Smart snacking for after school
The second your kids get home from school, you know they're going to be hungry. You don't want them munching on junk, though. Make sure they're eating healthy snacks.
Most moms today don't fit the June Cleaver mold. We're pulled in a dozen directions, maintaining house and home while taking care of children, arranging schedules and, for some, working too.
You may not have time to spend the day in front of the oven, but that doesn't mean your kid can't still snack healthy.
"An afternoon snack is crucial to sustain healthy energy levels in children and fuel brains to stimulate cognitive development, memory, focus and alertness," says Karla Heintz, BSc Nutrition Educator and author of Picky? Not Me, Mom! A Parents' Guide to Children's Nutrition.
After all, remember that school — and learning — don't stop when the school bell rings. Between homework and after-school activities, kids need to keep going.
So, what smart snacks will keep your kids going?
For the busy mom, snacks need to be quick, easy and relatively mess-free. That sounds like a tall order, but it is totally doable.
Stock up on easy-to-grab, shelf-stable snack items such as whole-grain crackers, graham crackers, dried fruit and nuts. Then, each week, pick up a few items to pair with those for the daily snack such as cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables that your kids love.
To make it even easier to toss together a quick snack, prep the cheese, veggies and fruits that won't turn brown ahead of time. Store them in the fridge so snack time becomes practically grab-and-go.
What about the sweets?
Some kids just want a dose of sweetness in the afternoon. Is it OK to indulge them? Yes, particularly if the sweets are healthy ones. "Cookies can be a component of a healthy snack, provided they are not made with white flour but rolled oats, wheat germ, whole wheat flour or cereal. To complement the cookie, throw with it some apple wedges to encourage soluble fiber and vitamins," says Heintz.
Do fresh, healthy cookies seem like a tall order? Make it work for you! When you have free time, mix up a batch of cookies and use a small ice cream scoop to portion out the cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze, then transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Then, you will have ready-to-bake cookies just a brief defrost away.
Need some ideas for healthy cookies? Try these:
- Good for you lunchbox cookies
- Banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
- Almond butter oatmeal cookies
- Zucchini cookies with Greek yogurt frosting
From the expert
So, what's good from the nutritionist's point of view? Heintz says you should try to incorporate a raw fruit or vegetable into whatever you're serving. She suggests these tasty "brain-worthy ideas":
- Carrots, red pepper slices and hummus
- Homemade applesauce with raisins and granola
- Whole-grain pita wedges with melted cheese dipped in bruschetta or a diced tomato medley
- Banana sandwich with nut butter and raisins (slice the banana in half and fill with these items)
- Whole-grain crackers with fruit salsa (mango is very tasty)
Tell us: What is your favorite after-school snack for kids? Comment below!