Most third grade boys think girls are rather germ-laden. My son was no exception when he was a third grader.
I recall a conversation we had about healthful school snacks. As I eyed a large bunch of rapidly ripening bananas on our kitchen counter, I suggested he bring more fruits and vegetables for school snacks.
He wasn’t opposed to the idea, but he brought up the downside of fruits and vegetables. One of the girls in his class brought fruit and vegetables for snacks the previous year.
“Her desk was full of rotten banana peels and old, dried up carrots. It smelled really bad. She had piles of old math homework in there, too.”
I’m not sure which is worse: spoiled produce or old arithmetic.
After more discussion, bananas, bunches of grapes, apples and mini carrots were deemed “OK” with my son. He said he’d throw the banana peels. He promised to bring his math papers home before they piled up, too.
Most of us of are falling short of the daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables, which averages about 4.5 cups per day for adults and preteens. Choosing fruits and vegetables as mid-day school snacks is a good way to help meet the daily goal.
Individual packs of raisins and canned fruit are easy options for including more fruits daily. Fresh fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, apples, pears, plums, mini-carrots and celery sticks, also are easy-to-pack snack options.
Safety is another consideration when it comes to packing perishables in backpacks or lunch boxes. Improperly handled fresh produce is increasingly linked with foodborne illness. A few easy steps can prevent a bout of food poisoning:
- Start with clean hands and kitchen surfaces. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds, about the time it takes to hum “Yankee Doodle” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
- Avoid cross-contamination by keeping ready-to-eat foods separate from raw meats during meal preparation.
- Wash produce thoroughly with plenty of running water, but no soap.
- Pack snacks in a way that helps prevent contamination on the way to school. Small clusters of grapes, for example, can be placed in a single-use plastic bag. Washed, whole apples can be wrapped in plastic wrap. Cut-up cantaloupe can be placed in snap-top, air-tight plastic containers. Cut-up produce is perishable, so it’s safest to place cut-up produce in an insulated lunch bag with a freezer pack.
- Since frequent and proper hand washing is key to food safety, wash hands before enjoying a snack.
Here’s a recipe that combines cereal and dried fruit into a tasty treat.
Chocolate Cereal and Fruit Snack Mix
1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 c. bite-sized crisp rice squares cereal
3 c. bite-sized crisp wheat squares cereal
2 c. toasted oat rings cereal
1 c. cashews (or other nuts)
1 1/2 c. dried fruit bits (such as dried cranberries)
1 c. chocolate chips
In 4-quart microwave-safe bowl, place butter or margarine. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until melted. Stir in sugar, cocoa and cinnamon. Add cereals and nuts. Stir until evenly coated. Microwave on high 3 minutes, stirring each minute. Stir in dried fruit. Microwave on high 3 minutes, stirring each minute. Cool completely. Stir in chocolate chips. Store in tightly covered container in cool, dry place. Makes about 11 cups mix.
Makes 22 snack-size servings. Each half-cup serving contains 190 calories, 10 grams fat, 25 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber and 160 milligrams sodium.