Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Peanut Butter Balls

July 6th, 2015

peanut-butter-ballsMy children are at an age when they need to eat two snacks every day. Just last week I skipped the morning snack one day because we went to the library and on a bike ride. By lunch time both of them were laying on the couch crying. I made a quick lunch, got them fed, and all was good again, but it reminded me how important snack time is for young children. Their bodies are growing, but their stomachs are still small, so they need their food spaced evenly throughout the day.

If you are looking for a new snack for your family, try out our July recipe – Peanut Butter Balls. They have peanut butter, beans, and oatmeal – all of which will give you energy and fill you up until your next meal. After I make this recipe, I lay the peanut butter balls out on a cookie sheet and freeze them for about an hour. Once they are frozen, I put them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer. When snack time comes around, I grab two out of the freezer for each person, let them thaw for a few minutes, and then we enjoy them.

I hope you enjoy this Peanut Butter Ball recipe too!


Peanut Butter Balls

Serving Size: 2 balls | Serves: 25
  • 1 can (15 ounces) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oatspeanut-butter-ball-label
  1. Mash the great northern beans with a fork in a bowl until smooth.
  2. Add the honey and vanilla. Stir.
  3. Add peanut butter. Stir until blended.
  4. Stir in the oatmeal.
  5. Wash hands. Use a tablespoon to scoop up some of the peanut butter mixture. Shape the mixture into balls (makes 50 balls).
  6. Store leftover balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  •  This recipe is not for children under age 1 because it contains honey and peanut butter.
  • You can use a blender or food processor to mix ingredients before shaping into balls.
  • You can store peanut butter balls in the freezer. Lay them out on a cookie sheet, freeze, and then store in a freezer bag. Thaw for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Make fruit kebabs using a toothpick or kebab stick. Add washed fresh fruit pieces that will not brown such as kiwi slices, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and orange slices.

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Snacks for the Pool

June 22nd, 2015

Summer is in full swing and my children love spending time at the swimming pool. My son really likes getting a treat at the pool snack bar. I let him get a treat every once in a while but I balance that by bringing our own snacks the other times. Depending on how often you go to the pool, the cost of getting treats can add up. And the options are not always very healthy. My son and daughter really need an afternoon snack, but if they are swimming actively in the hot sun, I don’t want to give them heavy foods. Here are some snacks I like to take from home.

  1. Frozen fruit-For a sweet treat, freeze grapes, blueberries, or individual containers of unsweetened applesauce. Put in a cooler or an insulated bag and let thaw slightly while playing in the water.
  1. Whole grain crackers-These are a good option in place of chips and can provide more fiber.
  1. String cheese-Along with the whole grain crackers, enjoy some string cheese for added calcium. Keep them cold in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack.
  1. Trail Mix-This is a breeze to make. Here are a couple of options Popcorn Trail Mix and Take-along Trail Mix. For children under age 3, it is best to make without peanuts and dried fruit to reduce choking.
  1. Muffins-Make a batch of muffins and freeze them. Then thaw out when you need a quick snack. With strawberries that are in season, try these Super Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins. Put these in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack to keep them from getting too hot and sticky at the pool.
  1. To stay hydrated, fill reusable water bottles with water and ice cubes made out of 100% juice. (Check out the June 8 blog for more tips on hydration.)

Enjoy your time at the pool this summer!

Jodi Signature

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Summer Snacks for Healthy Kids

June 15th, 2015

apricot popsSummer is right around the corner. The days are getting longer, and kids are out of school. The warm weather is perfect for spending time outside with your kids. There are so many ways to get active in the summer – I love to hit the pool and go for walks in the evening. But with all this fun activity comes the need for yummy snacks!

Every kid loves taking an evening trip out for ice cream. But these days, one treat costs $2-5. These Apricot Pops are just as tasty as a treat from an ice cream shop, but they are much cheaper. They are made with real fruit and yogurt so they are healthier too!

Another cool treat to try is the Fruitastic Summer Smoothie Blast. Smoothies are so easy to make and are ready in seconds. These taste delicious and pack a punch of vitamins and minerals that healthy kids need.

Fresh fruit is so tasty this time of year that it makes a fine snack on its own. Want to get the freshest produce at the best price? Check out this video to learn to shop for seasonal fruits and vegetables.


