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Foods That Add Up to Smart Back-to-School Snacking

September 8, 2009
Times Observer
As parents start stocking up on school supplies, they also are reloading their kitchen cabinets and pantries with healthy foods for their children's snacks and lunches. Indeed, along with pencils, paper and scissors, snack foods are a big part of back-to-school shopping lists.

Navigating their local store, parents have plenty of snack options from which to choose. But when it comes to a formula for snacks that are both healthy and appealing, the equation becomes more challenging.

There are pluses and minuses to many snack foods available today. Some are designed for a child's sweet tooth, appealing to youngsters but laden with not-so-good-for-you ingredients. Others are geared for convenience, with attractive and convenient packaging for busy parents that can also be more costly at the checkout line. And while there are many snacks created for health benefits, those foods may stay in the bag or - worse yet, in the garbage can -- once kids get to school, because they don't taste as good as "regular" snacks.

To be sure, the multiple choice of back-to-school snacks and lunches becomes harder when factoring in all of the variables of taste, health, convenience and affordability. With that in mind, a "study guide" for snacking can help parents ace the task of sending students of all ages off to school with foods that are graded both good and good for you.

Sum up servings One way to ensure proper serving size - and hence keep children within recommended consumption guidelines - is to look for pre-portioned packaged products. Over the past few years, more 100-calorie packs of various snack foods have entered the marketplace. These keep portion sizes in check and help on-the-go parents who appreciate the convenience of simply putting a bag in a lunch box. To provide convenience and portion control to its customers, for example, Snyder's of Hanover offers a wide variety of items in its 100-Calorie Lunch Pack line, including MultiGrain Southwest Cheddar and French Onion Sunflower Chips and Peanut Butter and Cheddar Cheese Pretzel Sandwich Lunch Packs. Such snacks add up to healthier options versus other salted snacks like potato chips and cheese puffs.

Multiply healthy ingredients As any parent, caregiver or teacher who reads food package labels can attest, many snack foods contain ingredients that are not considered wholesome or healthy. When shopping for back-to-school snacks, parents can scan packages for items containing better-for-you ingredients, like multi-grain pretzels and sunflower chips or Veggie Crisps, that provide a greater nutritional punch along with the crunchy flavor that kids love. Youngsters - whether pre-schoolers or high schoolers - won't notice any difference.

Subtract cost These days especially, price is a concern for all parents as they must purchase back-to-school supplies. Parents can take advantage of special seasonal promotions as they stock up for school snacks and lunches, whether it's clipping manufacturers' coupons from the newspaper and mailings or searching for in-store sales and offers. Snyder's of Hanover, for its part, is placing a special coupon book in more than 1.5 million Lunch Packs. The coupon book includes $7.50 in coupons from brands like Jif-To-Go, Crayola, Juicy Juice, Dole Fruit Bowls, Eggland's Best, Marzetti's and its own Snyder's of Hanover products, among with a $5 subscription offer for 12 months to "Parents" magazine. In addition, consumers can get a chance to win a $3,000 scholarship.

Divide and conquer Although kids are notoriously loyal to certain foods, mixing up school snacks can cut down on complaints and keep snack-time and lunch-time at school interesting. As we head into the 2009-2010 school year, a wide variety of snack foods is available, with multiple flavors and varieties within single product lines. Today's peanut butter, for instance, can be tomorrow's cheddar cheese, and that element of surprise can be a welcome addition for a student's school day.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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