Smart Snacks at Home

Your kids come out of school and ask the inevitable question, “Can I have a snack?” The fact is that kids need to refuel approximately every four usdahours to keep their energy up and snacking is not bad. It’s what you decide to give them that matters the most.

Cookies, chips, and soda can sometimes add up to 600 calories or more, which could be the equivalent of a meal. These snacks are usually empty calories, high in sugar, which gives instant energy but are followed by a crash. Schools were not helping matters by offering poor choices in vending machines, but that is changing with the new Smart Snacks guidelines. That change doesn’t have to be limited to school, though. Bring Smart Snacks into your home as well.

Follow these tips for providing the absolute best for your children nutritionally while still having snacks be tasty:

  1. Keep it simple and look at the big picture! Shoot for snack that hits two or three food groups: protein, dairy, fruit, veggies, whole grains, or healthy fats rather than micromanaging the calories or specific ingredients.
  2. Combo it! Kids eat about 72% fewer calories when given a cheese and veggie snack, which is less boring and more satisfying, versus a pile of chips.
  3. Make it cool! When you offer a snack, ask your child what their favorite superhero would eat. In a study where 6 to 12 year olds were asked about what Batman or Spiderman might eat and then asked to make their own snack choices, 45% chose apple slices over fries, thereby lowering their calorie intake.
  4. Serve it up on kid-sized plates! Smaller dishes result in smaller portions. Adults, worried about your intake? Use smaller dishes too!

So what can you serve your kids? Here are some ideas:

Do the Dip!

Nothing satisfies like a crunchy-smooth combo of dipping sticks and saucy spreads. To keep calories low and nutrients high, pair 1 cup of fruits and veggies with a dip. Just be sure to stick with the recommended serving size!

  • Dip sparingly: almond butter, peanut butter
  • Dip moderately: guacamole, tzatziki, black bean dip, hummus
  • Dip freely (almost!)

Grab and Go

In the real world, sometimes pre-packaged snacks have to suffice. Don’t sweat it: These options are all healthy picks, says Rachel Meltzer Warren, R.D.

  • Yogurt tubes: Of the squeeze yogurts out there, Chobani Champions has the least added sugar and no artificial coloring.
  • String cheese: It’s a good source of protein, which keeps kids feeling fuller longer. Meltzer Warren’s pick: Horizon Organic Mozzarella String Cheese. “I try to use organic dairy as much as possible to limit kids’ exposure to synthetic hormones and antibiotics,” she says.
  • Applesauce: “I like Earth’s Best Kids because it has no added sweetener,” says Meltzer Warren.
  • Fruit cups: Look for Dole Fruit Cups that are packaged in 100 percent juice.
  • Granola bars: “Some come dangerously close to candy bar territory,” says Meltzer Warren. Her fave? Annie’s Organic: “They each have 8 grams of whole grains and are relatively low on the sugar scale.”

Chip In!

Keep the crunch but lose the grease with these healthy options.

  • Get Fruity: Slice apples or pears very thinly. Lay slices in a single layer on parchment paper and bake at 200°F for two hours, flipping once.
  • Veg Out: For beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, slice and toss with olive oil; bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Flip and bake for another 20. Kale chips? Tear leaves into bite-size pieces and toss with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes total, flipping once.

Get Cheesy!

Pair protein with quality carbs for a filling fruit-and-cheese combo that’s sure to please your kid’s palate. Serve 1.5 ounces of cheese (about three small cubes or 1 ½ slices) or 1/2 cup cottage cheese with about a cup of fruit slices.

  • Cheddar with apples, pears, grapes, or stone fruit
  • Feta with apples or pears
  • Gouda with apples, pears, grapes, or stone fruit
  • Swiss with apples or pears
  • Cottage cheese with stone fruit, berries or melon
  • Mozzarella with melon or berries
  • Provolone with melon.

Mix It Up!

“Trail mix is a healthy, protein-rich favorite in my house,” says Maryann Jacobsen, R.D. “Your kids can build their own by choosing their favorite ingredients—just keep the proportions in check.” To make a big batch that you can store in a jar or plastic baggie, use this easy formula:

  • 1/2 cup sweet treat
  • 1 cup nuts/seeds
  • 1 cup dried fruit
  • 2 cups whole grain

Tip: Save those little plastic cups that applesauce and diced fruit come in. They’re about ½ cup—the perfect size for a single serving of trail mix.

For more tips on nutritionally sound snacks read Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School by Jessica Crandall, Rachel Warren, and Maryann Jacobsen.

Note: Information for this article was taken from Snack Nutrition: What Makes Up a Healthy Snack? and Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids, both by Holly Pevzner, Parent & Child Magazine.

Smart Snacks in School

A webinar was presented on September 18, 2014 about eating healthier in the school environment, presented by Stephanie Simms from schooltoolkit_smartsnacksNational PTA and Nancy Lyons of the US Department of Agriculture. Starting in school year 2014-15, all foods sold at school during the school day will need to meet nutrition standards. The Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards went into effect July 1, 2014.

