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School Staff Works to Turn Treats Into Smart Snacks

Oct 07, 2015 11:54AM ● Published by Bryan Scott

Cyd Asay and Peggy Christensen, nutrition services coordinators for the Jordan School District, spend hours in the kitchen perfecting the healthy ‘smart snacks’ offered in the secondary schools.

By Aimee L. Cook

South Valley - Getting kids to eat healthy can be a challenge. In July of 2014, the ‘Smart Snacks’ initiative was introduced to the Jordan School Districts’ Nutrition Services staff. Since then, they have been finding ways to make the sweet treats kids crave like cakes, brownies and cookies, into a healthier version without compromising taste. 

“We make our bread, buns and rolls from scratch every morning in addition to all the desserts we sell a la carte, like the cookies and cakes,” Katie Bastian, registered dietician for Jordan School District, said.  “We have slowly been moving toward making those items more healthy, like adding whole wheat flour.” 

To meet the federal nutrition guidelines and create a recipe kids will like can take a while. Adding applesauce to cakes and vanilla yogurt to cookies requires some fine-tuning to get not only the taste right but also the consistency. 

Such is the job of Nutrition Services Coordinator Peggy Christensen. The latest successful treat is the snickerdoodle cookie. This healthy version only costs the students 25 cents and meets the federal nutrition guidelines. It’s a win-win. 

“When we worked to create treats that qualify under the new Smart Snacks guidelines, we would try a recipe many different times,” Christensen said.  “Each time we tried a recipe we would have our main office staff (of 8) and numerous employees in our building try the cookie, bar etc. If the recipe passed the taste test, it would then go to our dietician who would assure that the recipe doesn’t have too much sodium, fat, sugar or calories. If the recipe failed any category, it would be adjusted, maybe less sugar, less fat or more of a fat substitute like yogurt or applesauce etc., and then baked again. It was then tasted again and ran through the ‘Smart Snack’ qualifications of salt, sugar, fat and calories again. Some recipes were baked, adjusted and baked again as many as 16 times.”

The challenge of creating a snack that is whole-grain rich, which requires 51 percent whole wheat mixed in with white flour, less than 200 calories and has less than 35 percent of its total weight from sugar takes some doing, especially with a cookie. And then, in order for kids to like it, it can’t taste ‘healthy’ or low fat.  

“We know that all student tastes are not the same so we focus on quality and communication with our managers and menu team on needed product adjustments, frequency on menu cycles and removing or adding items,” Christensen said. 

So parents, no need to fret the next time your student reaches for that sugar cookie or snickerdoodle at school, the nutrition team has got your back. 

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