ISU Student
Spend Smart Eat Smart Team

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MmmmGood Fruit Pizza

June 9th, 2014


Recently my four-year old son and I made MmmmGood Fruit Pizza for snack time. Fruit pizza tastes good any time of the year, but we especially like to make it in the summertime when we can use fruits that are in season. This time we chose to use fresh blueberries and raspberries along with some canned pineapple and mandarin oranges.

Now that school is out and kids are home for the summer, fruit pizza is a healthy and tasty snack that everyone loves. Instead of making one large crust, consider making individual sized crusts and let each person make their own mini fruit pizza. I did this with my son’s preschool class and they enjoyed getting to spread the yogurt ‘sauce’ on and choosing which fruits to use on their pizza. Since some kids are picky about fruit, letting them choose which fruits to use and eating it on ‘pizza’ may be just the trick to get them to eat more fruit.

Kids love pizza so you know this pizza is worth making when my son says, “This pizza is the goodest pizza I’ve ever had.”

Jodi Signature

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Let’s Party!

October 21st, 2013

Let’s party! What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?


For many of us it is getting some yummy food and drinks together for the celebration. Halloween is in just a couple of weeks and this is a time when many of us have far more junk food around for us and our kids than we even want. There are a lot of things we can do to try to make celebrations more about fun with friends and family than junk food.

One place to start is with school celebrations. Many classrooms celebrate every child’s birthday plus all holidays with cupcakes, pizza parties or treat exchanges. This can add up to thirty or more celebrations per school year! With so many celebrations, it often does not even feel like a special occasion anymore.

No one is interested in denying a child a cupcake on their birthday, but it is possible to show kids how to celebrate these occasions without so much unhealthy food. Here are some tips for helping your child’s class have a healthy celebration, but the same tips apply to celebrations and birthday parties at home.

  • Start by talking to the teacher and offering to help organize a party this year or get a group of parents together who are willing to serve as a party-planning committee. You can take it one step further and work on an addition to the school wellness policy related to parties.
  • Make the party about fun, not just food. Think about games, crafts and adventures for the kids to enjoy.
  • Play your way! Hold your party at the playground or create a scavenger hunt for the kids to do so the focus is on active play. Offer a free period when the students choose what they would like to do or the class plays its favorite game together.
  • Choose prizes and favors that are not food-related. These can be crafts or small toys the kids can take home with them.
  • Encourage parents to provide tasty snacks that are also healthy:
    • Apple slices with cinnamon sprinkled on them
    • Vegetables with low-fat dip
    • String cheese or yogurt
    • Trail mix with whole grain cereal and pretzels
    • Whole grain crackers
    • Make-your-own fruit and yogurt parfait cups
    • Water or 100% juice in place of high-sugar beverages like punch or sports drinks


Some Halloween candy is fine and part of the fun of this time of year, but with these tips you can keep the holiday about fun and memories and take the focus off of the junk food.

The tradition in my neighborhood is that a child has to tell a joke when they come to your door trick or treating. Here’s one from last year:

What is a ghost’s favorite pie?


Happy Halloween!

s Signature-1

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It’s Not Just School Lunch. It’s Bigger Than That.

October 14th, 2013

school lunch

This year my daughter started kindergarten. And honestly one of my biggest concerns was if she was going to be hungry throughout the day. Going from daycare and preschool to kindergarten is a huge adjustment for various reasons. I was particularly concerned about the change in foods available to her and how much time she would have to eat. The thought of her having fifteen minutes to eat lunch and no snacks was a little scary!

In preparation for her first day, we went shopping for a backpack. She was amazed not only at the selection of back packs, but the selection of the lunch bags. I was pretty shocked myself! Also, the books we read to prepare her for the first day of school all referenced the character bringing a lunch from home. Based on back to school shopping and children’s books, one would think that bringing a lunch from home was the norm. But in reality, approximately 80% of all students enrolled in Iowa schools participate in school meals each day. 1

With that in mind, I wanted her to try school meals for the first week. This would give her the opportunity to learn the process while everyone else did. Every day after school I ask her what she had for lunch. As the weeks have gone by she has been excited to share with me the fruits and vegetables she has chosen and even eaten at school. It’s a simple thing I do each day that often opens up a conversation about her entire day, which I was having a hard time getting her to share.  “I tried zucchini slices today and really liked them!” “Oh, and I was picked the best singer of the day!” It’s fun to see how a simple conversation about school lunch can really lead to a great conversation with a 5 year old! She has expanded the things she will eat at home and I truly believe it is connected to her positive experience with school meals.

