Fuel Your Body with the Right Snack

hummus veggies snacksLiving on a college student’s budget is difficult and planning meals ahead of time is not easy with so much of my time going to work and school. When I have lots of school work to do, I usually eat more snacks than meals. I am prepared for those busy weeks! I have stocked my apartment with a supply of nutritious snacks that I can easily grab and enjoy throughout the day. The right snacks give me the energy I need to get me through my busy schedule and keep me feeling good all day long.

This past summer I did a pricing project as part of my work on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team. I compared the prices of healthy fruits and vegetables to the prices of less nutritious but more traditional snack foods. As you might expect, sugary fruit snacks, cookies, and chips were often less expensive when compared to, whole wheat crackers, cheese sticks, and fresh fruits. But, when I stepped back to think about what I was getting for my money I realized that the healthier foods were actually a greater value!  I need the protein, vitamins, and minerals that they provide. The other snacks were really inexpensive, but also didn’t really contain the things I need to stay alert and keep my energy up.

For example, I could purchase whole grain crackers and peanut butter for $0.44 per serving. I could purchase chocolate chip cookies for $0.16 per serving, but I would miss out on the whole grain, protein, and fiber that keeps me full. The cookies would cost me less, but it seems to be a case of “you get what you pay for!”  When I see a week coming up on my schedule with lots of exams or projects due, I will stock up on snack foods that include whole grain, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. I will also try to make sure each of my snacks includes two food groups. Here are some ideas to get your healthy snack stash started!

  • Bananas and peanut butter
  • Cheese slices and whole grain crackers
  • Sliced Turkey and pretzels
  • Carrots and hummus
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Apple slices and string cheese

 
Taylor

ISU Dietetics Student

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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School Spirit is in the Air – Go Cyclones!

CyCookingForBlogThis weekend the Iowa State University Cyclones have a football game against the Baylor Bears. We’re underdogs going into this one, but the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team is hoping for a Cyclone victory!

I like to go to tailgates and have people over for football games, but sometimes the food served at football celebrations is pretty unhealthy. I challenged myself to remake a couple of typical football snacks the Spend Smart. Eat Smart way. My recipes are fun, festive and ready for the football game!

I started by thinking about the veggie trays at tailgates. Someone always brings one but often they don’t get eaten. I think this is usually because they are kind of boring and everyone really wants the sweet and salty snacks instead. Not to mention, these often come pre-made from the grocery store and cost way more than a veggie tray made at home. I made mine festive with peppers in Cyclone colors and instead of the usual ranch veggie dip, I made Garbanzo Bean Dip. It is a tasty and inexpensive alternative to the old standby. If you like hummus, you’ll love this dip!

dip and cereal treatsDesserts are always a favorite at tailgates. I usually see lots of brownies, cookies and bars. Sometimes for early games there are even cinnamon rolls! I wanted to have a sweet treat that was a little healthier so I chose to make Whole Grain Cereal Treats. These are very similar to the rice cereal treats we all know and love, but with the added health benefit of whole grain. I even added some red sprinkles to show Cyclone pride!

Next time you’re going to a football get-together, think about putting a healthier spin on the dish you take. Game time food can be healthy and inexpensive while still being lots of fun!

s Signature-1

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Back to School and Time to Refocus!

blog sept 8The lazy days of summer are officially over and for many families hectic schedules have begun.

Here are my top 5 tips for busy families!

1. Breakfast: Make sure your child starts each morning with a nutritious breakfast, whether it is at home, at school, or even on the way to school! Make sure fruit is a part of the breakfast so your child is on the right track in getting their fruits and veggies in for the day.  Children who eat breakfast have fewer tummy aches during school, so they are better able to concentrate and focus in the classroom.

