By Dave Baloga, Physical Education Teacher at Garfield Elementary in Brainerd, and Crow Wing Energized Healthy Choices Grant Application and Goal Group Members
Healthy snacks in the classroom are an important part of creating a healthy school environment. Nutritious snacks can contribute to a healthy diet for children, help them perform better in academics, and provide an opportunity for students to practice making good choices.
This year Garfield Elementary School, with the help of a grant from Crow Wing Energized and assistance from the University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed Educator, Carolyn McQueen, will provide a Healthy Snack Cart Program.
“There are many children who bring nutritious snacks from home and we hope that they will continue to do this, as it shows, these students how to make healthy choices,” explains McQueen. “However, some students come to school without a snack. Sometimes the snacks are forgotten or there were no snacks available that day at home. Every child needs a healthy snack to during the day to reenergize.”
According to Principal, Jodi Kennedy, “one of the areas of concern identified by the School Health Index (SHI) that the team members completed is in the area of nutrition services. This project is multifaceted in that it will incorporate policy change for birthday treats, snacks, and classroom rewards as well as create healthier snack options for students. The project will create a healthy snack cart for students to be able to select healthy options that they may not be able to otherwise.”
Dave Baloga, Physical Education Teacher at Garfield Elementary, goes on to explain that because of the great partnership Garfield Elementary has built with Crow Wing Energized, we have been able to purchase and begin a healthy snack cart. In the initial phase this year, the cart will provide healthy snack options, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and grains. To help guide the choices on the cart, we are using nationally approved guidelines that provide recommendations on the number of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium content appropriate for children’s snacks. The options available will take into consideration the budget, ease of eating in the classroom, allergies, and other diet considerations.
The reality is that many of our students do not have access to those types of healthy snacks, so this snack cart will provide those opportunities, which will help them have the energy to better focus and learn in the classroom.
It is our hope that in the next phase we will be able to provide snacks to a broader range of students. A huge thanks is owed to Carolyn McQueen, who works with the University of Minnesota-Extension and teaches nutrition education to third graders at Garfield. She has been instrumental in helping Garfield launch this opportunity for our students!
By Teresa Farrell, Essentia Health Registered Dietitian
With school starting, so does the after school snacking! By mid-afternoon when most children are getting home they are truly hungry. The big question is what kinds of snacks to have on hand for them.
Snacking is a great opportunity to boost your nutrition intake. Snack foods can be easy or more complicated depending on your time and preference.
Fruits and veggies are quick and easy and always a good choice. If your child doesn’t like them, plain fruits can be dipped in yogurt or eaten with peanut butter or reduced fat cheese. A fun option is to make a fruit and yogurt parfait from fat free yogurt, fruit and low fat granola or crushed graham crackers. Kids can have fun layering the ingredients and if you have a clear glass it looks pretty as well!
A smoothie is another good option with fat free yogurt, frozen fruit and fat free milk or a little fruit juice to thin it. Yum! Greens can also be added to your smoothie, such as spinach. Try it you might like it!
Veggies can be dipped in a reduced fat dressing or other reduced fat dip. A salad with reduced fat dressing is a good option.
String cheese, low fat cottage cheese, low fat popcorn, yogurt are more quick and easy ideas.
How about some whole grain cereal and fat free or low fat milk or whole grain crackers and reduced fat cheese, PB&J on whole grain bread is always a popular snack! Sandwiches made from lean turkey, ham or other lean meat is a satisfying snack. A few more ideas would be a quesadilla with fat free refried beans and reduced fat cheese, graham crackers with peanut butter or dipped in fat free yogurt, grilled cheese anyone? Or even an English muffin pizza made with toasted English muffins, pizza sauce, reduced fat cheese and any veggie additions you’d like, pop in the microwave to melt the cheese and enjoy. The choices are endless!
If your child is home alone after school or as a reminder for yourself you may want to write a list of healthy snack ideas for your family. This will help with keeping ingredients on hand as well.
One quick reminder, a snack should be a snack or a “mini meal” and not so large that it’s an additional meal or so large that it curbs your child’s appetite for dinner.
Encourage your kids to stop and focus and enjoy their snack vs rushing though it or doing other things while eating. When we rush through what we’re eating we may not be as satisfied as when we eat slower and enjoy the look, flavor, smell and texture of the food, we also tend to have a better awareness of the amount of food we are eating.
Happy snacking then outside to play!