Ah, yes, the after-school witching hours, when kids are hungry, tired and maybe even grumpy about today’s homework. In those circumstances, having a good snack waiting for them can be a very convenient distraction from the trials and tribulations of the school day.
Firstly, let’s clarify that “good” snacks don’t only refer to those snacks that are good for your body. A good snack is also one that is enjoyable – if your child hates the hummus and carrots that you carefully prepared for his return home, it probably isn’t a good snack for him. This is true despite the impressive vitamin A, folate, fiber, protein content of that particular snack.
A snack may also be particularly “good” if your child/children have some “skin in the game.” What does that mean? Well, that they have been part of choosing and/or making the snack. It’s amazing how much better grapes can taste to a child when they got to pick them out, put them on the checkout counter and pack them in the grocery bag. Ditto for muffins made by kids versus muffins made for kids.
When life gets busy, it may not be possible to involve junior in choosing which fruits and vegetables will be waiting for her when she gets home from school. But if you have the time, it’s one way of getting more “healthy snack” buy-in from your kids.
Remember too that aesthetics matter when it comes to food. A clear table, pretty plate, and a whole grain pancake dressed up with a blueberry smile, strawberry nose and almond eyes may go over much better than a generic “find something to eat in the fridge” snack.
And now, to the matter at hand. Healthy snacks that can help tide your children over between the end of school and supper time. If that time is also filled with soccer practice or cross-country training, just remember to increase the volume of snacks available. Kids that aren’t only growing but are exercising like mad really need both the right quantity and the right quality of snacks.
As always, safety is a consideration. Allergies, medical conditions (e.g., celiac disease) and age (e.g., little ones who are at higher risk of choking) need to be kept in mind anytime a snack menu is being developed. But I’m sure I didn’t have to tell you that…
A starting point: Good snack options to consider
Nuts, nuts, and more nuts:
Given that nuts can offer a host of nutrients including healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, as well as generating some serious satiety, an ounce of nuts ranks high on the list of good snack options. (Yes, I know that nut-free snacks are often mandatory in school but in the comfort of your own home, a handful of almonds might just hit the spot.)
A plate full of cut up veggies and fruit:
When you prepare a plate of fruit and veggies, you might be amazed at how quickly they disappear. And the more colorful you can make it, the better! Throw in a small amount of dip or cheese sauce, and your child might just end up licking the plate!
Whole grain muffins:
The choices are vast. Cornmeal-pineapple, blueberry-oatmeal and whole wheat raspberry lemon are some of the biggest hits. Just make sure to avoid the “cupcake-disguised-as-a-muffin” phenomenon. This can be done by reducing the sugar in most muffin recipes by at least 50%. If someone complains, they can always add a smear of jam to their serving. Works wonders.
Hard to beat the smell of popcorn fresh from the stove, so it’s nice to know that this fiber-rich snack can be a healthy after-school option. If it’s drenched in butter, you’ll have to add “un” in front of “healthy.” But air popped with a little drizzle of butter, and some toppings to spice it up (e.g., pepper, oregano, a small pinch of salt) can make a great snack worth passing around.
Okay, it’s not exactly a snack. But between classes, recess, busy lunchtimes with friends and bus rides home, staying hydrated can sometimes get lost in the fray. Offering your child a nice glass of cold water along with their snack can help keep dehydration at bay.
Bottom Line: Good after-school snacks offer more than just vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. They are also tasty, visually appealing, and when kids can be included in making or buying them, they can also provide “pride of ownership.” Keep those factors in mind and then start the process of working through the thousands of healthy-fat, high nutrient foods that are out there. Eventually, something is going to stick, and good snacks will become a routine part of your family’s day.
If your struggles are less about choosing nutritious snacks, and more about dealing with picky eaters, I can help! I created the 21 Day Picky Eater Fix just for you!