National School Lunch Week is this week and is an observance to celebrate the benefits of healthy school lunches! School meals are doing a better job of giving your kids the healthy foods they need. Help your child check out school meals and discover what they like. Here are some tips to help your children eat healthy foods at school and at home:

    • Make time to join your child for lunch in the school cafeteria. It will provide you a first-hand experience of school meals and grow a deeper appreciation for teachers, school staff, and nutrition staff.
    • Explain to your child the options they have each day at school for lunch.
    • When your child gets home from school, ask what he/she ate for lunch.
    • Eat meals at home with your child as much as you can. Let your child see you eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy.
    • Provide some of the new foods offered in the school cafeteria at home.  Some examples include: whole grain foods, spinach, cherry tomatoes, black beans, sweet potatoes, and zucchini slices.
    • Take your child grocery shopping with you and talk to them about where foods come from. Let your children make healthy purchases while at the store.

For more information including how to get involved at your school, school lunch myths, healthy snack ideas, visit:

Guest Blogger,


1 Iowa School Nutrition Association Annual Child Nutrition Report, March 2013

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It’s Worth a Little Mess

September 30th, 2013

kids in kitchenMy 3 ½ year old son Parker loves to help me in the kitchen. When he realizes I’m cooking, he quickly goes and gets his stool so he can stand and help me. Even though cooking takes longer, and we make more messes, I enjoy spending time with him in the kitchen. He is a picky eater, so when he helps me prepare different foods, he is more likely to try them.

Some tasks that Parker likes to help me with are pouring ingredients in the bowl, stirring ingredients, breaking eggs, putting toppings on homemade pizza, and scooping batter into muffin tins. He likes to have me read him the recipe so we also work on following directions and counting.

There are numerous benefits to having children help in the kitchen. As I mentioned before, it exposes them to new foods and helps them become more willing eaters. Helping in the kitchen also improves children’s fine motor skills, increases their confidence, and gives them an opportunity to work on learning colors, shapes, and counting.

Our new video “How to Include Children in the Kitchen”  has helpful information on how to get children involved in the kitchen, from helping cook to helping unload the dishwasher. Check it out to see how much fun we had cooking with kids along with some tips to get your kids excited about cooking.

Another helpful resource, full of recipes that your children can help you make, is ‘Let’s Cook with Kids’ created by the Northeast Valley Health Corporation WIC Program in California.

How do your children like to help you in the kitchen?

Jodi Signature

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Do it Yourself Meal Kits for Kids

September 9th, 2013

Better Nutrition, Lower Cost, and Less Waste

The commercials for ready-to-go meal kits for kids, make them look like fun and excitement in a box. The reality is a little different. There is no arguing with the fact that these meal kits are convenient, but are you really getting a good value for your money?

Take a look inside the box, not so appetizing. Let’s take a look at what I got for my money.

NEWnutrition facts and ingredients

Ingredients – We’ve all heard that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Take a look at this ingredient list.

Nutrition – Meal kits typically contain far more sodium, saturated fat, and sugar than kids need in a meal. Most include no fruits or vegetables at all. Take a look at this nutrition facts label from a store bought meal kit. The calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium are quite high.

Waste – Imagine the amount of garbage these packages generate in a school cafeteria!

Cost – The average price for meal kits at my store was $2.79. This is actually more expensive than school lunch at most schools and far less nutritious.

sodium chart larger

I decided to challenge myself to come up with some healthy DIY versions of these meal kits that would be easy to prepare and just as fun for kids.

I started with some reusable containers that had dividers like the meal kits’ disposable boxes and an ice pack to keep the food cold. I also set some rules for myself:

  • Create boxes that follow MyPlate guidelines.
  • Use only items that can be packed on Sunday and keep fine until Friday. I’m only packing lunches once!
  • Use only items that require minimal preparation like cutting or chopping.

DIY lunchable

Check out the list below for some foods from each food group that work with my rules.

chart green
My meal kit has much more color, nutrition and appeal than the store bought one and I bought the ingredients for 10 kits like this (assuming two kids with five lunches each) for less than $20.00. That’s less than $2.00 per kit. Assuming kids will purchase milk at school to go with their DIY meal kits; the price is just below the price of the store bought ones.