Looking at the history of this movement, the webinar recalled how delegates at the National PTA Convention back in 2004 passed a resolution calling for stronger national guidelines for all foods sold in schools and urging consistent messaging about healthy eating throughout all curricula and in the lunchroom. 2010 brought the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act which required the establishment of national standards for all foods and beverages sold in schools, other than those sold in the breakfast and lunch programs, and in the summer of 2013, the Interim Final Rule for those standards was released.

Guidelines were developed by the USDA in conjunction with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The term Smart Snacks was coined to encourage children to make those food choices, though children have already been seeing healthier school environments through both the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.

Where do the Smart Snacks Standards Apply?

  • Is it a food or beverage?
  • Is it sold during school hours (or up to 30 minutes after release)?
  • Is it sold on the school campus?
  • Is it considered an exempted fundraiser, sold in concession lines, in a vending machine, or at a snack bar or in a school store?

If the answer is yes to all of these questions, foods and beverages must meet Smart Snack guidelines. What is not covered are foods served for celebrations or foods served in the evenings, on weekends, or at community events. Some fresh, canned, or frozen fruits and vegetables will be exempt from all nutrient standards. Snacks, side dishes, and entrees will have calorie limits. There will be limits on total fat and saturated fat, and all products must contain zero grams trans-fat. The amount of sugar in foods will be limited; and there will be limits on sodium, with this limit going down even further in two years.

What about Fundraisers?

Fundraisers must meet Smart Snacks guidelines if the item being sold is a food or beverage sold during the school day on the school campus and if there are no limits for fundraisers that meet Smart Snacks guidelines. Fundraisers for items that will not be consumed at school during the school day by students are considered exempt from the guidelines (e.g., cookie dough, frozen pizzas sold through catalogs). Some individual schools may have their own policies, so be sure to check local wellness policies.

Illinois is allowing some exemptions from the guidelines for fundraisers. For the 2014-2015 school year, schools with grades 8 and below are allowed no more than nine (9) exempted fundraising days and schools with grades 9 through 12 are allowed no more than 36 exempted fundraising days. Those exemptions decrease to four (4) for schools with grades 8 and below and 18 for schools with grades 9 through 12 for the 2015-2016 school year. In 2016-2017, schools with grades 8 and below will be prohibited from having exempt fundraising days, and schools with grades 9 through 12 will be allowed nine (9) exempt fundraising days. Healthy fundraiser ideas that meet the guidelines are available on the National PTA Smart Snacks page.

What about Beverages?

No caffeinated beverages will be allowed at elementary and middle schools; only plain water, non-fat and low-fat milk, and 100% fruit or vegetable juice will be allowed. In addition, there will be serving size limits for milk and juice. In elementary schools, servings of milk and juice are limited to 8 ounces or less, and at the middle and high school level, milk and juice are limited to 12 ounces or less. Some additional flavored or carbonated beverages will be allowed at the high school level, though they must meet certain calorie and serving size limits. Diet beverages will be limited to 20 ounces or less, and low calorie beverages will be limited to 12 ounces or less.

In order to determine if an item is indeed a Smart Snack and compliant with the guidelines, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation has a Smart Snacks Product Calculator which allows you to input product information and handles the calculations for you. If the product is not a Smart Snack, the Alliance also has a Product Navigator in place that will guide you to healthier choices.

Is My School Compliant?

Local Education Agencies must determine if a school is compliant with Smart Snack guidelines. Within a school, who is responsible for that school’s compliancy may vary. That person may be the principal or another administrator. Ask your principal to find out who that person is.

How Can Your PTA Help?

  • As a PTA leader, reach out to your school to find out who is in charge of making sure foods and beverages sold at school during the day are compliant with Smart Snacks guidelines and how your PTA may be able to help inform parents.
  • Work with the school nutrition staff to understand how PTA can support them in gaining acceptance of the new standards.
  • Lead by example—incorporate foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks guidelines into PTA events.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with school staff.
  • Educate yourself on the standards and support your school in implementing the changes to provide healthier foods and beverages to every student.
  • Learn more about how you can get involved with your school wellness policy and assist with updating nutrition guidelines for activities, meetings, celebrations, and events to reflect Smart Snacks guidelines. National PTA has information on school wellness policies.
  • Realize that Smart Snacks nutrition standards are a minimum set of standards. If your state or district standards are more stringent in some areas, those would take precedence. Smart Snacks is just a minimum of what must be met.

More information is available from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation PowerPoint presentation Smart Snacks—Be in the Know.

Ten Tips on Marketing Your PTA on Facebook from National PTA

Large Group of Children CelebratingFacebook is a great way to do social media marketing for your PTA. Facebook is perfect for brand awareness because it is free advertising and promotion for your local PTA, it allows you to share information with your members, it will enable you to start conversations on various topics, and it gives them the chance to share with their friends as well.

