For parents this means not only thinking about, and providing school lunches but also those oh-so-important 'after school snacks.'
Most kids are going to be looking for something to eat to hold them over until dinnertime as soon as they come through the door. The good news is that snacks can be an important part of a healthy diet. Planning and preparation can make all the difference in whether or not your children or other family members are snacking smart or not. Whether you are concerned about your child's weight or simply want to ensure that he or she is eating healthier foods, there is a big difference between soda, chips and dip or having a couple of cookies with milk or having a serving or two of fruits or vegetables.
Remember that what you eat all adds up. One ounce of potato chips equals 150 calories. Eaten three times a week that adds up to 23,400 calories/year, or an additional 6 1/2 pounds a year. And even worse, those calories came with little or no nutritional benefit. So instead of a soft drink and chips, a glass of milk and cookies or a peanut butter sandwich will provide many more of the nutrients that a child needs to grow and stay healthy.
Parents may think, "sure I'd rather my child eat something healthy," but not know how to get them to actually eat the healthier option. The first step in getting your family to choose healthier snacks is to have them available and NOT to have the choices you'd prefer they didn't eat right at their fingertips. Also remember to be sure to have snacks that are EASY to eat. No child will get vegetables out of the crisper, clean and cut them up to eat rather than grab a bag of chips or cookies out of the pantry.
The first step in getting your family to eat healthier is to have the healthy options available and easier to get than the less healthy options. One thing I often did when my children were still young and at home was to put the vegetable relish plate that was "to be part of dinner" on the kitchen island while I worked on dinner preparations. Family members often "snitched" carrots or celery sticks, etc. from the plate as they walked by before dinner. I didn't care if they ate the vegetables at dinner or before, as long as they were eating the good food I wanted them to eat.
Another problem for managing snacks is that they might need to be portable. Your children might not be coming straight home or be home long before it's time to head out for a sports practice or other event. So having some snacks that work while on the run can help, such as pieces of fruit or individual bags with dry cereal, animal crackers, raisins, nuts, baby carrots, string cheese or small containers of yogurt.
As with all eating, it is important to watch serving sizes. To save money, you might buy larger packages rather than individual or snack size packages, but go ahead and divide them into individual servings by putting them into individual baggies. Planning ahead can make all the difference.
Remember that snacks are a good way to help hold children over when they get home from school until the next meal. But be sure to make their snacks part of their planned foods for the day. If you make their snacks part of the nutritious food you want them to eat anyway, then you don't have to worry so much about them not getting the recommended number of healthy foods during their meals because they aren't hungry due to filling up on snacks that were only empty calories.
For more information about healthy snacking or for information on how to join or participate in Putnam County Extension Homemakers or one of their new specialty clubs on topics such as photography and quilting, call the Extension Office.
Check our website www.extension.purdue.edu/putnam to view the most up to date info. Also all interested in the Putnam County 4-H program are encouraged to join the Putnam County 4-H Facebook group, which has nearly 200 members. You can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 653-8411 for more information regarding column topics or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While many publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.
Aug. 30: Fall District Extension Homemakers Meeting, Putnam Fairgrounds
Aug. 31: Beef Program, David & Hope Sutherlin Farm, 2 pm
Sept. 9: Putnam County Extension Homemakers County Council meeting 7 p.m. at the Courthouse Annex
Sept. 10: 4-H My Record of Achievement Due
Sept. 13: E.H. Leader Lesson "Plants and Trees for Our Area" 1 p.m. at the Extension Office
Sept. 18: Deadline to register for the Sept. 30th Lesson Leader Conference
Sept. 30: Lesson Leader Conference at the Knoy Resource Center (CHS) (reservations necessary)