Breakfast Ideas
Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Oatmeal Pancakes (they can be made in advanced and kept in the freezer and reheated, just like the ones in the freezer section)

2. Lunch: You have the power to inspire your child to build a healthy plate at school and at home.  School lunch programs offer healthy, well-balanced meals.  Review the school menu with your child and encourage them to try new foods and reinforce healthy eating by offering similar new foods at home.  If your child brings a lunch from home, discuss with them what foods to include and focus on providing foods similar to a complete school meal (whole grains, protein, fruit, vegetable and low-fat or fat-free milk).

Tips to Build a Healthy Meal

3. Snacks: My 4 year old pretty much sums it up, “I don’t like food, I like snacks!” Processed snacks have consumed our children’s diets.  When you think of snacks, think of them as mini-meals.  Have fruits and vegetables, whole-grain crackers, low-fat cheese, small sandwiches, yogurt, and fat-free/low-fat milk ready for after school snacks.  Make healthy snacks the easy choice!

It’s Not Just a Piece of Candy Blog
MyPlate Tips for Parents

4. Family Meals: Focus on each other at the table.  Talk about fun and happy things at mealtime.  Turn off electronics and try to make eating meals a stress-free time.  We use ISU Extension and Outreach Conversations cards when we need to revive our family meal conversations.  My daughters love them!

ISU Extension and Outreach Conversation Cards

5. Physical Activity: Make sure your child has plenty of opportunities to be active and that doesn’t mean they have to participate in organized sports. Make physical activity part of your family’s lifestyle, not something that you have to carve time out to complete.  Walk the dog together as family.  Involve the whole family in household chores, cleaning, vacuuming, and yard work. When it is time to celebrate as a family do something active as a reward, such as go to a park your family hasn’t been to before, go swimming, check out a new bike trail, or find a roller skating rink nearby (yes they still exist!).

MyPlate Be an Active Family Tips

As a parent or caregiver, you are the most important influence on your child.  You can do simple things that will help your children develop healthy habits for life.  What is something new you want to try this week?

 

Guest Blogger,
Carrie

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Let’s Party!

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

jackolantern

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

Take-AlongTrailMix

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?

Booberry!

Happy Halloween!

s Signature-1

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Banana Pudding Parfait

PERFECT FOR KIDS TO MAKE

Our featured recipe this month is 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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  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.

Save on your 4th of July Picnic

Liz Veggie tray

Whether it is a Superbowl party, a bridal shower, 4th of July, or Christmas, vegetable trays are always on the table. Recently my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and their party was  no different; a vegetable tray was on the menu. My original instinct was to go with the convenience of a pre-made vegetable tray because I thought it would be comparable in price. Then Spend Smart asked me to compare the prices and time between homemade and purchased veggie trays. BOY WAS I SURPRISED! Preparing my own tray compared to buying the already assembled tray cost a third the cost of the assembled tray. For that savings I am willing to spend the 23 minutes it took me to prepare the vegetables.

Through this exercise, I learned some things I am going to use for the relish tray I am preparing for my 4th of July picnic. I am going to check out prices of vegetables at other stores to see if I can get a better price. If I have time I will check out a farmers market.

  • I am going to substitute green or red peppers for the celery. I like them better, the cost is about the same and the time to prepare them is less than the celery…that way I only have the broccoli to cut up.  I might also substitute olives or pickles for one of the other vegetables.
  • If all the vegetables I buy do not fit on my tray, I will just bag them up to use as snacks (they are already washed, chopped and ready to eat), or used them later in the week as a side such as a broccoli cauliflower salad.
  • If there are kids that want to help, this would be a good way to get them involved with a party.

A little planning in advance can save you a bunch of money when it comes to vegetables trays. (I wonder how much money is to be saved with fruit trays?)

Here is how I figured the cost:

1) First, went to the produce department and talked with an extremely helpful young woman about their prices for already made trays and the weight of each of the vegetables on the tray.

2) I purchased each of the vegetables that were on the pre-made vegetables tray.