  1. Create Your Voice. Your voice will often be found in the status updates of your fans, which means it is very important to find content that engages your fans and encourages them to want to engage with you. A great way to help you gauge this will be by the number of likes, shares, and comments you receive on your posts.
  2. Fun and Informative. A great place to get started with content is to share success stories, breaking news, grant deadlines, calls to action, events, and information shared by National PTA.
  3. Professional vs. Personal. While adding personality and flair is important, keep in mind that there is a difference between a personal Facebook page and your PTA’s professional one. Set up rules of etiquette for your PTA’s Facebook page so that everyone knows the rules and can help make it a safe place for sharing information.
  4. More Than One. Be sure to have at least two people (although three would be best) as administrators of your PTA Facebook page. This way if someone is sick, traveling, unreachable or has to leave for any reason there are multiple people with access to the page. This also helps spread the responsibility for posting and sharing content, lessening the pressure on everyone.
  5. Posting Limits. Be sure to limit the number of posts. Too many posts will cause people to hide or un-Like your Facebook page. Ideally, four to six posts per week is best, though you should not post more than twice a day.
  6. Content Sharing. Be sure to share links, videos, and pictures whenever possible in your posts. This will help increase your PTA’s visibility and activity. Facebook is all about sharing information.
  7. Tagging Gold. Tag sponsors and supporters whenever possible; this will help them to keep up with what you are doing and engage them more. Plus, it gives them greater visibility among your PTA members and supporters.
  8. Events. Create events and send them to the fans of your page. It will remind them about your unit and your events, and it will help you engage them in a new way.
  9. Do Not Automate. It is always tempting to automatically sync several social media platforms to Facebook so you only have to send one status update. However, avoid doing this as much as possible because each social media platform is unique in the culture of the community and the way content is shared.
  10. Encourage. Do not forget to encourage your PTA board members, volunteers, students (if you are a PTSA), teachers, and families to engage and be active on your PTA page. This will help create a flow of information and sharing that will encourage everyone! Most of all, do not forget to have fun, learn a lot, and remember that social media is just another resource for you, your members, and the parents and teachers that will give every child one voice!

Find National PTA on Social Media
Twitter: @NationalPTA
PTA Great Idea Bank:

If you want more information about how your PTA can best utilize social media, please contact our Communications Department. This tip sheet is one of many resources that National PTA offers members. Go to for more!

5 Social Media Tips for Fab Fall Fundraisers

What’s your PTA’s big fall fundraiser – a carnival, book fair, chili cook-off, garage sale? Whatever it is, using popular social media platforms like potlucks-photoFacebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram can rally parents, extend your reach, recognize sponsors and boost profits!

Plan it!  Starting 4-5 weeks before the event, map out a detailed Social Media Plan.  Identify who will be posting, on what platforms, and when.  Get specific – e.g.
One week before: Ann will post photos of Silent Auction Baskets on a Pinterest
Board and post links to it on PTA Facebook and Twitter.

Morning of: Rosa will post this on PTA Facebook and Twitter – Don’t miss Principal A. in the dunking booth at 2pm! Big fun @ #EastElemCarnival. Thx 2 our sponsor @BigStore!
Tag it!  Designate a hashtag for the event and print it on all pre-event communication (newsletters and flyers) and prominently on programs and signs during the event.  For example, if a parent forgot the school Carnival on a Saturday afternoon, seeing her friends posting #EastElemCarnival on Facebook and Instagram will trigger her to gather the kids and get to the school playground pronto. {Be sure to post your PTA’s full social media addresses too so parents don’t have to guess if your Twitter handle is @EastElemPTA or @EastElementaryPTA.}
Staff it! Recruit volunteers quickly and easily using VolunteerSpot’s free online scheduling tool.  Plan your needs and post a sign-up link right in your social media feeds.  Parents will pick a shift and sign up from any device, then VolunteerSpot will remind them when it’s their turn to pitch-in.  Bonus: Get a FREE Premium upgrade when you register your account at
Buzz it! Ask social-media active parents to post fun comments and photos in the days leading up to the event.  E.g.
           Look what I made for the Cake Walk tomorrow! #EastElemCarnival {cake photo}.
           Kids can’t wait for Movie Night @EastElemPTA!  #FrozenSingalong
Reward it!  Set up incentives to get people posting. E.g. :
           Get a free popcorn when you check in on Facebook.
          Take a selfie with the school mascot using the hashtag #WestHSFair and get a bonus raffle entry.
“Like” our PTA Facebook page and our Gold Sponsor’s page to get 5 extra game tickets.

We hope these social suggestions get your creative juices flowing and make your event more fun and profitable and boost your online communities. Please let us know what you try and learn over on our VolunteerSpot facebook page.  Happy Fundraising!