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Healthy School Snack Ideas

Youth prepare salsa

Youth making blender salsa during Leon County’s 4-H Culinary Camp

Are you having a tough time finding kid-approved snacks?  With a little extra planning, you can add extra fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your child’s diet.  The following snacks can be included in lunch, enjoyed as an after school snacks or as a great addition to any 4-H club meeting!

Stovetop Popcorn
It’s quick, easy, delicious AND a whole grain. Stove top popcorn is delicious just with a sprinkle of salt, but kids can get creative by adding toppings like sugar/cinnamon, Parmesan cheese or lemon zest with pepper.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends making half of your grains whole grains each day.  Here’s a simple stovetop popcorn recipe for you to try.

Snack Mix
This is another great way to get kids involved in creating their own snack mix using a variety of items.  The key is to change it up every few weeks to keep kids interested. Suggested items include: chex mix, dried blueberries, raisins, chocolate chips, walnuts, pretzels, whole grain crackers, popcorn, and more. Use this snack mix recipe as inspiration.

Fruit or Vegetable Kebabs
Kids can help put together this great afterschool snack. For fruit kebabs, try grapes, apples, blueberries or kiwi. For vegetable kebabs, try green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes or yellow squash. They can be simple with only two items such as strawberry and pineapple or cherry tomatoes and broccoli. You can dip the fruit kebabs in vanilla yogurt or drizzle them with honey. A side of ranch or hummus pairs perfectly with vegetable kebabs. The key is to purchase fruits and vegetables that are in-season to make this snack budget friendly. Here is a resource to find out what is in season in Florida.

Hummus
Let’s be honest, hummus and vegetables might not be at the top of the list of your kid’s favorite snack item. The key is to allow kids to make the hummus and serve it with a variety of items to dip. You can dip carrots, celery, radishes, pretzels, or crackers in hummus.  Hummus can be made ahead and stored for a few days sealed tight in the fridge. Here is my favorite hummus recipe.

Blender Salsa
Here’s another fun way to get kids in the kitchen to make a perfect snack for after school. You can put together this recipe in less than 5 minutes – it’s so easy  Try this basic blender salsa recipe, but feel free to add your own inspiration by adding extra ingredients.

Smoothies
Endless recipes make smoothies a great after school snack. You can even pack a smoothie for lunch. To ensure the smoothie stays nice and cold, place the thermos in the freezer the night before. In the morning, pour the freshly made smoothie into the frozen thermos.  A personal favorite smoothie of mine is: 1 frozen banana, 1 cup milk, 1 scoop of peanut butter, 1 small scoop of cocoa powder and a handful of spinach. The spinach blends right in (you can’t even taste it), and the cocoa powder hides the color of the spinach.

Whole Grain Muffins
Whole grain muffins are an easy snack to make ahead and enjoy throughout the week. Muffins freeze well and still taste delicious when thawed. You can make chocolate chip, strawberry, blueberry, banana, pumpkin and more. Muffins can also be used as a quick breakfast while you are running out the door. For some extra protein, just add some nut butter, such as peanut or almond. Here is a delicious whole grain blueberry muffin recipe.

To learn more about 4-H’s healthy living goal, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

 

Connecting Healthy Foods to Local Agriculture during 4-H Camp

Cooking with Florida Produce

Knowing how to cook and being comfortable in the kitchen is an important life skill that has enduring benefits. Leon County 4-H hosted a culinary day camp with a unique twist:  educating youth about Florida produce and local agriculture.  In addition to teaching culinary techniques and nutrition, youth learned foundational cooking skills and took things a step further by building connections between local farms and their kitchens.

Teaming up with Fresh from Florida Kids

Chef Paula Kendrick co-led the camp. featuring Florida-grown produce.  The importance of nutrition and incorporating healthy foods into the diet was an ongoing theme during the camp.  Lessons on how to read food labels, the importance of whole grain and limiting sugar intake were also featured.  A salsa cooking competition using local products ended the camp.  Chef Paula is from Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Fresh from Florida Kids.

 

Local Farm Highlighted

A visit to Full Earth Farm in Quincy helped youth see how a small local farm operates. Owners Katie Harris and Aaron Suko warmly welcomed the group to their farm and gave them a tour.  Florida seasonality, composting benefits and how local farms provide fresh produce to businesses and homes in our area were tour highlights.  The group left with a box of fresh summer squash to deliver to their next stop – Damfino’s Cafe and Market. Damfino’s sources local products for their menu items. Owner Lucy and Chef Max spoke to the group about their restaurant’s mission of connecting the local community to local farmers.

During the camp, youth were eager to try all the recipes and many of the campers tried new food items for the first time. Fresh herbs from the 4-H garden were used in a number of the recipes. Rosemary was added to honeydew sorbet, and basil was added to sautéed summer squash.

Healthy Eating is Best Learned in the Kitchen

Chef Paula Kendrick shared, “The students got to visit a Florida farm, eat at a local Florida farm to table restaurant and learn how to handle and cook fresh Florida produce. I love helping them to make that farm to table connection while teaching them about Florida agriculture. Cooking is one of the best ways to actually get them to try new things and to understand the importance of healthy eating and nutrition.”

For more information on healthy living 4-H projects such as cooking, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office.