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Budget conscience kid approved snacks

Easting healthy is something we hear in the media every day but with children taking lunch to school is not a popular activity. A few years ago I found out that my kids were buying peanut butter and jelly at the school cafeteria and I balked at paying $2.00 for something I could make at home, so my kids and I made a deal, once a week they could eat at school and the other four days I would make their lunches. Then the brainstorming had to start, what would I make them that they would enjoy and not get made fun of for that still fit within my budget and our family choice to eat as healthy as possible. Sandwiches on whole wheat bread are my staple, and the boys get to pick what kind of sandwich they want, but extras is where our battle lines started.

I am not a nutritionist or a total health nut, I do not rule over my kids choices with an iron fist and will even allow for some not so healthy choices that my kids choose as to not deprive my children of the joys of eating things other kids are eating. Although, I do try to moderate bad choices with good ones so they can learn to balance their own nutrition as they grow up.

Below are some ideas and recipes for things to add to your kids lunches or for snacks that have gotten my kids, my budgets and my health conscience approval:

Popcorn: I always pop my own in an air popper or on the stove made with olive oil or grapeseed oil and add my own twist. A little sprinkle of sugar and salt makes a kettle corn flavor that adds a twist that satisfies. Sprinkle on garlic salt and Italian seasoning for a savory taste (you can also add a touch of parmesan cheese for added bonus flavor). There are so many blends of flavors available now in salt free versions but I find that to get them to stick I need to add butter to the air popped popcorn or add the spices while the popcorn is still warm in the pan on the stove. Spice it up, play with it, add nuts to it! So many choices and a great snack at work too.

Granola Bars: I happen to like my granola bars home made so I do not have to label read every box in the store. An easy recipe (thanks to Cooks.com) my kids enjoy is:

2 cups trail mix (Go to the bulk bins - mix several varieties of fruit and nuts. Even add in some flax seeds to make it extra healthy)

2 cups oatmeal
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips (optional - but recommended)
3 ripe bananas
1 egg
2 tbsp. honey

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

In a Large bowl combine trail mix (even add in some flax seeds to make it extra healthy), chocolate chips and oatmeal. In a smaller bowl mash the bananas, then add your egg and honey and mix it all together. Add the banana mixture to the trail mix and stir it all together making sure everything is evenly coated.

Press the mixture into a greased 12 X 9-inch cake pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are brown. Allow to cool, cut and enjoy!

The fun part about this recipe is that you can add as little or as much of your favorite nuts and dried fruit as you like. Pumpkin seeds, soy nuts and sesame seeds taste great! Even add cinnamon or nutmeg for some added flavor. Alternatively you can also leave the chocolate chips out, and then melt them later and spread them over the top of the bars.

Submitted to Cooks.com by: Lex Hosh

Nuts: I like to roast my own mixes and add them in bags for my kids lunches, then we can spice them as we want.

Veggies and Ranch or Hummus: I keep small containers just to add Ranch or Hummus for dipping.

Trail Mix: Super easy and you can add whatever you want. Nuts, cereals, chocolate candies or chips, dried fruit, sesame sticks, pretzels. Have your children help you make them and I bet they will brag at school and share with their friends.

Filled rice cakes: Get the mini versions in a store then fill with nut butters, jelly or honey makes a sweet addition.

Hopefully I have given you enough ideas to have some fun with your children’s lunches and keep you within budget.

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