THE RECIPE BOX – Easy, healthy snacks for back to school

THE RECIPE BOX – Easy, healthy snacks for back to school

LINCOLN – Back-to-school time when I was a child meant many things. The day after Labor Day was always a fall-like day when September rolled around. I remember the tradition of our family pilgrimage (with my mom in our one-family car) to LaBrie’s Shoe Store in Cumberland to get my new buckle-up Mary Janes.

It usually happened just a few days before school. The shoes would always be worn with a new dress, purchased from either Ann & Hope in Cumberland, or the New York Lace Store in Pawtucket. That’s where Lincoln kids shopped, there were no area malls yet.

As a promotion at the shoe store children were given a new pencil box – a cardboard fold-over box with a snap – that was your pride and joy. A new lunch box with a matching thermos bottle for your drink would be carefully chosen, and besides book covers that was the entire school supply list. There was no such thing as juice boxes or water bottles yet, let alone antibacterial lotions.

Back then you needed new school clothes for two reasons; chances are you had grown like a weed over the long days of summer, plus you needed new dresses because pants were not allowed to be worn by girls in school.

Today, jeans, shorts, skirts, sneakers and shirts don’t look much different than what we called play clothes. We had play clothes, school clothes and then our Sunday best. We were not rich by any means coming from a family with five kids, yet we had that protocol instilled. Today, you can scarcely tell if someone is dressed for a wedding or a ball game.

As for school lunches we had the choice of paying for a hot lunch, which made you a “buyer” or brown bagging your own lunch, which made you a “carrier.” There were two separate lines in school for buyers and carriers based upon your lunch status.

Today I’m sure there’s some discriminatory clause that says you can’t call children “carriers.” Our cafeteria at the Lincoln Central School had caring lunch ladies who wore their mostly-silver hair in a tight bun with a net, and they learned your name.

I remember one teacher who went around the lunch tables checking up on kids. She tried to make me eat the spinach that I had strategically hidden in a small milk carton. I was caught! Today I really like spinach, but then I did not.

Back in the day a good lunch (or an affordable one) might have been a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Today you are banished to the “peanut table” or encouraged not to bring anything peanut or tree-nut related due to allergic children.

A quick trip to most town’s public school websites will supply a parent with a list of suggestions for healthy school snacks. You may even receive a letter for following food rules in the classroom setting.

Back when I was a kid, my mom went to the Nissen Bread outlet store where she could buy Hostess snacks in volume. I liked “Sno-Balls,” a chocolate cupcake covered with a pink marshmallow layer that was lightly coconut sprinkled. There were Suzi-Q’s, Funny Bones and Twinkies pumped full of artificial cream which probably sits in our bellies undigested to this day. There were no websites or rules sent home to parents.

Back then, ingredient labels were not a big deal or readily available, today we have detailed food labels and we are guided by more rules, suggestions and requirements.

Allergy-free foods listed are defined as fresh fruits and vegetables, canned or cupped and packed in juice. Fruit juice, 100 percent, or dried fruits as well as low-fat dairy such as string cheese, yogurt in a cup or squeeze tube container and whole grains are encouraged.

Other suggested foods are whole wheat tortilla chips and hummus, light popcorn and hard-boiled eggs. (Boy I’d hate to sit next to the kid opening that warm lunch treat!)

Younger children have two snack periods per day and if they bring a snack they cannot open by themselves they may have to forfeit it. Any questionable packaged item may cause a child to be asked to eat it in the hallway so as not to jeopardize another child with a possible allergic reaction. Most granola bars are outlawed as they may have a trace of nuts.

So much has changed since way back when. Some is for the greater good, some not. Back then a parent taught respect in the home and you’d better show it in school or else. Today more and more schools are parenting both children and parents.

We may be more aware on some fronts but I seriously wonder where the end result will land. If the “food police” had ever visited my growing-up home, I shudder to think what could have happened ... my mother could have been dragged away in handcuffs for allowing us to eat Twinkies.

This article originally ran in the Sept. 24, 2015 edition of The Valley Breeze.

Ants on a Log

Celery sticks
Low-fat cream cheese
1. Wash and cut celery into 4” pieces. Spread cream cheese into celery and top with a few raisins (ants).

Tortilla Roll-ups

Soft tortilla (round 6”)
Sunflower butter spread (or any allergy-free substitute for peanut butter)
1. On a soft tortilla cover with a spread such as sunflower butter. Place a whole peeled banana on the edge and then roll the banana into the coated tortilla, covering it. Slice into bite-size pinwheels.

No Bread Cucumber Sandwich

Make your own fresh “Lunchables” in a paper cupcake sleeve, layer cut cucumbers into round slices. Top with a round slice of your favorite lunch meat, then cheese and top with another cucumber slice. Enjoy!

Fruit Kabobs

Mini marshmallows
Fresh strawberries
Sliced banana
Green grape
Toothpicks for holding
1. Take and layer mini marshmallow, strawberry, slice of banana, green grape. Secure with a toothpick.