Cooking with Kids, Healthy, Vegetables

Healthy snacks for the back to school frenzy

Recently, my friend Katy asked if I had any suggestions for healthy snacks for young people. Her high school aged daughter is a dancer, and finding lunchbox and afternoon snacks that offered nutritional value and not just empty calories was a challenge. I’ve got two swimmers and a runner in my household, and now that school has resumed, I’ve been asking myself the same question. Truly nutritious snacks take more thought than that oversized box of Sun Chips from Costco, and it’s not easy when you’re operating at break-neck, back-to-school speed.

For advice, I shot an email to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, an international leader in nutritional research and a sometimes overlooked local resource here in Baton Rouge. In addition to ground-breaking metabolic research, Pennington also has lots of easy recipes and healthy eating tips. PBRC staff members Alisha Prather and Stephanie Malin fired back a list of kid-tested snacks that don’t require a ton of ingredients.

Healthy Snack Ideas:

• Fruit kabobs
• English muffin half with pizza sauce and cheese, toasted
• Yogurt parfaits layered with granola and fruit
• Trail mix, homemade or store bought with the addition of pretzels, popcorn, nuts or dried fruit
• Veggies and dip beyond Ranch dressing. Think low fat spinach dip or peanut sauce, which goes really well with steamed green beans served cold.
• Cheese and whole grain crackers


It just tastes better on a stick.

I’m also a big fan of snacks that are heavy on protein, since they stick with kids longer. Turkey jerky is a good option. And with so many great cured meats out there, making your own charcuterie plate or simple meat and cheese roll-ups is an appealing option, too. Yes, these items have a good amount of sodium, but it doesn’t take much of them to help a kid feel full and satisfied, and it’s better than a bag of chips.

Malin also forwarded links to recipes from Pennington’s Metabolic Kitchen, a great site to mine for snack ideas. Here’s one for Baked Zucchini Sticks, which I modified just slightly. Prepare the battered veggies in advance and bake them when you’re ready.

Baked Zucchini Sticks

Makes 16 sticks

2 small to medium zucchini squash
2 eggs
2 cups Japanese breadcrumbs (Panko)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or cooking spray. Trim the ends of the zucchinis and slice each in half across the middle. Slice each half into quarters lengthwise. Crack eggs into a small bowl and whisk. Pour ½ cup breadcrumbs onto a pie plate and add salt and pepper to taste. Dip each stick in egg, then roll in Panko. Use ½ cup breadcrumbs at a time, replacing with a fresh batch when wet clumps appear. Place battered strips on baking sheet. Cook for 12 minutes, and turn to ensure even browning. Cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve immediately with homemade or store bought marinara.


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