3) Twenty-three minutes later I finished washing, chopping, and weighing the vegetables.

veggie-tray-NEW

Liz Breuer

Healthy Snacks for Kids Don’t Have to Cost More

I am not against my children having cupcakes for a friend’s birthday or candy here and there…it’s all about teaching balance. However, I do feel that I have to be stricter about the snacks that I provide for them at home, just due to the fact of all the kinds of snacks they are exposed to when they are away from home. In addition, I have discovered the snacks that I have at home really have an impact on what they eat at mealtime. If they know that there are chips in the cupboard waiting for them after dinner, why would they want to eat their dinner? When it’s your family’s turn to bring snacks to school or activities opt for healthier options. You, along with the other adults, might be surprised at the children’s reaction.

But does healthier mean more money? Not necessarily! It’s all about being a smart and creative shopper. Here are some examples for classroom snacks:

Classroom Snacks – 24 children

Option A
(recently brought by a parent at my daughter’s preschool):

  • Fruit snacks (24 count): $3.98
  • Mini powdered donuts (10.5 oz): $2.19 x 2 = $4.38
  • Juice boxes $4.77

Total: $13.13

Option B: Mix Your Own Trail Mix

  • Raisins or Craisins: $2.50
  • Pretzel sticks: $1.99
  • Whole grain fish crackers (11 oz): $3.49
  • Chocolate whole grain cereal: $2.50
  • Resealable Sandwich Bags: $1.00
  • Cups for Water: $1.50

Total: $12.98

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Child’s Birthday Classroom Party – 24 children

Option A

  • Store made cupcakes: $18.99
  • Hi-C juice boxes: $5.00

Total: $23.99

 

Option B
(I have tried this with my daughter’s class, it was a hit!):

  • Low-fat vanilla yogurt (32 ounce container): $3.26 x 3: $ 9.78
  • Fruity Cheerios for bottom of cup and topping (1 box): $2.50
  • Bananas (1/2 per child): $2.65 ($0.59/lb)
  • Party cups (your child’s choice!): $4.99
  • Spoons: $1.00

Total: $20.92

Other ideas to get the most nutritional “bang for your buck:”

Yogurt tubes: $7.03

16 pack: $4.54 + 8 pack: $2.54

vs. Pudding cups: $8.72

6 pack: $2.18

Baby carrots: $5.00

2 lb bag: $2.50 x 2

vs. Small bags of chips: $7.99
String cheese: $7.18

12 pack: $3.59 x 2

vs. Crackers and cheese spread packs: $8.78

15 pack: $5.49

Clementines: $5.97

(5 lb bag)

vs. Capri Sun Coolers: $6.00

10 pack: $2.50

Boxes of raisins $5.28
6 pack: $1.32 x 4
vs. Fruit Roll-Ups: $6.45

10 pack: $2.68

What do you bring when it’s your turn? Please pass along your ideas…

Additional Resources

Guest Blogger, Carrie Scheidel

It’s Not Just a Piece of Candy

As a mother of a 2 and 4 year-old, I am quickly learning about how snacks are an integral part of growing up. It seems that snacks are not only available to children for nutrition, but are a necessity for social gatherings and fun.

We recently signed up our 4-year-old daughter for dance class. At the end of her first class she had the biggest smile on her face and I could tell she had fun. Then the teacher said, “Wait –everyone gets a piece of candy for doing such a great job!” A piece of candy for dancing? She got two tootsie rolls and since my younger daughter was with, I told her that she had to give one to her. This resulted in her crying all the way home over candy, when we could have been talking about much fun she had at dance. The teacher may have thought that candy added excitement to her class, but it really took away from the fact that the girls just had a great time dancing!

I realize some may say it’s just a piece of candy. However, it’s not just a piece of candy. Children are being exposed to treats all the time: snacks provided at preschool by parents, lollipops at the local bank, sports drinks after soccer, candy at daycare for behavioral rewards, classroom parties, ice cream parties for reaching a class goal, free samples at the grocery store, and the list goes on and on. And this is on top of the treats that parents provide at home.

