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Prairie Fare: Fill Nutrition Gaps With Well-chosen Snacks

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Snack foods make up about one-fifth of the daily calories among children ages 6 to 11.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“I need to bring a treat to school,” my kindergarten-aged daughter announced as I sat down to write my weekly column in my home office.

“What would you like to bring your class for a special snack?” I asked, silently pondering a column topic while I listened to her request.

“It’s not a snack. It’s supposed to be a treat. I’m not bringing something healthy!” she exclaimed with her arms folded across her chest.

My focus was now off my blank computer screen and on my daughter.

“What do you think I would send with you, anyway?” I asked, amused at her reaction.

“Oh, probably green beans,” she said, wrinkling her nose and smirking at me.

“I eat healthy food at home. Everyone brings cupcakes and good stuff to school,” she added.

“I think we can come up with something that is tasty and healthy, too,” I said slightly amazed that my 5-year-old was assessing her nutrition situation.

“How about mozzarella cheese sticks and pretzel sticks? You can make creatures with long legs,” I said.

“Pretzels are salty and they burn my lips,” she said, holding out for cupcakes.

Since we need to bring commercially made snacks to school for sanitation reasons, I think we will be buying portion-controlled, 100-calorie snack packs. I will check the nutrition label, but obviously, my little girl will influence the decision.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, kids choose chips, cookies, candy and cake most often as snacks. Snack foods make up about one-fifth of the daily calories among children ages 6 to 11.

Unfortunately, despite the portability of fruit, about 45 percent of children eat no fruit on a given day, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Well-chosen snacks provide an opportunity to fill nutrition gaps, such as eating too few fruits and vegetables.

Researchers have shown that having healthful foods readily available increases the odds that children will eat them.

For example, have a bowl with washed, whole apples and bananas on the counter when kids and teens arrive home after school. Have ready to go a bowl of cut-up fruit and veggies in the refrigerator.

Here are a few 100-calorie tasty options that you might consider to increase the amount of fruits and veggies in your diet or that of a child:

  • Half an apple with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter or sunflower seed butter
  • One cup of raw carrots with 3 tablespoons of nonfat dressing
  • 10 grapes with 2 tablespoons of low-fat cream cheese fruit dip

For more information about snacks for preschool and school-age kids, see the two new NDSU Extension Service snack publications (FN-1379 and FN-1380) at

Here’s a tasty fruit dip from the Pennsylvania State Cooperative Extension. Try it with crisp apples.

Fruit Dip

2 c. low-fat sour cream

1-ounce package sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix

1/4 c. fat-free milk

4 tsp. lemon juice

Whisk together all ingredients until well-blended. Serve with assorted fresh or canned well-drained fruit.

Makes eight servings (1/4 cup per serving). Each serving has 90 calories, 5 grams (g) of fat and 7 g of carbohydrate.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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