I used to dread my turn for what's become a ritual in many preschools and elementary schools -- sending in snacks for the whole class. For school newbies, think of it as your snack dilemma for playdates times ten. It's hard enough to find something one kid will eat, let alone 20 -- each with his own food eccentricity. Then there are a slew of school rules and sometimes pressure from other moms who think your choices are too healthy or even not healthy enough. Still, by mid-year I found a groove. By the end, I was rockin'. Share in my snack roster.
A winning alternative to the ever-popular orange slices at soccer games: a crate of clementines. They're much easier for young kids to peel and hold, and they're packed with vitamin C.
Use paper cups to serve finger food like this trail mix. Combine 4 cups cereal, 1 cup dried cherries, 1 cup soy nuts (they're typically safe for peanut-allergic kids, but check the label), and ? cup mini chocolate chips. Send in with 24 3-oz. cups.
What's better than veggies with dip? Veggies with fruit. Our fave combo: 12 purple grapes (slice for kids under age 4) and 6 sugar snap peas in a mini sealed bag.
Kids ages 4 and over will love noshing on their own bag of air-popped corn sweetened with cinnamon and a little dried fruit. Scoop about 2 to 3 cups into a small paper bag and seal with a sticker.
Smash 1/2 cup fresh blueberries into 1 cup reduced-fat cream cheese, or puree frozen ones in the blender and mix in. Spread 2 Tbs. cheese on mini whole-wheat bagels (Pepperidge Farm and Sara Lee make them). Each child gets half a bagel.
Make mini banana, blueberry, bran, or carrot muffins from your favorite healthy recipe, or search parents.com/food for some inspiration.
Make classic snacks a little, well, cooler. Freeze small containers of unsweetened applesauce overnight for a slushy treat -- and a serving of fruit. Or do the same with low-fat yogurt.
This snack is so clever the kids will tell their moms about it: Spread the inside of a whole-wheat hot dog bun with 1 1/2 tablespoons of sunflower butter (it's typically safe for nut-free schools; check the label to be sure). Place a peeled banana inside and slice down the middle. Each kid gets half.
If your kid's school gives snack after recess, send in watermelon on a warm day to help re-hydrate the class. Slice like pizza so kids have the rind to hold onto to.
If your school's nut-free policy squashes traditional ants on a log, fill 3" to 4" long celery sticks with about 2 Tbs. Laughing Cow light cheese spread and dot with dried cranberries.
Need a snack last-minute? Buy a few packages of Pressed by KIND fruit bars. They're made only with fruit and seeds (and sometimes veggies). So that means no added sugar, a rarity when it comes to store-bought bars.
Fill round whole-grain pitas with hummus and shredded carrot -- a yummy combo. Slice into quarters for easy handling; each kid gets two.