Finding healthy snacks once school begins

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It’s that time of year – back to school – and one of the challenges of family life during the busy school year is keeping you and your family on a healthy diet. Meals are rushed, lunches can be picked over and snacks are mostly grab-and-go. Here’s a few tips to keep kids eating healthy foods all school year round.

First, involve your children in the decisions about their lunches and snacks. Come up with a list of healthy options together and be sure to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t expect kids to cut up their own veggie sticks. Buy packages of cut-up veggies or make healthy snacks easily available by cutting them up ahead of time. There should always be a fruit or vegetable ready to eat at home. Add a cracker or a low-fat granola bar to make it a more filling snack.

Some youngsters enjoy making creative snacks like ants on a log (celery topped with peanut butter and raisin “ants”), egg boats (hard-boiled egg wedges topped with a cheese sail) or fruit kabobs. Older kids may enjoy a fruit smoothie, mini-pitas with hummus dip or whole-grain crackers topped with cheese and pear slices.

If dinner is just around the corner, consider allowing a “first course,” such as a small salad or side vegetable while you finish preparing the family meal.

For those nights when dinner is hours away, you could offer a more substantial snack such as half a sandwich or a quesadilla made with a whole-wheat tortilla and low-fat cheese warmed in the microwave and topped with salsa.

Here’s some other snacks that can be used as quick lunches, after-school lunches or even a light dinner:

Top a cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter and banana. Add a carton of yogurt and a few celery sticks.

Kabobs of any type. Thread low-fat meat, low-fat cheese, pineapple and cherry tomatoes onto a stick. Include whole-grain crackers and a carton of milk.

Spread a low-fat tortilla with egg salad, shredded carrots and cucumber slices. Toss in a yogurt smoothie made with fruit.

Stuff a pita pocket with fat-free refried beans, shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes or salsa. Add a carton of milk and fruit.

Make your own parfait in a tall, clear plastic glass. Include low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit and a high-fiber, crunchy cereal and trail mix of craisins, nuts and seeds.

Scoop out a whole-grain roll and fill it with tuna salad made with chopped apples and celery. Add cheese cubes, baby carrots and 100 percent fruit juice.

Place a slice of turkey, Swiss cheese, a few leaves of fresh spinach and cranberry relish on a colorful wrap — and then wrap it up! Add a can of tomato juice and a piece of fresh fruit.

Toss in a single-serve bag of ready-to-eat salad with low-fat dressing, cubes of lean meat, cheese and assorted veggies. Team with whole-grain bread sticks and a carton of low-fat milk.

Bon Appetit!

This column is part of a monthly partnership with Oldham County YMCA. The views in this column are those of the writer.