Your kids thunder in the door after school, eager to share details of their busy day and ready for a snack. After school, children always head straight to the kitchen, so be prepared with protein-packed snacks that will renew their energy and get them ready for play and homework.
The protein in cheese keeps energy levels high, and there are many ways to make cheese a fun after-school snack. Cut cubes of low-fat cheese and skewer with fruit: alternate grapes, chunks of apple and berries, and let them enjoy a fruit and cheese kabob. Serve a small bowl of pretzel sticks with cheese cubes -- the kids can make pretzel pops with the cubes. Spoon chopped tomato and shredded cheese onto an English muffin and broil for 2 minutes... presto! Easy mini-pizzas that kids of every age will love. Or make calcium-rich quesadillas with cheese, chunky veggie salsa and black beans. For extra protein, tuck in a chopped hard-boiled egg.
There's plenty of protein and fiber in peanut butter. Update the classic sandwich by smearing peanut butter on toasted wheat waffles or rice cakes. Mix peanut butter with fresh berries and plain yogurt for a fun parfait... top with a few chocolate chips or some protein-laden nuts.
Sweet potatoes are loaded with good vitamins and are an amazingly nutritious vegetable packed with vitamin A, B6, C and folate, but the kids will only notice how yummy sweet potato chips are! Thinly slice the sweet potatoes and brush both sides lightly with olive oil. Toss with red pepper and bake until crisp. They're a good alternative to greasy store-bought chips and are very savory. These are delicious served with a side of ranch dip made with plain yogurt.
Kids like the nutty flavor of hummus, and it makes an excellent dip. Serve with cut-up vegetables - pepper strips, broccoli, carrot curls and cucumber slices. Add some wheat crackers and you have an after-school winner! Spread it on a pita, then load up with chopped tomato, celery or other veggies for a hearty and filling sandwich.
Kids crave smoothies, so use non-fat vanilla yogurt and unsweetened orange juice as the base, then blend in some favorite fruits -- a banana, a handful of berries -- it's fun to experiment with a variety of fruit combinations. Fresh is better, but frozen fruit works, too.
Other protein-packed snacks kids will love include beef or turkey jerky, unsalted nuts (like almonds and walnuts) and hard-boiled eggs. Healthy snacks with a punch of protein give growing children more energy and the essential nutrients that their bodies need. They'll feel full -- and be full of vitality. Choosing better alternatives in snacking helps children develop healthy eating habits that can last them a lifetime.
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