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May 22, 2014 6 Simple Snacks: Budget- and Calorie-Conscious Classroom Treats By Meghan Everette
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    It seems that we are always celebrating something with treats at school. Even though there is a push towards healthy treats and limited snacks, it doesn’t mean carrot sticks are the only option. Different schools often have different rules about food, but it seems there is at least one event where treats are required each year.

    Did you forget the cupcakes for tomorrow? No worries. Here are quick, simple, and tasty options that won’t rob your wallet or your free time.


    Better than Butter Cupcakes


    Simplifying your cupcake recipe has never been better! Combining one 12-ounce soda with one box of cake mix makes a fast batter. No need for eggs, oil, or extras! These cupcakes bake in the same time as regular cakes, and are super-moist. Diet sodas work just as well, and using a lighter mix, (such as Devil’s food cake), creates a reduced calorie treat. 

    I get compliments on this simple recipe all the time. It is perfect for quick treats, simple rewards, or even yummy chocolate breakfast muffins for myself.


    Rather have a simple topping than a plain-Jane muffin? Put store-bought icing in a microwavable bowl and heat for 10 seconds. The icing will thin allowing the cupcakes to be dipped, creating a smooth layer. One container can cover an entire batch of cupcakes with icing to spare.



    Simply Cereal

    Take cereal loops and lace them on a necklace. Bam! You have a fun treat for kids that they love to wear. Buy cereal with larger loops to make threading easy and whip up a batch while you watch TV. Have students make their own to help them practice patterns or count to certain numbers of “beads.”

    Certain colors can help students remember Roy G. Biv or even the water cycle when colors become a pneumonic-type device. Tie a silly note on each necklace, such as “I’m loopy for you” and share the breakfast love.


    Melted Marshmallows

    Cake pops are adorable, but who has the time? Save the calories and cooking prep by putting a jumbo marshmallow on a skewer. Melt chocolate or almond bark until smooth in the microwave, stirring often. (Pro tip: if you overcook the chocolate, it’s difficult to save. Microwave in small increments and stir between each round for the best results. Don’t overcook!)



    Twirl the marshmallow in the chocolate and dip in a small bowl containing sprinkles. Lay the covered marshmallow on wax paper to set. If you are as impatient as I am, you can stick the whole thing in the freezer to speed up the process. I’ve made pink versions to sell at bake sales to benefit Susan G. Komen, and helped Cub Scouts decorate the dipped marshmallows like tiny snowmen. The recipe is simple, cheap, and easily adapted to specific colors or holidays.


    Jiggle-Free Cake

    Jiggle-free, as in, you can have your cake and eat it too, without outgrowing your school khakis! Make a simple white cake using the diet soda and box mix recipe as directed above. Bake it in a 9" x 13" pan as directed. Once cooled, poke holes in the cake and add sugar-free Jell-O. Mix the Jell-O as you would for a regular recipe before pouring over the cake.

    You can combine colors by allowing one color to set for a few minutes first, then adding another. Once your colors are set, add a non-fat Cool Whip to the top and allow to set in the freezer. The cake tastes like a rich berry treat without the fuss. Pour in Jell-O using your school colors for a fun field-day treat.


    Color Cups

    Explore the color spectrum by making layered Jell-O cups. Make a variety of Jell-O colors. Pour one layer at a time (allowing time to set in between each color) in a clear cup. (Pro tip: Setting all the cups on a tray helps move cups to and from the refrigerator while you add layers.) It helps to use the fast-set method on the box. Then you can go ahead and put your next color in the fridge to cool while the current layer begins setting. 

    One regular box of each color will make about 10, 16-ounce rainbow cups. Let students mix their own colors from the three primary Jell-O shades to celebrate the end of a color spectrum unit. Jell-O has the added bonus of being allergy-friendly, so most students will be able to snack on this sweet treat.


    Dirt Cups

    Dirt cups are a fun food staple for work units, outdoor-themes, and gross foods that kids love. Why make a whole cake and fool with icing? Grab a pre-made pudding cup. I found fat-free four packs for $1.00. Crush a few chocolate cookies on top and throw on a gummy worm. Kids can create their own cups. If the gummy worms aren’t up to your standards, cut out fresh fruit worms or make your own gelatin worms by molding Jell-O in straws. How to Eat Fried Worms never sounded so tasty.


    A Few More…

    • Stab fresh fruit with frilly toothpicks or lace chunks onto fruit kabobs. The new look will prompt even the pickiest eaters.

    • Take to-go sauce-size cups and pre-fill with low-fat ranch dip. Pop in a few baby carrots or other small veggies. The grab-and-go snacks with a little ranch enticement will get kids vying for vegetables.

    • If you have more time, money, or parent helpers on your hands, get ahold of some muffin tins. Put a little nibble in each holder and kids will eat it up. I used this trick with my boys all the time as kids. Do a quick search for muffin tin meals and see the creative inventions that will spark themed treats for any novel or teaching topic!


    As we near the end of the year, we will have many celebrations and events that warrant snacks. To keep my budget and waistline under control, my class will be feasting on these simple solutions that can be whipped up in a hurry while trading out higher-calorie options for slightly more healthy options. Take the time to talk about healthy options with students and be sure to exercise moderation. Most of all, eat, drink, and be merry!


    What quick snacks do you offer your students?


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Susan Cheyney