The National School Lunch Program at your child’s school provides convenient, nutritious meals for a great value, but these ready-to-go DIY meal kits are a good option for kids who prefer to bring their lunch.

 s Signature-1


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Banana Pudding Parfait

September 3rd, 2013


Our featured recipe this month is a perfect one to a perfect one to get your kids involved in the kitchen. Kids enjoy helping in the kitchen and are often more willing to eat foods they help prepare. Plan ways the children in your care can help you. Be sure to consider the age of the child. For this recipe kids can:

banana pudding

  • Wash their hands (do this before starting any cooking).
  • Crush the graham crackers up by putting them in a seal-able plastic bag and rolling the side of a glass over them.
  • Peel and cut up the bananas.
  • Measure and pour the milk.
  • Stir the pudding.
  • Layer the pudding, crushed graham crackers, and bananas.
  • And clean up the dishes.

After you make this recipe with your kids, let them experiment with other pudding flavors and fruit.  If they want to take it for lunch or a picnic make it in small plastic containers with lids.  Keep cold with ice packs.

Check out these resource for additional ideas …

Peggy Signature


Banana Pudding Parfait

Serving Size: ¾ cup | Servings: 6


  • 1 package (0.8 ounce) sugar-free instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 cups cold nonfat milk
  • Banana Pudding Parfait Label4 graham crackers, crumbled (12 tablespoons or ¾ cup crumbs)
  • 2 bananas, sliced


  1. In a medium bowl combine pudding mix and 2 cups of milk. Beat until well blended (about 2 minutes) with a wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer at lowest speed.
  2. Let set for 5 minutes.
  3. Set out 6 glasses.
  4. Put about 3 tablespoons of pudding in the bottom of each glass.
  5. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of graham cracker crumbs on the pudding in each cup.
  6. Layer ¼ of the banana slices on crumbs.
  7. Repeat with layers of pudding, graham crackers, and banana slices.
  8. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

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Grocery Shopping with Kids

April 8th, 2013

Shopping with my 3 year-old son, Parker, is always an adventure. One of the stores I shop at has carts that have steering wheels where he sits and another has a ‘car’ attached to the front of the cart that he can sit in. Both of these keep him entertained because he pretends like he is driving. This is nice because it cuts down on the whining and wanting to buy everything. The downside to these carts is that they are big and take up more space going thru the aisles. Sometimes it is worth it though!

In addition to the ‘car’ carts, one of the stores also has little carts that the kids can push. I’m not so sure about this idea as a parent. Let’s just say I’ve held my breath a few times hoping that all of the cans he ran into would not fall. Only a few cans have fallen so far! I’ve also had a few bruises on the back of my legs where he ran into me. I’m usually frantically trying to make sure he doesn’t hit anyone else. Thankfully he hasn’t run into anyone else yet! And lastly, when he is pushing his own cart, and not confined to the child seat in the larger cart, he can grab lots of stuff off the shelves! Funny thing was the other day Parker informed me, “Dad doesn’t let me drive the little cart when I go shopping with him.” Imagine that!

Sometimes I do make it to the store without taking Parker, but that isn’t always possible. And he needs to learn how to act while in a store. In addition, grocery stores can be great places to teach kids. They are a place to learn about good nutrition but kids can also learn about numbers, colors, and shapes.  The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has a great publication on shopping with children. Here are some of the tips they share.

  1. Plan to go to the store with your child when you have plenty of time and the store is not crowded.
  2. Plan shopping trips when your child is not tired or hungry. Or bring a nutritious snack for him to eat during the shopping trip.
  3. Discuss your rules before you enter a store. Remind your child to stay close to you. Also, set ground rules about what is acceptable to put in the cart. Discussing acceptable behavior before going into the store can save a lot of headache later on.
  4. Give your child a job. For example, ask her to help pick out five oranges or three tomatoes. Or let her choose if you get apples or pears. Kids who help pick out fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them. Older children may like to hold onto the grocery list and cross off the items as you put them in the cart.
  5. Set positive limits. When your child does something you do not want him to do, instead of reacting with a negative limit, such as “don’t throw the oranges on the floor,” tell your child what is expected in a positive way, such as “Keep the oranges in the bin.”
  6. Make the shopping trip a learning experience. Keep kids entertained by asking them questions and having them searching for items. Teach toddlers about touch by asking how different items feel, like the skin of an apple or if the milk is warm or cold.  Teach preschoolers about colors by asking them to point out items of different colors like the green peas or the cereal in the yellow box. Have school-age children look at the labels and compare items based on nutrition.

What tips do you have for making grocery shopping trips enjoyable for both kids and parents?

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