It has gotten to the point that snacks are considered treats. And it’s hard not to think this way. Treats tend to be provided with much more excitement and star appeal. Have you looked at the “snack food” aisle at a grocery store lately? There are not very many healthy options. Have you seen the different kinds of fruit snacks (a.k.a. glorified gummy bears)? They take up a good portion of the aisle and almost every cartoon character has its own box! And the number of Pop Tart flavors available is breathtaking.

Children need snacks throughout the day; this goes for adults too! However, it’s all about the kinds of snacks that we consume and provide for our children. When thinking of what snacks to have available, think of what you would serve during a meal, as snacks should be just as nutritious, just in smaller portions. It really comes down to the food groups: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Take the guesswork out of what snacks to have around and you will be surprised at the choices your children make when you make choosing healthy foods the easy choice.

Some tips:
  • Make snacks available to them at their level. Is your fruit bowl on the top of your counter?  Younger children cannot see the bowl, let alone reach it to make it a selection.
  • Have a plastic bin in your fridge towards the bottom full of snacks that are ready to eat, such as cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, reusable drinking containers filled with milk or water, sliced apples, oranges (cut in “smiles”), fruit cups, small bags of baby carrots, cooked noodles, small sandwiches, etc.
  • Choose whole-grain items. There are more and more of these available each week, it seems.
  • Move less healthy snack options to a higher shelf so they are less tempting and eventually just remove them from your home and save them for road trips or special occasions.
  • Avoid pre-portioned snacks, as you are often paying for the packaging (not additional food). You can portion out servings at home in resealable snack bags that your children can decorate with stickers to get them involved in the process.
  • Take your children with you to the grocery store. By allowing them to a part of the selection process within certain parameters it provides them ownership for the snacks that are available at home.
Additional Resources

How do you handle snacks at your house? Do you have ideas to share?

Guest Blogger, Carrie Scheidel

 

Christmas Cookies

My sister is having her annual cookie making “party” Saturday afternoon. She invites two of her friends, her daughter, and me to bring ingredients for cookies to her house. We all work together for 2-3 hours and end up with a nice variety of cookies. The conversation is always lively plus, we have lots of fun with many different tunes from cell phone timers going off all the time.

I am searching for a recipe for the Mexican Christmas cookie that is round and white. This is my Dad’s favorite. Last year he declared there weren’t enough nuts in the one we made, so I am on the hunt for another recipe.

I use my share of the cookies for gifts and to take to potlucks plus, I freeze some for last minute guests. I always try to buy a few holiday containers on sale after the holidays (presentation is everything!).

 

Hurry-Up Baked Apples

I like baked apples, but when it’s just for me, I don’t want to heat the oven up. Our featured recipe this month, Hurry Up Baked Apples, uses the microwave to do the baking. These are great as a dessert, snack, or for breakfast.

Stacie noticed this recipe on our website and commented, “I stumbled across your website when looking for healthy, easy to freeze recipes for my family and now I’m hooked on this site! I made this recipe for my 1year-old twins and they loved it! I only did two apples. They got one half and I ate the other. The second apple I saved for their snack at daycare. So easy, so good, and smells great!”

Hurry Up Baked Apples

Serves: 4 Serving Size: 1 apple half

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-size tart apples (Granny Smith, Braeburn, Cortland, Jonathan, Fuji)
  • 1 teaspoon white or brown packed sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons oatmeal
  • 2 tablespoons (total) raisins, sweetened dried cranberries, chopped walnuts or other nuts
  • 1 (6-ounce) container low-fat vanilla yogurt

Directions:

  1. Cut apples in half lengthwise. Use spoon to remove cores and hollow out a space 1 inch or more deep. Arrange apple halves, cut sides up, in microwavable dish. Cut thin slices off bottoms to keep from tipping.
  2. Combine sugar, cinnamon, oatmeal, raisins, and nuts. Fill each apple half.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap. Fold back one edge ¼ inch to vent steam.
  4. Microwave 3 to 3 ½ minutes, or until apples can be cut easily. Take from microwave. Let sit a few minutes.

Spoon yogurt over the top.

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