A parent's back-to-school frustration isn't limited to school supplies, new clothes or after-school care. There's also the dilemma of lunch fixings and after-school snacks.
Something sweet is usually the first suggestion when children are queried. But most conscientious adults want to be sure there is some nutrition in their child's nibbles--whether these are sweet or savory, served at midday or late afternoon.
Enter the Your Life Vitamin Hotline, (800) 533-VITA. This toll-free hot line is staffed by nutritionists who are prepared to answer parents' questions about feeding school-age children--particularly with regard to healthy back-to-school eating.
Provided as a public service by the makers of Your Life vitamins, it will be in operation from now through October. In addition to having all their questions answered, parents also can receive a free booklet with 10 tips on getting children to eat right, 10 healthy snack ideas and 10 healthy lunch-box ideas. The booklet features a chart to help children choose healthful snacks themselves and a poster for them to color.
"Most children go through periods of refusing foods they previously liked or of eating only a certain few foods such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or spaghetti," said Gail Becker, a registered dietitian and manager of the hot line. "This can be very frustrating for the nutrition-conscious parent, but these stages usually pass."
To help with this stage, there are many strategies that parents can employ to encourage children to develop better eating habits, and this in turn helps make meal preparation easier for parents. One suggestion is that parents not make an issue of food, Becker said.
"It should not be used as a reward, punishment, to bribe or pacify . . . to do so gives food an emotional value that can lead to lifelong eating problems and create a power struggle the parent cannot win.
"Studies show that children eventually adopt their parents' eating habits. If you eat erratically and make poor food choices, you can expect your child to do the same. But if you eat a balanced, varied diet and maintain normal weight, your child will someday do so too, even if he/she doesn't now," Becker explained.
Some other keys to healthy box lunches and afterschool snacks are:
--Include foods from each of the four basic food groups.
--Try to limit fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar in both.
--Plan ahead, make good use of leftovers and choose wisely from the deli section, opting for light cheeses, reduced-sodium cheese and lean sliced meats.
--Make kebabs by threading cubes of leftover meat, fat- and sodium-reduced cheese, tomatoes, peppers or raw mushrooms onto straws.
--Fill a wide-mouth thermos with leftover hot dishes like stew, chili or soup. Or fill with cold selections like pasta salad, coleslaw, grated carrot and raisin salad, fruit salad, low-fat cottage cheese.
--Stuff a whole-wheat pita round with tuna, salmon or other fish salad or sliced turkey breast, chicken or lean roast beef, alfalfa or bean sprouts. Pack tomato and lettuce slices separately to prevent excess moisture.
--As an alternative to sandwiches, roll up thin slices of turkey breast or lean roast beef inside slices of low-sodium Muenster or Provolone cheese.
--Scoop out a tomato, fill with low-fat cottage cheese and top with sunflower seeds, shredded carrot, crushed pineapple, raisins or chopped celery.
--Stuff celery sticks with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese.
--Spread baked beans, a good source of protein, iron and fiber, between whole-wheat bread for a sandwich or pack in a container.
--Make extra pancakes and freeze individually. At snack time, thaw in microwave, add a filling and roll up. Possible fillings include: low-fat cottage cheese, peanut butter, slices of low-fat/sodium cheese and unsweetened applesauce.
--Combine dried fruits, raisins, dry-roasted unsalted peanuts, sunflower seeds and eat out of hand or mix with low-fat yogurt.
VANILLA-PEAR BREAD PUDDING
2 cups peeled and sliced pears
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
8 slices firm white bread
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
Toss pears with flour and cinnamon in bowl, then set aside.
Spread butter on 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange 4 slices bread in 8-inch baking dish, sprayed with non-stick coating spray, overlapping slightly. Arrange pears over bread. Cut each remaining slice bread diagonally into 2 triangles and arrange over pear slices.
Beat eggs and sugar until well combined. Stir in milk, vanilla and salt. Pour egg mixture over bread slices. Set baking dish in 13x9-inch baking pan and place on oven rack. Fill large pan halfway up with hot water. Bake at 325 degrees, uncovered, until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Serve warm or refrigerate, covered. Makes 8 servings.
PEACH YOGURT MUFFINS
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon