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The “apple a day” photo was taken on the steps of Lakewood Elementary in a DISD-approved uniform.

By Shelia Huffman, BubbleLife Columnist

School starts in less than two weeks. The languid days of summer are numbered and will soon be replaced with the less flexible schedule that accompanies "back to school."

Thoughts turn to homework, car pools, after-school activities and what to put in the lunch box. 

Busy schedules often leave little time for thinking up and preparing nutritious, kid-friendly lunches.  However, there has never been a time in history that has emphasized the importance of eating well and established the benefit of a good diet for children more so than today. 

I visited with three local “foodies” who have knowledge of food preparation and nutrition. Inspired by their ideas, I am sharing them with you—hoping to make your life a little simpler and your children a little healthier.  

Susan Hamm is a mom and the owner and instructor of the Girls and Guys Gourmet Cooking Camp. For the past ten summers, Hamm has taught children cooking skills in her M-Streets home. Her camps include themes like, “Food-on- a-Stick” and “I Can Cook Dinner.” 

“When children get to help in the preparation of food, they are more likely to enjoy a variety of foods and more willing to try different foods,” she said.

Since most kids like pasta, Hamm suggests a colorful pasta salad full of fresh vegetables, finished with Ranch Style Dressing, a kid-favorite, made with low-fat buttermilk. Blueberry gem mini-muffins, red or green grapes and an oatmeal raisin cookie would round out this lunch box meal to make it both kid-friendly and nutritious.

“Getting kids to eat better doesn’t have to be a struggle. Sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration,” said Whole Foods Dallas Media and Community Relations representative, Karen Lukin.

“Kids love to assemble, dip, stack and roll into fun shapes. Try fruit kabobs on a stick, or cutting sandwiches into shapes with cookie cutters.” Working together the night before to create lunches turns lunch-making into family fun.

Lukin adds that lunches should contain a protein, fiber (veggies or whole grains), healthy fat (peanut or other nut butters, avocado) and natural sugar (fruit, applesauce). She suggests parents visit Whole Kids Foundation better bites for some healthy recipes and tips.  

On the days when science projects, homework and after-school activities take total control, leaving no time for one more “to do,” Whole Foods has put together some pre-packaged lunches, similar to “Lunchables,” only healthier and free of preservatives.     

Whole Foods Market in Lakewood is located at 2118 Abrams Road, and there are several locations throughout the metroplex.

“Our goal at Green Grocer, located at 3614 Greenville Avenue, is to supply the community with a trusted source for fresh, organic foods, and cultivate an environment that brings people together," said chef and kitchen manager Brittany Boyd.

Boyd suggests roasted beet hummus, served with crackers or vegetable crudités for a healthy after-school snack.

“I call it ‘Hello Pretty Dip.' It's sort of [an] homage to my love for “Hello Kitty” and all things girly,” she said. “It might not be as appealing to boys unless we gave it a dual name that had something to do with ‘cosmic slime'.”  

Recipes for healthy kid-friendly lunches and snacks follow. Have fun, and get this school year off to a healthy start!

Pasta Salad       Makes 8-10 servings

  • In large salad bowl, combine
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese and/or grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 box whole wheat pasta tubes, cooked, drained, cooled
  • 1 cup iceberg lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces or baby spinach leaves

Add additional vegetables and fruits of your choice for more color and flavor. The addition of 1 cup cooked ham or turkey breast, diced, adds a protein to the salad.

Buttermilk Salad Dressing    Makes 1 cup salad dressing

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk  
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce   
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise   
  • 1 teaspoon dry minced onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix all together in shaker with lid and shake several times. Chill several hours and shake again.

Toss gently with salad before serving. Chill leftovers. (Avocado cubes are great in this but need to be served immediately to avoid browning.) For a school lunch, pack in thermos or with ice pack to keep cool.

Blueberry Gems        Makes 36 small muffins or 12 regular-size muffins

  •  1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • Nonstick spray coating

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg whites, orange juice, oil and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Fold in blueberries gently.

Spray 1-3/4-inch (mini) muffin cups or 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick spray coating. Fill muffin cups half full.

Bake in a 400-degree F oven 17 to 20 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly before serving.

Hello Pretty Dip!       Yield: Approx. 3 cups Dip 

(Roasted Beet Hummus) 

  • 1.5 medium Beets, quartered
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 2.5 cups White Beans
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • Juice of 2  Lemons
  • 2.5 tablespoons Tahini
  • 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (more may be necessary to achieve desired consistency)
  • 1 teaspoons Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss beets and garlic in olive oil, wrap in foil and bake on sheet tray for 1 hour (until beets are fork tender). Allow to cool.

2. Puree beets and garlic in food processor until finely ground. Add beans, lemon juice and zest, tahini, salt and pepper, begin processing and drizzle in olive oil. Continue to mix until dip reaches a smooth, spreadable consistency (you may need to scrape down the sides occasionally).