The bell signaling the opening of school is just about to ring and thoughts are turning to the usual new clothes and school supply lists, but the biggest challenge for many health conscious parents is what to put in school lunch boxes and back packs that will provide good healthy nourishment for their growing kids and will at the same time be interesting and appealing so it doesn’t get tossed into the nearest bin.
If you stopped by my booth at the Beaverton Farmers’ Market you would find a selection of healthy snacks such as roasted almonds and hazelnuts, Farmers’ Market Trail Mix, and The Nutty Bavarian’s Favorite Granola so adding good-for-kids healthy stuff to lunch boxes would be easy. You can probably find products like these at your farmers’ market as well. But if you can’t here are a few simple solutions your kids of all ages are sure to love.
Trail mixes are so easy to put together. You could probably find everything you need in the bulk food section at your local market. The only challenge is coming up with a mixture you and your kids enjoy. I like crunch so I start with almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, soy nuts, and sunflower seeds. Sweetness comes from dried fruits and yogurt covered raisins. Included in my mix are dried kiwi, cantaloupe, mango, pineapple, dried cranberries and golden raisins. Cut the fruit into desired sized pieces, combine well, then fill little individual size serving bags and you are set to go. This is just the ticket for all the kiddos who have after after school activities and sports events because they will get a great immediate energy boost from the fruits and nuts.
Granola is just as easy to make at home. All you have to do is assemble your ingredients and bake the mixture for 30-40 minutes. The good thing about making your own granola is that it will be just the way to like it, custom made for your own particular taste. I like lots of fruits and nuts so I add plenty of both. Following is a good basic recipe that you can easily change. If you keep the proportions of oats, nuts and fruits and oil and sweetener the same you can add anything you please.
- 8 cups old fashioned rolled oats, thick cut if you can find them.
- 1 cup coconut
- ½ cup raw almonds
- ½ cup unsalted cashews
- ½ cup hazelnuts
- ½ cup pecans
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup brown rice syrup – see comment below
- ¾ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Place in large roasting pan.
- Combine vegetable oil, brown rice syrup, honey and cinnamon in medium bowl. Pour over oat nut mixture and mix well.
- Bake in a 300 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven when the mixture is a light golden brown.
- Note: Brown rice syrup is a liquid sweetener with the consistency of honey and a slight butterscotch flavor. It’s made by combining barley malt and brown rice and cooked until all the starch has turned to simple sugars. It metabolizes slowly over several hours so is a perfect sweetener for athletes, students, and anybody who wants to avoid dramatic shifts in blood sugar levels. Baked goods made with brown rice syrup are crispy so it is excellent in granola and cookies. Available at specialty groceries such as Whole Foods and on line.
Making your own granola and trail mix are just two of the many simple ways to add interest, flavor and nutrition to your family’s diet. Whole grain breads, nut butters, and seasonal fresh fruit are great alternatives to many of the high sugar and fat products that are too readily available. These are just a few ideas for back to school healthy and easy alternatives to nutrition poor lunches and snacks.
Fresh fruit and yogurt, topped with a spoonful of granola is one of my favorite summertime meals. When I start the day with this yummy combination I know I’m getting a good helping of proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber. And when I need an afternoon energy boost there is nothing better. I hope you consider incorporating some of these healthy foods into your family’s diet.