School break: It’s time for healthy snacks

Posted Feb. 21, 2011, at 6:29 p.m.

It is school vacation week. The kids are home and they are looking for snacks. They want chips, cookies, candy bars, pizza and ice cream. You want to provide them with more nutritious choices — fruits, vegetables, whole grains and sources of calcium. What is a parent to do? How do you come to a compromise? The goal is to provide children with snacks that will fill them up — not out! You want to provide nourishment and flavor without providing too many calories.

Deciding what to eat is a part of growing up. Teens are on the go and healthful eating is rarely on their radar. They skip breakfast to enjoy those last few minutes in bed in the morning. If they choose lunch at school it is usually a cheeseburger or a chicken burger with french fries. When they get home in the afternoon they are ready to devour the house. They probably won’t take the time to cut up an apple, add some peanut butter and throw on a few raisins. Instead they’ll reach for the bag of potato chips or microwave frozen snack items — full of sodium.

Calcium is crucial

One of the nutrients that teens typically don’t get enough of is calcium, which they need to build strong bones. A teen needs 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily — about as much as in a quart of milk. Calcium consumption drops off during the teen years as milk consumption decreases and soda consumption increases.

Milk, in addition to being a great source of calcium, is fortified with vitamin D, which helps increase the absorption of the calcium. If the only way your teen is willing to drink milk is if it has chocolate flavoring in it then by all means add the chocolate — get that calcium in.

Yogurt and cheese contain plenty of calcium, but they may not contain vitamin D so the calcium isn’t well-absorbed. Check the label and look for products fortified with vitamin D.

Nondairy sources of calcium include oranges and leafy greens such as spinach and kale.

Pick your battles

The role of the parent is to provide healthful food choices. The role of the teen is to select from among those options and decide how much to eat. Avoid power struggles over food. By educating and providing appropriate choices, you are giving your teenager the correct messages.

Here are some healthful snack options: low-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese and fruit, peanut butter and whole grain crackers, fruit and yogurt smoothies, fruit and cheese, sliced apple and peanut butter, cheese sticks and whole grain crackers, vegetable sticks and low-fat dip, homemade oatmeal raisin cookies or homemade banana bread (add some walnuts). Forget the 100-calorie snack packs — no one can eat just one of those — the usual serving is at least two.

Try this recipe for School’s Out Trail Mix Bars. It makes 24 servings, each with as much protein as a whole egg!

School’s Out Trail Mix Bars

Makes 24 servings

3 c. crispy rice cereal

3 c. whole grain toasted oats cereal

2 c. raisins

16 oz. peanut butter

½ c. sunflower seeds

1 c. honey

1/2 c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine the cereals, raisins and sunflower seeds in a bowl. In a large pan over medium heat bring the honey and sugar to a boil for 1 minute. Add the peanut butter and vanilla, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and stir into the cereal mixture. Press into greased 15-by-10-by-1 pan. Slice when cool and store in a covered container.

Nutrition facts: 264 calories, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 35 g total carbohydrates, 3.2 g dietary fiber, 7 g protein, 17 percent daily iron.

Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian who lives in Athens, Maine. Read more of her columns and post questions at www.bangordailynews.com or e-mail her at GeorgiaMaineMSDRCDE@gmail.com.

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