Choose Healthy Snacks at School This Year!

healthy SnackWith the new school year upon us, parents may be asked to send a snack to school at times for their child’s classroom. Healthy People Lincoln County Nutrition Coalition would like to encourage parents to send healthy snacks to school for their children. The Center for Disease Control has published research showing that good nutrition is directly linked to better performance in school. Healthy food choices are also important in maintaining a healthy weight. “Schools are a great place to promote healthy eating habits in students”, says Paula Gebauer, RN at Ministry -Sacred Heart-Saint Mary’s Hospital.

Students across the country are now offered healthier school lunches with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Last year, the USDA also set standards for snack foods and beverages sold to children at school during the school day. Here is a snapshot of those standards:

Any food sold in school must:
  • Be a whole grain-rich product, or
  • Have as the first ingredient a fruit, vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein, or
  • Combine at least ¼ cup of fruit/vegetable, or
  • Contain 10% of daily value of calcium, potassium, Vitamin D, or dietary fiber
Any food sold in school must have limited amounts of calories, sodium, fat and sugar
All schools may sell these beverages:
  • Plain water (with or without carbonation)
  • Unflavored low fat milk
  • Unflavored or flavored fat free milk and milk alternatives
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice, diluted with water, with no sweeteners

It would be great for parents to adopt these “Smart Snacks in School” standards for ALL foods offered to students at school, such as snacks and celebrations”, says Brigid Flood, PHN for Lincoln County Health Department. You can check to see if a snack is a “smart Snack” by going to this website: https://www.healthiergeneration.org/take_action/schools/snacks_and_beverages/smart_snacks/alliance_product_calculator/

Some parents may be worried about the cost of healthier snacks. However, there are many healthy snacks that cost less than boxes of sugary or high fat, high calorie treats. Here are some comparisons, (Online prices from a local store) based on a classroom of 18 kids:

 

Healthier Snack   Less Healthy Snack
4# (12) oranges, cut into sections – $4.48 Vs. Fruit leather~$7.00
Bag of string cheese – ~$5.84 for 24 pieces Vs. Chocolate covered granola bar ~ $5.36
3# seedless green grapes – $4.48 Vs. Fruit gushers ~$5.96
20 oz. container of raisins – $2.98 Vs. Brownies (made from a box mix) ~$4.33
32 oz. baby carrots- – $2.14 +Light ranch dressing – $2.36 =   $4.50 Vs. Bag of Tostitos chips and cheese dip ~$7.76
Bag of honey-wheat pretzel twists – $1.99 Vs. Bag of potato chips ~$4.99
9 bananas (1/2 banana per student) ~$4.00 Vs. Donuts ~$9.00
Multi-grain Cheerios – $3.98/ 28 oz.box Vs. Pop tarts ~$3.96
Triscuit whole grain crackers – $3.57/box Vs. Oreos ~$4.32

Snacks can be pre-packaged in snack bags before sent to school to control portion sizes and make it easier for the teacher to distribute. This cost would only be about ~$1.00 per classroom.

What children eat and drink at school matters. Serving healthy snacks to children provides good nutrition, supports lifelong healthy eating habits and helps prevent costly and potentially disabling diseases that may result from being overweight. Health People Lincoln County Nutrition Coalition encourages parents to consider providing healthy snacks during this school year.

Healthy People Lincoln County’s mission is to promote partnerships within the community to improve health through advocacy, prevention and implementation of best practices. If you are interested in participating in the community garden grant, please contact Shelley Hersil, Lincoln County Health Department, 715-539-1360 or shersil@co.lincoln.wi.us.

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