The Art of Cooking: Back to School Nutrition

It seems as though summer had just begun when the “back to school” commercials started to blare from the television, and now that time is upon you yet again. Left with only receipts in your wallet, you will be watching your kids climb onto the bus with their new backpacks full of school supplies and those designer jeans they really, really needed, within the week.

Parents know, just as children need all of their folders, notebooks, pens, and pencils, it is essential for them to be armed with proper nutrition each day for a successful school year as well. A great diet will not only help

them achieve optimal performance in the classroom, but will also contribute to great overall health and nourishment. Rated number one on most doctor produced “superfood” lists is salmon. Fish like salmon, that are high in fat (don’t worry, it’s the good kind), are rich in Omega 3’s, doing amazing things for brain function and concentration, as well as lowering blood cholesterol levels. Another great superfood is the egg. While preparing breakfast, don’t chuck the yolk! Eggs surely derived their “incredible edible” name by the calcium, iodine, iron, zinc, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B6, B12 they contain, most of which come from the yolk! Aside from being a great source of protein, eggs are also loaded with another little goody called choline which promotes memory development. See? Eggs really are incredible!

Packing your child’s lunch ensures they will get the vitamins and nutrients they need to flourish. School cafeterias have guidelines they follow to provide a well balanced meal to their students. Still, some parents and committees believe that even with meeting these guidelines, the food served is high in saturated fat and low in fiber. If this was not the case, the child can still pick the less nutritious items on the menu, or choose the vending machine lunch if not happy with the selections provided by the school that day. Vending machines are also a popular snack-time stop. But with a wave of your magic parenting wand, your child will be happy to find a wholesome tasty snack waiting for them in their lunchbox, thus turning a potential snacking mishap into another dose of healthy goodness. Berries are a great snack choice. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cherries have a lot of antioxidants and will boost the immune system in the cold season to come. These berries are still in produce stands, so stock up now and freeze the leftovers, avoiding the higher prices they will have in the coming months. Peanuts are high in vitamin E and are great for energy, making them another good snack choice. A baggy of nuts or apple slices with peanut butter are a delightful bite.

We have covered brain function and concentration, memory development, good immune system health, and energy. Now, will they eat it? Let’s start with breakfast. Packed with fiber, vitamins, potassium, and zinc, oats, or oatmeal, accompanies the egg very well with some whole grain toast on the side. Stirring in some fresh fruit, brown sugar, and milk will kick your oatmeal up a notch and create more of a treat, rather than a breakfast obligation. Yum, breakfast of champions! For more of a breakfast on the go without sacrificing nutrition, there is the Banana Breakfast Shake. My mom used to make this shake for my sister and I when we were in school. It’s hard to believe nutrition could taste this good!

Breakfast Banana Shake

Serves 2

1 ½ cups plain lowfat yogurt
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup wheat germ
1 large banana
1 Tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Blend all ingredients. Pour into two glasses. For a thicker smoothie, place bananas in the freezer overnight.

Though salmon is very good for you, the fact it is high in fatty acids contribute to a stronger “fishy” flavor, not usually appealing to a child’s palette. So, we disguise it. Behold, salmon salad sandwiches.

Salmon Salad Sandwiches

1 can salmon, drained
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup celery, chopped
¼ cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
¼ cup raisins
½ teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon dill
dash salt

Combine all ingredients. Serve on whole grain bread with lettuce and tomato.

Putting the lettuce and tomato in separate baggies is probably a good idea so the sandwich doesn’t get soggy. Also, being that there is mayonnaise in this lunch, it does require refrigeration. An ice pack in an insulated lunch bag will do the trick.

I have recently found out that a lot of store bought granola bars contain high fructose corn syrup. Yikes! Not what you want in a granola bar. Here is a much healthier choice for snack-time, and you can adjust it to your child’s preferences. For a goody, you can also add mini chocolate chips or marshmallows.

Yummy Granola Bars

2 cups oats
1 cup almonds
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup honey
¼ brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
2 teaspoons vanilla
About 1 cup of dried cherries and raisins

1. Grease a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Combine the honey, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

4. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine.

5. Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish.

6. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into rectangles and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Article image by: Nicholas Petrone

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