All parents want their kids to be happy and healthy, but the rates of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes tell us we're missing the mark. School lunches and vending machine options have often been the focus of diet improvement efforts, though if we're being honest, meals at home aren't always the greatest either.
Summer eating brings extra challenges and temptations. Kids spend more time at home, maybe with access to snacks; mealtimes may be less structured; the ice cream trucks patrol the neighborhoods; and concession stands are everywhere from the beach to the zoo.
But some wise shopping and a few minutes in the kitchen can result in delicious and nourishing snacks to eat all week. A summer of wholesome snacking can help give kids the knowledge they need to make good food choices all year long.
Wet and wild
High temperatures and high spirits make for sweaty kids. Keep the liquids coming, but skip the soft drinks and straight-up juice. Your ice-cold quencher can be as simple as a big pitcher of ice water with cut up lemons, limes, oranges and strawberries - or you can get a little fancy.
A great house drink is the Arnold Palmer. Typically half iced-tea and lemonade, it has a zillion variations. Brew some of your favorite tea, squeeze in some citrus, and add a few splashes of 100% juice to sweeten it; serve over ice with a straw. Try hibiscus tea, squeezed lime and pomegranate juice, or black tea, squeezed lemon and peach nectar.
Agua fresca, a popular fruit refresher in Latin America, is another kid-friendly drink loaded with vitamins. Puree half a medium ripe watermelon, cantaloupe or a pint of strawberries in the blender until ultra-smooth. Push the liquid through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the solids. Mix three parts fruit to one part cold water and squeeze in some lime.
Keep the freezer loaded with homemade ice pops and you'll never have to scramble for change when the ice cream truck comes ringing. Most anything that is yummy and healthy to drink can be frozen into a stellar popsicle. One tip: Things taste less sweet when frozen, so your liquid should be slightly sweeter than you want your frozen treat to be.
Purchase a ready-made mold, or use small paper cups and wooden sticks. When using paper cups, let the mixture freeze for one to two hours, then put in your popsicle sticks so they stand up in the slushy liquid. Freeze until solid.
Combine plain yogurt and juice or pureed fruit, or make an herb-infused simple syrup mixed with fruit. Try this: Puree fresh strawberries or peaches and set aside. Mix together ½ cup water and ½ cup sugar over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add a small bunch of basil to the simple syrup, and let steep for a few minutes to a few hours. Strain out basil leaves and add basil syrup to the pureed fruit by the tablespoonful, until it is as sweet as you like. Freeze in molds. (Use leftover syrup to make a smashing cocktail for mom and dad.)
I rarely recommend one-trick ponies for the kitchen, but I'm totally smitten with the Zoku quick pop maker. It is similar to the contemporary ice cream maker, with a bucket filled with mystery liquid that you keep in your freezer. The Zoku can freeze liquid into popsicles in seven minutes flat. A three-pop maker is about $50 and can be used three times consecutively to make nine pops before it needs to be refrozen. A little spendy, but depending upon how spontaneous you like to be with your frozen treats, it may be worth it. It will save hours of listening to your children asking if the pops are ready.
Summer sun and activities eat up the kcals quickly, and a hungry kid is a cranky kid. Use snacks and lunchtime as an opportunity to refuel with whole grains, protein and lots of fruits and veggies.
Think about "assembling" lunch rather than preparing it. Throw together a meze platter with pantry and fridge staples, fresh fruit, vegetables and dips. Options include pitted olives, pickles (try the fermented kind), whole-wheat pita, hummus, black bean dip, salsa, tzatziki, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, leftover grilled chicken, cheese cubes, nuts and dried fruit. A simple dessert can be cut-up fruit, frozen on skewers. Mix together yogurt, nut butter and a little honey for fruit dip.
For a protein-rich snack or dessert, serve peanut-butter-coconut "energy bites" - a healthier riff on what your mother may have referred to as peanut butter balls. Times are definitely changing.
Makes approximately 40 "bites"
Add all ingredients to large bowl and stir well. Roll rounded teaspoons into small balls and store in a single layer in the fridge.
Anna Thomas Bates blogs about cooking and feeding kids at www.tallgrasskitchen.com.comments powered by Disqus
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders " 10 boys and six girls " enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.