Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Kid- and Adult-friendly Healthful Snacks Can Be Tasty

Too many people shortchange themselves on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension

“Would you like me to pick up some pizza for you?” I called down the steps to the half-dozen teenagers in our newly updated basement family room.

I could have guessed the answer to this question.

“Yes, cheese pizza and cheese bread, too!” my teenage daughter replied immediately.

I was expecting them to say pepperoni pizza.

“You don’t want any toppings on the pizza other than cheese?” I asked.

“No, just cheese,” she said. “We have a vegetarian down here.”

I think I heard them giggle.

I suspect we have created the ideal hangout for teens. My husband and I may never get to use the area again. At least we will know where to find our daughter.

For entertainment, they have a large TV, a separate gaming TV, two couches, several musical instruments, many chairs and a table to play games and, perhaps, do homework. Most teens are perpetually hungry, so I stocked the kitchenette with easy-to-eat, not-too-messy snacks.

I opted for kid-friendly snacks with a nutrition twist.

No, I didn’t stock the fridge with Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

On this inaugural use of our basement, I filled the fridge with water bottles. The counter had a basket of 100-calorie portion packs of whole-grain crackers, multigrain chips, lightly salted whole-grain popcorn, and trail mix with nuts and dried fruit.

Chips with guacamole or salsa would be a fun treat in the future, but tomato sauce might be tough on the carpet.

My daughter made a pan of fudgy brownies before her friends arrived, so they had the welcoming aroma of chocolate as they entered.

Next time, I will add string cheese, yogurt and individual applesauce containers to the fridge. Apples and tangerines would be teen-friendly treats, too.

I could do some interesting nutrition research with this focus group of kids. Trust me, I didn’t pop down to do a quick nutrition assessment of my daughter’s friends, although embarrassing her a little might have been fun.

I won’t be the “weird mom” just yet. Give me some time, though.

Snacks are an important part of the diet of kids and teens, who often are growing at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, many kids shortchange themselves on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and drink too many sweetened beverages.

Liquid calories can add up quickly. One can of pop (12 ounces) has up to 170 calories and no nutrients, plus sometimes a lot of caffeine. You can replace pop with more healthful options, such as water, low-fat/fat-free milk or 100 percent juice. Flavor-infused water and/or sparkling water with a squirt of juice are other options.

These beverages provide children with the hydration and nutrients they need to grow and develop properly.

Consider these 100-calorie snack options with a kid-friendly twist: 1 cup of raw carrots with 3 tablespoons of nonfat dressing, 10 grapes with 2 tablespoons of cream cheese fruit dip, half an English muffin (or half an apple) with a teaspoon of peanut butter or sunflower seed butter.

Teaching kids to be comfortable preparing food for themselves also is an important part of parenting. Here are some basic rules for keeping kids safe in a kitchen:

  • Lay out specific rules so they know what they are allowed to do.
  • Teach them how to retrieve items from the toaster safely if the items become stuck. (Do not stick in a utensil while the toaster still is plugged in. Unplug it and allow it to cool first.)
  • Make sure they know metal and microwaves don’t mix.
  • Supervise them when using an oven.
  • Teach them to wash their hands properly.
  • Teach them to clean up after themselves.

Next time, I need to reinforce the last tip on the list. I know a little “cleanup” song we all could sing. Yes, that would embarrass my daughter.

For more resources about snacks and food preparation, see https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/myplate-resources to view more after-school snacks for kids and teens. See https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/familytable to subscribe to a free monthly newsletter and be eligible for prizes on Facebook.

This fun, do-it-yourself snack is courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Council.

Pizza Dip

1 (6-oz.) package light cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. light sour cream

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 c. pizza sauce

1 c. shredded low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 c. diced red peppers

1/4 c. diced green onions

Whole-wheat breadsticks or crackers

Combine cream cheese, sour cream and oregano in bowl. Stir until smooth. Spread evenly into a small pie plate or 8- by 8-inch-square pan. Top with pizza sauce, cheese, peppers and onions. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve warm with breadsticks or crackers.

Makes five servings. Each serving has about 210 calories, 13 grams (g) fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 13 g protein, 0 g fiber and 380 milligrams sodium.

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

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Nov. 14, 2019

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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