School bells will be ringing soon, and young minds will be gearing up to absorb new lessons.
But, school isn’t the only place where your children can acquire knowledge.
The kitchen in your home can be a great learning space, too.
You can help your children think of it as a laboratory, and cooking can become one big tasty experiment.
Depending on their age and ability, they can wash fruits and vegetables, cut them into pieces, and package and label them to have on hand to have as a snack when they get home from school.
While they are learning about food safety and food preparation at home, you can also build on nutrition lessons they get at school.
Keep in mind the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate icon and the guidelines on how much to eat from each food group when you are planning and serving food.
Healthy snacks including fruits and vegetables are an easy way to complete your daily plan to achieve a balanced diet.
Growing young minds and bodies need fuel throughout the day to stay well, grow strong and be ready to learn.
Healthy snacks keep them going between meals.
Plan ahead to prepare the snacks and have them readily available.
This will help your children make the right lifestyle choices now, and also later in life.
The following guidelines will help:
- Practice preparing the snacks with your children; as they become more proficient they can make them on their own.
- Teach them to use measuring cups or the proper size of containers, to practice portion control.
- Don’t overlook food safety. Wash your hands. Wash the dishes and wipe off the counter.
Here are some practical snack ideas:
- Trail mix. This is one of my favorites because it is so easy to make and doesn’t need refrigeration. Using a mix of whole grain cereals, dried fruits, and nuts will add more fiber to your child’s diet. If you want to go to some extra effort, you can portion and package the trail mix attractively, using snack bags and pipe cleaners to make butterflies.
- Other easy snacks include hard-cooked eggs, reduced-fat cheese (cheddar, string cheese, etc.) and crackers, and peanut butter on celery, or apple slices, topped with a row of raisins.
Most children (and adults, too) do not consume the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables, so snacks made of these are a good way to fill in those missed servings and also where those interesting container ideas (like canning jars) can come into play.
- Veggie Dip Sticks: Take a small canning jelly jar (8 oz./1 cup) or plastic container about same size. Pour two tablespoons of low-fat ranch dressing (or hummus) into the bottom, add celery and carrot sticks no taller than the rim, add lid to seal. Store in the refrigerator for three days to four days.
- Fruit with Yogurt on the bottom: Take a small canning jelly jar (1 cup) or plastic container about same size. Spoon four tablespoons of low-fat yogurt in the bottom, one tablespoon of granola (optional), and add fresh fruit of various shapes and colors almost to the rim, add lid to seal. Store in the refrigerator for three days to four days.
Remember, you can teach your children to make these treats. And, with practice, they can do it on their own.
As with any new food, be aware that some people have food allergies.
The eight most common foods people are allergic to are milk; eggs; peanuts; tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts); fish (such as bass, cod, flounder); shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp); soy; and wheat.
When purchasing food, be sure to read packaging because these eight foods are now included in food allergy labeling, and they account for an estimated 90 percent of allergic reactions.
Betsy Crisp is a Professor Emeritus, for the University of Florida/IFAS Extension — Family & Consumer Services.
Scoops/Dippers: Homemade Pita Chips/Crostini
3 (7-inch) whole-grain pita breads (or 1 whole grain baguette loaf)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Brush both sides of each pita round with oil, cut into wedges on a cutting board using a pizza cutter before putting on the baking sheet. If using baguette, cut into slices and place on the baking sheet in a single layer, and brush both sides with oil.
Bake in the oven until just golden, about 4 minutes per side. Cool before serving.
Use to dip into the hummus. Makes 20 chips.
Cuban Black Bean Hummus (instead of the traditional chickpeas)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons lime/lemon juice
2 Tablespoons cold water
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (optional)
Put all the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth. Now taste it. Does it need more lime or lemon juice? More salt or spice? If so, add it and taste again.
Using the spatula, scoop the dip into the serving bowl or lidded container.
Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate up to five days. Makes 8 servings.
Lemon Hummus (Note: requires use of a food processor and parent supervision)
1 can (16-ounce) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice (or juice of one lemon plus zest)
3 Tablespoons cold water
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
Put the steel blade in the food processor. Add the chickpeas and garlic, and turn the processor on. Process until the beans start to break apart and the garlic gets chopped.
Add the oil and lemon juice, and process again. Add the water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the hummus reaches the consistency you prefer. Add the salt and pepper, and process until completely smooth.
Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to three days. Makes 1 cup.
Parmesan Yogurt Dip with Veggies
2 cups plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
1 small clove of garlic, peeled and minced
3 ½ Tablespoons lemon juice (or juice and grated zest of 1 small scrubbed lemon)
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 bag each: baby carrots and celery sticks (or other vegetables)
Put the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to three days. Makes 8 servings.
Published August 9, 2017