Donna Sullivan, a nutrition education adviser with Penn State Extension, teaches youth nutrition and cooking classes at the Lancaster County Youth Intervention Center. The program, Penn State Nutrition Links, emphasizes lessons in basic nutrition and healthy food choices, Sullivan says. It also includes “an opportunity to participate in a hands-on cooking experience” using recipes from the program’s cookbook.
Here are three examples from that collection. All of them require simple ingredients, minimal equipment and very basic kitchen skills to master. That means they’re ideal for kids to make with, at most, just a bit of adult supervision.
Prepared in conjunction with Nutrition Links’ “Making Smart Drink Choices” lesson, in which kids learn about healthier alternatives to soda and other sugary beverages.
It’s a perfect mix-and-match recipe. Kids just need to choose 1/2 cup fruit (think bananas, strawberries, peaches, blueberries); 1 cup of a base — options include low-fat plain yogurt, low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt, frozen juice concentrate. low-fat vanilla yogurt, frozen fruit or ice cubes; and 1/2 cup of a liquid (such as low-fat or fat-free milk, 100% fruit juice or calcium-fortified soy milk).
Each recipe makes two 1-cup servings.
Sample recipe ingredients 1:
- 1/2 cup strawberries
- 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
- 1/2 cup fat free milk
Sample recipe ingredients 2:
- 1/2 cup banana
- 1 cup frozen orange juice
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
Sample recipe ingredients 3:
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1 cup low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt
- 1/2 cup orange juice
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
FRUIT RICE CAKES
This recipe, Sullivan says, is one of her students’ favorites. It’s categorized as a “healthy dessert” in the “Choosing More Fruits and Vegetables” lesson, she says, and students and staff often tell her they’d never thought of combining the ingredients this way — and they’re surprised at how good it tastes.
- 6 rice cakes
- 1/3 cup low-fat cream cheese, softened
- sliced fruits, such as kiwi, peaches, strawberries, apples, bananas, mandarin oranges, grapes or oranges
Top each rice cake with 2 teaspoons of cream cheese. Arrange a variety of fruit pieces on top.
EASY FRUIT SALAD
Part of the program’s “MyPlate” lesson, the recipe occasionally gives students a chance to try a new fruit they’ve never tasted or, in some cases, Sullivan says, try yogurt for the very first time.
- 1 (20-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can fruit cocktail in juice, drained
- 2 small bananas, sliced
- 1 (8-ounce) container low-fat yogurt (try vanilla or lemon)
Drain pineapple chunks and fruit cocktail. Wash, peel and slice bananas. Mix fruits and yogurt together. Cover and chill until serving.
Note: You also can use fresh fruits instead of canned. Some suggestions: 1 cup seedless grapes, halved; 1 cup cantaloupe, cut into bite-sized pieces; 1 cup strawberries, quartered; 1 cup apple, cut into bite-sized pieces.
Penn State Extension also offers a range of other food- and nutrition-related programming aimed at both children and those who care for them. Stacy Reed, a Penn State Extension educator, and Cynthia Pollich, an extension associate, suggest Better Kid Care as a resource for kid chef-friendly recipes. It’s a Penn State Extension professional development program for people in the early-care and youth development fields.
Recipes aimed at this group feature kid-friendly ingredients, which often means that they’re kid friendly for preparation as well as for eating. You can find a wide selection at bit.ly/BetterKidCare. Here are three quick favorites:
Makes two servings.
- 1 whole regular or 2 mini pitas
- 4 tablespoons low-fat ricotta or cottage cheese (see note)
- 1 small apple
- 1 medium banana
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons raisins (optional)
Note: 4 tablespoons peanut butter can be substituted for the ricotta or cottage cheese. Leave out the sugar and cinnamon, then follow the same directions.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice pita bread through the middle to make rounds. Spread 2 tablespoons ricotta or cottage cheese on each half of the pita bread. Thinly slice the apple and the banana. Place half of the sliced apple and half of the sliced banana on each piece of the pita. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon on each pita. Place both pita halves on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
This Better Kid Care recipe will require some planning ahead of time so enough baking time is allowed. This recipe makes a dozen bars, which can be wrapped up in a fancy container for an extra-special gift:
- 1 1/2 cups granola cereal
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 banana, mashed
- 1/2 cup margarine, melted
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set aside 1/2 cup of the cereal. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Spread mixture into a greased 11-inch-by-7-inch baking dish. Crush reserved cereal and sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and cut into squares.
This snack, from a Penn State Extension collection, doesn’t require any cooking or special kitchen equipment. If an adult handles the one cutting task, even young children can do the rest by themselves.
- 1 bread slice
- Peanut butter or other nut butter
- “Face” ingredients; see below.
Cut bread into a circle. Spread with peanut butter or other nut butter. Make “hair” and “eyes” with raisins, carrots, apple slices, coconut or other ingredients limited only by your imagination.
This recipe was created three years ago by 9-year-old Ava Terosky of Bala Cynwyd, near Philadelphia, and was Pennsylvania’s winner in that year’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge contest overseen by former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move health campaign. Ava’s inspiration was her younger sister, who was a picky eater with health challenges — and animal-shaped foods encouraged her to eat more.
- 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- 2/3 cup favorite low-sugar granola
- 6 strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1/2 cup blueberries
In two flat bowls, divide the honey and yogurt, and stir to combine. Fill a cookie cutter (Ava used a dog shape in honor of the Obama family dogs, Bo and Sunny) with granola. Surround with strawberries, apple and blueberries.