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The start of another hectic school year filled with homework, play dates, team sports, and more can sometimes make the task of ensuring

kids get healthy foods at snack time seem daunting.

Fortunately, there are several ways parents can make snack time easier and more nutritious. Healthy, convenient, and naturally sweet California raisins are a great solution for snack time this school year.

"California raisins are an all-natural, dried-by-the-sun fruit parents can feel good about giving their kids," says Larry Blagg, senior vice president of marketing for the California Raisin Marketing Board. "The ingredient list says it all--raisins."

Because they are 100-percent fruit with no added sugar, raisins contain zero empty calories, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food-A-Pedia website. In fact, among children, eating raisins as an after-school snack may prevent excessive calorie intake and may increase satiety (or feeling full) when compared to other common snacks.

For naturally sweet and satisfying ways to avoid falling into a snacking rut this school year, follow these simple tips:

>>Don't leave snacking to chance. Avoid unhealthy snacks by preparing nutritious options ahead of time. Try a no-fuss option such as a hearty trail or snack mix and add California raisins for sweetness without the added sugar. A little planning helps kick-start a hassle-free school week.

>>Make grab-and-go snacks. Make snacks that are portable. On a busy day filled with school and after-school activities, having go-to snacks that travel well in backpacks, lunch boxes, or the car will save time and help satisfy hungry tummies.

>>Involve the kids. Create healthy habits by involving kids in snack preparation. When they are engaged in creating their own snacks, parents can make valuable connections between food choices and nutrition. Choose fun and simple recipes kids can make on their own or with little help.

>>Don't forget the fun! Remind kids that snacking healthy can be creative--and fun! Introduce them to the rainbow of colors, shapes, and tastes included in a healthy diet. Try making Vanilla Nut Snack Mix–a hopping-good mix of gluten-free bunny grahams, raisins, and roasted almonds.

>>Remind kids: healthy is tasty. It really is possible to make healthy snacks kids won't trade at recess! Prepare snacks that feature naturally sweet ingredients, like these new snack mixes, Peanut Butter Pretzel Raisin Snack Mix and Crunchy Cinnamon Mix.

California Raisins: Sweet. Naturally!
In addition to their snacking convenience and nutritional benefits, California raisins may also provide some surprising advantages when it comes to dental health. Research reveals raisins may benefit oral health, because the fruit possesses antimicrobial phytochemicals that suppress growth of some oral bacteria associated with dental cavities and gum disease.

If that weren't enough for parents to smile about, California raisins are a great back-to-school value as well because raisins are the most economical dried fruit, according to the USDA. Parents can provide kids all the naturally sweet goodness of California raisins without breaking the bank.

Check out loveyourraisins.com and pinterest.com/CalRaisins for these snack recipes and thousands more and sign up for a California Raisins snack pack on the California raisins Facebook page at facebook.com/californiaraisins.

Source: California Raisin Marketing Board, loveyourraisins.com