A lesson in healthy eating habits

With school starting up soon, here are some healthy snacks to keep kids fueled.

Food for thought: Try these snacks for after school or to pack in your child’s lunch.

By Donna Zitter Bordelon

“With lunch lady Doris at the helm, every day is Chef’s Surprise day at Springfield Elementary. Can you determine today’s mystery meal?” — The Simpsons

Within a week or so, the bell will be tolling — the school bell, that is, calling all of our kids back to class. Each new school year brings a daily schedule, homework and, of course, packing a good lunch or relying on cafeteria food.

Can you imagine parents calling school to get the recipe for the lunch served the previous day? It does happen in Japan. In addition, children even in grade school serve each other and clean up afterward. Children eat in their classrooms along with their teacher. According to the Washington Post, Masahiro Oji, the government director of school health education, notes, “Japan’s standpoint is that school lunches are a part of education, not a break from it.” From my standpoint, a lunch program like this would teach cooperation, a good work ethic, discipline, responsibility and teamwork. Almost sounds like a good school sport.

Most Japanese school meals are made from scratch from locally sourced items, and everyone is served an equal portion. Parents pay for the lunches, but less-fortunate students receive a subsidy or a free lunch. Nutritional guidelines are followed, and children are taught to eat what they are served, and usually accept, rather than revolt against the food on their plates.

Children learn healthy eating habits. There is only about 5 percent food waste. Japan’s child obesity rate is among the world’s lowest. No big agri-food contracts or frozen, reheated meals involved in these lunches. They can justifiably claim to be “Oishii Kyushoku,” meaning “Delicious School Lunch.” Imagine.

Here are a few snacks for after school or to pack in your child’s lunch (or your own).

APPLE SLICES & PEANUT BUTTER

1 apple cut into slices

peanut butter

crushed nuts (peanuts, almonds or walnuts)

Wash and cut apple into slices. Dip the end of each slice in peanut butter, and roll it in crushed nuts of choice. Serve.

JELL-O ROLL-UPS

1 (3 oz.) package of Jell-O

½ cup water

1½ cups fresh miniature marshmallows (or 1 dozen large marshmallows)

Lightly spray an 8 x 8-inch pan with cooking spray. Make sure to spread oil to cover the pan bottom.

Use a large bowl to bring water to a boil in the microwave (about 1½ minutes). Stir in the Jell-O. The Jell-O should be completely dissolved.

Add marshmallows and return bowl to microwave for about 1 minute or until marshmallows are puffed and somewhat melted.

Stir with whisk until marshmallows are completely dissolved. There will be a creamy layer on top.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Refrigerate until very firmly set.

When very firm, loosen around the edges of the pan using a knife.

Start at one end to roll up tightly, jelly roll-style.

Put roll seam side down and cut roll, in the pan, into 10 pieces.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

SWEET ANTS ON A LOG

2 Tbsp. peanut butter

2 celery stalks

¼ cup raisins, Craisins, dried cherries, blueberries or chocolate chips

Wash and dry celery stalks. Use a small spoon to fill each stalk equally with peanut butter. Cut each stalk into 3 pieces.

Sprinkle each piece with raisins, dried fruit or chocolate chips and push them into the peanut butter. Serve.

SAVORY ANTS ON A LOG

2 oz. low-fat cream cheese, hummus or ricotta cheese

2 celery stalks

¼ cup black olives, each cut in half, or raisins or Craisins

Wash and dry celery stalks. Use a small spoon to fill each stalk equally with cream cheese, hummus or ricotta cheese. Cut each stalk into 3 pieces.

Sprinkle each piece with black olives or raisins/Craisins and push them into the filling. Serve.

Eat well, live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

Don’t forget:

Send in your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 ShopRite gift card. Mail your recipe to Readers’ Recipes, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002. Or email your recipe to WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com. Please include name, address and telephone number.