Keeping kids fueled for after school activities

Sep 1, 2012 at 4:04 a.m. ET

High protein and low fat foods make energizing snacks to keep kids going strong!

Ants on a log snack

It's all about planning! Part of being prepared for school to resume is to stock up on healthy foods for school lunches and after school snacks. Most kids are hungry when they get home from school. Their lunch break was hours ago and children need to eat every few hours for optimum nutrition. Having your refrigerator and pantry stocked with a variety of high protein, low-fat foods means you can offer yummy snacks that will boost energy for after school activities and will help kids concentrate when they hit the books to tackle homework.

Snacks to pack

If your child takes part in athletics after school, there may not be an opportunity to come home for a snack before practice starts. Nutritious snacks that keep without refrigeration are the solution in a time crunch. Peanut butter is a great food for instant snacking. Pair it with vegetable slices, whole-grain crackers or crusty slices of a baguette. Low-sugar cereals in single serving sizes are a portable snack that will deliver a punch of carbohydrate that's perfect for an active athlete. Try a homemade snack mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and cereal combined with a few pieces of chocolate -- just to make the gorp more fun! Homemade quick breads made with pureed fruits and vegetables travel well, as do cookie bars. Keep the sugar content low and the fiber high. Dried fruits like apricots and cranberries add sweetness to these recipes. Oatmeal bars are full of fiber and protein and are chewy and satisfying. Fresh fruits like grapes, apples, bananas, pears and oranges are a naturally sweet snack with an extra advantage since the high water content in them helps with hydration. Don't forget to send along small bottles of water or a hydrating sports drink.

Snacks at home

Feed your hungry scholars with delicious after school snacks that are quick and easy. What's quicker than a sandwich? Keep grilled or baked chicken strips on hand to combine with creative toppings. Try a chicken sandwich with apple and cheese slices, or chopped and mixed with wild rice in a creamy ranch dressing on a pita with chunks of veggies, or in a tortilla with salsa and avocado slices. Make up a tuna salad to have on hand, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese for a wonderful kick of flavor and texture. Roasted chickpeas, hummus or yogurt-based dips partnered with veggies and crackers are an easy and fun snack. Stuff some celery with peanut butter or cottage cheese and dot with raisins for an "ants on a log" snack little ones will gobble up. Slices of fresh fruit or berries can be blended into a smoothie -- or creamy yogurt with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar is another option for a sweetly satisfying snack to boost energy and refuel kids for their busy afternoon.

Quick tip

Prep snack items ahead of time: Cook extra chicken to set aside for mini sandwiches and wraps, cut and clean veggies for grab and go convenience and have basics for kids' snack attacks stocked in your pantry and refrigerator.

More tips

Brain-boosting foods for kids
Teaching healthy habits to elementary students
Shopping guide for quick school lunches