can be found in the 10 tips nutrition education series located on the website.

Parents and children should also review some safety guidelines if children will be preparing food without adult supervision, White said.

“There are several snacks kids can make without using any appliances or sharp knives,” White said. “But if they want something that requires the use of a knife, microwave, toaster oven or stove, parents should teach them how to use these items safely.”

Children with permission to use appliances should have access to a fire extinguisher and know how to use it. Parents should also post emergency numbers and keep a first aid kit on hand.

“Personnel at any fire department can demonstrate how to use a fire extinguisher at no charge,” White said. “Parents also might consider doing a few drills with their children to make sure they know what to do in case of fire or a cooking-related injury.”

For more information on incorporating nutritious options into children’s diets, refer to Extension publication 2361, Fabulous Fruits…Versatile Vegetables, available at http://www.msucares.com. Vosbein also recommends http://www.kidseatright.org as a resource.

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Released: July 12, 2013
Contact: Dawn Vosbein, (601) 403-2280 or Margaret White (601) 656-4011

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