Smart choices: 22 Healthy after-school snacks
Is a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Children’s Center for Digestive Health Care / GI Care for Kids, whose books on nutrition for parents led him to start Nutrition4Kids with his co-founders.
Pack wholesome nutrients into snacks, without a lot of calories if you're careful
After a long day at school, your kids' bodies and brains need a little boost to keep them going until dinnertime. That's where after-school snacks come in! But not all snacks are created equal. Some can leave them feeling tired and sluggish, while others can give them the energy and nutrients they need to stay focused and active. Here's some delicious and nutritious after-school snack ideas that are perfect for everyone.
Why choose healthy snacks?
Healthy snacks can:
- Boost energy: After a day of learning and activities, kids' bodies need a pick-me-up. Nutrient-rich snacks provide the energy they can use to stay alert and active.
- Support growth: Your kids are likely still growing, and essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and protein are needed to develop properly.
- Aid concentration: Eating healthy snacks can help them concentrate better on homework or extracurricular activities.
- Prevent overeating: When they get nutritious snacks, they're less likely to overeat during dinner, helping them maintain a healthy weight.
Wholesome after-school snacks
- Apple slices with peanut butter: Slice up an apple and dip the pieces in peanut butter. Apples are rich in fiber and vitamins, while peanut butter adds protein for a satisfying snack.
- Banana "ice cream": Blend a frozen banana until it's smooth and creamy. You can even add a touch of cocoa powder or honey for extra flavor.
- Fruit kabobs: Thread chunks of colorful fruit onto skewers for a fun and nutritious snack. Try a combination of berries, grapes, and melon. Or just a piece of fruit by itself (Yum!)
- Yogurt parfait: Layer yogurt, granola, and fresh berries or sliced fruit in a glass for a tasty and filling snack.
- Carrot sticks with hummus: Crunchy carrot sticks or slices of red or green peppers paired with creamy hummus make for a perfect combo. The vegetables are rich in vitamin A, which is great for your eyesight.
- Cucumber slices with cottage cheese: Cucumbers are refreshing, and cottage cheese or yogurt provides protein. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper for extra flavor.
- Celery and peanut butter: Spread peanut butter on celery stalks and add raisins (or "ants") on top for a playful "ants on a log" snack.
- Cherry tomatoes with mozzarella: Cherry tomatoes and bite-sized mozzarella cheese make a tasty, bite-sized snack. Some kids like popping the cherry tomatoes in their mouths,
Grains and more
- Whole grain crackers with cheese: Whole grain crackers provide fiber and energy, while cheese adds protein and calcium. You can even make it a mini cheese and cracker sandwich! There are great gluten-free options as well
- Trail mix: Create your own trail mix by combining nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and a few chocolate chips for a sweet touch. Portion it out for a handy on-the-go snack.
- Popcorn: Air-popped popcorn is a whole-grain snack that's low in calories. Sprinkle it with a little salt or nutritional yeast for extra flavor.
- Mini quesadillas: Spread a little cheese between whole wheat tortillas and heat them up in the microwave. You can even add some tomatoes, avocados or other veggies for extra nutrition.
- String cheese: These are easy to carry and provide a good dose of protein and calcium.
- Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is rich in protein and can be topped with honey, berries, or a drizzle of pure maple syrup for sweetness.
- Milk smoothie: Blend milk or yogurt with frozen fruits and a touch of honey for a delicious and creamy smoothie. You can substitute dairy alternatives for those with milk allergies.
Tasty homemade treats
- Oatmeal cookies: Bake some homemade oatmeal cookies using whole grains and less sugar. You can even add raisins or dark chocolate chips.
- Energy bites: Mix rolled oats, peanut butter, honey, and a handful of chocolate chips or dried fruit. Roll into small balls and chill in the fridge.
- Mini sandwiches: Make small sandwiches using whole wheat bread, lean turkey or chicken, and lots of veggies. Cut them into fun shapes for added excitement.
Healthy beverage choices
- Water: Staying hydrated is crucial for your kids' overall health. Water should always be your first choice.
- Milk: Milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for growing bones.
- Fruit infused water: Add slices of lemon, lime, or berries to your water for a tasty twist.
- Super smmoooothies: Fruit smoothies can get an extra boost when you add spinach or kale. They won't taste the spinach, but the kale they will. And you can add all sorts of flavors. But they can be filling so don't have them too close to that delicious dinner you're going to prepare.
Here are some tips to make your after-school snacking even healthier:
- Portion control: Use small bowls or containers to control portion sizes. This prevents overeating.
- Read labels: Check food labels for added sugars and unhealthy fats. Best to choose snacks with minimal processing.
- Variety: Don't stick to the same snacks every day. Rotate your choices to get a variety of nutrients.
- Preparation: If you have time, prepare your snacks ahead of time. This makes it easier to choose healthy options when hunger strikes.
- Teach them to listen to their bodies: Pay attention to your body's hunger cues. Eat when you're hungry, but avoid mindless snacking.
- Know when to stop snacks: If you want your kids to eat their dinner, stop at least 1- 1 ½ hours before you want them to come to the table.
- Keep them in the kitchen: Kids tend to eat more sitting in front of the television or their screens, which can lead to increased weight gain.
Choosing healthy after-school snacks can be both delicious and rewarding. By making smart snack choices, you can provide your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to thrive. So, next time you reach for a snack, think about what will nourish you best and keep you feeling great until dinner. Your future self will thank you for making healthy choices today!
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