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Queens Chronicle

How to make the start of the school year healthy and happy

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Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 1:00 am | Updated: 5:13 pm, Thu Oct 2, 2014.

(BPT) - The lazy days of summer are nearly over. Back-to-school season means back to a busy life with a seemingly never-ending schedule of classes, sporting events and extracurricular activities. Making healthy choices can take a back seat to convenience when on the run. While pre-packaged foods are tempting for those hectic days of fall, nutritious homemade snacks and meals can be just as easy and quick. They are also much better for you and your children.

Eat smart to think smart

From balanced breakfasts to freshly packed lunches and nourishing after-school snacks, a healthful diet makes a huge impact on a child’s mental and physical health.

Studies show that eating well is critical for strong brain development, as well as improved concentration and performance. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, good nutrition helps students perform better academically, have more overall self-confidence, cope with stress and emotions, and avoid feelings of anxiety and depression.

A high-powered blender like the Vitamix 5200 makes it easy to consume the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables to keep children, and parents, on top of their game, whether in the classroom or in the boardroom.

Pack a better bagged lunch

Potato chips, leftover pizza and soggy sandwiches make regular appearances in a lunch box. Transform your children’s packed lunches into wholesome, filling meals that still include many kid-tested favorites.

Slice up an apple or celery to pair with homemade almond butter, or try a whole wheat pita with fruit preserves and freshly made peanut butter. Loaded with fiber and protein, vitamins and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, peanut butter is a kitchen staple.

Many people are unaware that you can make your own delicious and preservative-free nut butters at home. With a versatile and durable blender like the Vitamix 5200, you can easily whip up this favorite snack with one simple ingredient: roasted peanuts. Making your own nut butters also allows for creativity, like adding seeds and fruit, or changing the consistency and upping the health benefits by adding flaxseed oil, so every member of the family has their favorite variation.

If your kids love chips, consider a dehydrator to easily make fruit and veggie crisps. Dehydrators use a heating element and fan to cause moisture evaporation from foods like sweet potatoes, pear slices and kale. You can eat them plain or customize them by adding spices like cinnamon. These good-for-you chips pack the crunch kids love, making them a great side in a bagged lunch or a tasty snack for any time of the day.

Fuel up after class

Are your kids always reaching for a cookie after school? Quench their pre-dinner appetite with an energy-boosting Going Green Smoothie, made by blending water, grapes, pineapple chunks, banana, spinach and ice in a Vitamix. Or, skip the recipe and allow your little scholars to mix and match their favorite whole foods to toss in the blender. Keep in mind that frozen bananas are great for flavor and a creaminess that mimics an indulgent milkshake.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal. Instead of empty calories found in many pre-packaged snacks, a smoothie packs a huge nutritional punch for kids and can provide many of the recommended fruit and vegetable servings in just one delicious drink. Whether they have soccer practice or homework - or both - a green smoothie will give them the energy they need until dinner.

Easy, good-for-you peanut butter

Ingredients:

3 cups (420 g) unsalted roasted peanuts

Directions:

Pour nuts into the Vitamix container and secure lid.

Select Variable 1.

Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High, using the tamper to push the ingredients into the blades.

In one minute, you will hear a high-pitched chugging sound. Once the butter begins to flow freely through the blades, the motor sound will change from a high pitch to a low laboring sound. Stop machine.

Store in an airtight container. Peanut butter can also be frozen for longer storage.

Going Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (120 mm) water

1 cup (160 g) green grapes

1/2 cup (80 g) pineapple chunks

1/2 ripe banana peeled

2 cups (60 g) fresh spinach packed

1/2 cup (120 mm) ice cubes

Directions:

Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.

Select Variable 1.

Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.

Blend for 45 seconds or until desired consistency is reached. Serve immediately.

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