Try fruit smoothies, veggies, nuts for after-school energy
By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - The thought of study time can bring out the munchies in kids, and with school starting so soon, it's time to start planning or grocery shopping for healthy and delicious snacks and meals.
Studies prove that a healthy and nutritious breakfast can start students off right, but keeping up their energy and focus requires extra fuel throughout the day.
In Indian River County, approximately 60 percent of students get their lunchtime meal from the school cafeteria, said Indian River County School district staff.
This year, for the first time, students purchasing or receiving meals from the school cafeterias will be required to choose a fruit or a vegetable as part of their meal, said Patrick McCarty, director of food services for the school district.
"Getting a piece of pizza and some milk will no longer be an option for a reimbursable meal. And we want kids to eat (the fruit or vegetable), not throw it away, so we've done some product testing to find foods kids actually like," he said.
"Anytime the kids can get fresh fruits or vegetables, those are by far going to be the healthiest options. And those are the things we are trying to incorporate more into our menus," Mr. McCarty said.
The district hopes to introduce new products to students to offer them more choices.
In the category of dark green leafy vegetables, children are accustomed to seeing menu options such as broccoli and spinach. Mr. McCarty said he hopes to introduce students to other options, such as kale or watercress.
Other food categories will have similar new options that students can be introduced to, staff said.
Children learn much of their behavior patterns from watching the behavior and habits of people around them.
One way to encourage a student to make wise choices in the school cafeteria line is by setting a good eating pattern example. Parents can make it a point to come to the school for a lunch with their child and show them what a well-rounded meal looks like.
Parents can get a lunch at the school cafeteria for $3.25, Mr. McCarty said.
"That's a good deal any way you look at it," he said.
After classes end for the day, there is still homework to be done and the brain and body often need a little pick-me-up.
A Google search will lead parents to dozens of whimsical and nutritious snacks to prepare for hungry students, including ants on a log (peanut butter on celery with raisins on top) dinosaur-shaped sandwiches or even alphabet pasta salad.
"Peanut butter is good because it's a protein, but some students have trouble with that because of a peanut allergy," Mr. McCarty said.
"Smoothies, or parfaits, which are made with yogurt or milk are good choices if they are available," he said.
"Anytime kids can get that versus going to a fast food place and getting a milkshake is good. A milkshake may taste good, but it's not good for you," Mr. McCarty said.
One of the a la carte items the district will be carrying this year includes a yogurt-covered, strawberry-flavored Chex mix, which is a good alternative to a potato chip snack.
Parents should be able to view the school lunch menus online before school begins, staff said.
For more information about breakfast and lunch menu items offered by the Indian River County School District, visit www.indianriverschools.org.