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Prairie Fare: Snack Smart at School, Work and Home

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
Well-chosen snacks can add variety to our diet and keep kids and adults fueled for school or work.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

I awakened to the loud buzz of an alarm clock at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, but the sound wasn’t coming from the alarm clock in my room. It was in my 8-year-old daughter’s room. She turned it off, so I was hoping she would go back to bed.

I closed my eyes, hoping to fall asleep again. After a couple of minutes, I could sense someone looking at me. I opened my eyes and was startled to have her face about 2 inches from my face.

“Mom, it’s time to get up!” she exclaimed with a giggle.

“No, it’s not. It’s Saturday morning,” I grumbled.

“I need to practice getting up for school,” she prodded. I was now fully awake and a little amused by her comment. I don’t think I’m ready for school, either.

School supply aisles are starting to get crowded with parents and kids. Along with paper, pencils, crayons, glue and other supplies, school snacks often are on the list. Snacks are an important part of children’s nutritional needs because often they cannot eat enough at meals to satisfy all their needs.

The word “snack” sometimes has a bad connotation. However, well-chosen snacks can add variety to our diet and keep kids and adults fueled for school or work.

Think of snacks as minimeals that can fill nutrition gaps for adults and kids. Are you or your family members falling short of current nutrition recommendations for fruits and vegetables? Try keeping a bowl with apples and bananas on the counter, ready to grab. Pack some baby carrots in your lunch bag for the afternoon munchies.

When you shop for snacks, compare labels to get the most nutritional value for your money. Read Nutrition Facts labels, and use “Percent Daily Value” when you compare foods. A food with 5 percent or less of the daily value is considered “low” in that nutrient. A food product with 20 percent or more of the daily value is “high” in that nutrient. Check out the calories per serving, sodium, fiber, sugar and other components.

When selecting food for snacks, try to include foods from at least two new food groups, such as a smoothie made with yogurt and fruit, or a simple snack mix with whole-grain cereal, dried fruit and nuts. Try a mozzarella cheese stick and whole-grain crackers for a ready-to-go snack.

Here are some ideas for creative snacks for kids, but adults might enjoy them, too. They’re from

  • Smoothie creations: Blend fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk with fruit pieces and crushed ice. Use fresh, frozen and/or canned fruits. Try bananas, berries, peaches and/or pineapple. If you use frozen fruit, you won’t need ice.
  • Delicious dippers: Whip up a quick veggie dip with low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt with herbs or garlic. Serve with raw veggies such as broccoli, carrots, peppers and cauliflower.
  • Caterpillar kabobs: Assemble chunks of melons, apples, oranges and pears on skewers. Alternatively, use vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, squash, sweet peppers or tomatoes.
  • Personalized pizzas: Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels or pita bread as the crust. Top with tomato sauce or pizza sauce, shredded cheese and your favorite veggie toppings.
  • Fruity peanut butterfly: Start with carrot sticks or celery for the body. Attach wings made of thinly sliced apples with peanut butter and decorate with halved grapes or dried fruit.
  • Frosty fruits: Put fresh fruits such as melon chunks in the freezer. Make popsicles by inserting sticks into peeled bananas and freezing.
  • Bugs on a log: Use celery, cucumber or carrot sticks as the log and add peanut butter. Top with dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries.
  • Homemade trail mix: Use your favorite whole-grain cereal plus nuts and dried fruits, such as unsalted peanuts, cashews, walnuts or sunflower seeds mixed with dried apples, pineapple, cherries, apricots or raisins.

Kids could help make these pizzas for a quick snack after school. If you add some fruit and veggies on the side and a cup of milk, you could make it a meal. You can watch some snack preparation videos featuring student athletes and a coach at

Mini Personal Pizzas

1 English muffin (sliced)

2 Tbsp. pizza sauce

Toppings of choice (diced peppers, onion, mushrooms, etc.)

2 Tbsp. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toast English muffin if desired. Spread pizza sauce on the English muffin. Add toppings and bake until cheese is melted.

Makes one serving. Each serving has 180 calories, 3.5 grams (g) of fat, 28 g of carbohydrate and 9 g of protein.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.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 – Aug. 11, 2011

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