Smarter Snacks: Picks for During & After School

When I tell my younger clients to eat 3 meals and 2 to 3 small, healthy snacks a day, they often look at me with a puzzled face and say, “I’m supposed to snack?” Well, yes, of course, but it's all about picking wisely. Kids should get 25% of their daily calories from snacks, so these mini-meals should be full of vitamins and minerals to help them grow. But the question is: what’s a healthy snack that your kid will want to eat?

I tell my younger clients to eat three meals and two to three small, healthy snacks a day. They often look at me with a puzzled face and say, “I’m supposed to snack?” Yes, of course, but it's all about picking wisely.

Kids should get 25% of their daily calories from snacks, so these mini-meals should be full of vitamins and minerals to help them grow. But the question is: What’s a healthy snack that your kid (and you, too) will want to eat?
What Your Kids' Snacks Need

Snacks should have some nutritional value. Your kids might ask for cookies, chips, donuts and candy, but they’re typically high in fat, sugar or both and offer little in the good-for-you department. Instead, choose foods that have around 150 calories and contain some fiber, calcium, iron or vitamins like A and C.

Most people, including kids, don’t get enough fiber, which has many benefits, including making you feel full and keeping your digestive tract healthy. Your kids of all ages need calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Iron is a key component of red blood cells and one of our most common deficiencies -- lacking iron can lead to fatigue and affect your attention span, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to learn.

During School

It’s tough to find time for a snack during the 4 minutes between classes, but it’s important to do so. If your child gets to school around 7 a.m. and their lunch is late in the day, she will get so hungry that all she’ll think about is food. Take a minute to pack a banana or an apple or put grapes, strawberries or raisins in a small resealable baggie or plastic container. Yogurts, string cheese, dried fruit, natural popcorn, granola bars and homemade trail mixes are also quick snacks that tuck into backpacks easily -- and don't make much mess.

After-School Treats

Typically, schools serve lunch around noon and dinner at home isn't until 6 or 7 p.m. It’s definitely time for a snack around 3 or 4 p.m. Here are some more creative ideas to try when you have a little more time to prepare:

  • Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1/4 cup blueberries
  • A slice of angel food cake topped with fresh berries
  • An apple dipped in 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 whole-wheat pita with hummus and sliced cucumbers
  • Hard-boiled egg with sliced veggies like tomatoes, radishes or cucumbers on the side
  • 1/2 cup pretzels dipped in 2 tablespoons of low-fat cream cheese
  • Edamame (baby soy beans)
  • A handful of almonds and dates: stuff 1 almond into each pitted date
  • 1 cup of homemade popcorn: try these tips for lighter flavor add-ins
  • 1 cup of cereal with 1% or skim milk
  • Turkey or ham roll ups: 1 slice lean deli meat rolled with 1 slice reduced fat American cheese

As I've learned from my own kids, children love to dip! Slice up some veggies, pretzels or baked chips and make your own dip:

And if you need something simple for a pinch, a sweet, juicy piece of fruit works wonders -- like a fresh peach or orange slices. (That picture is of my daughter noshing on one of her favorite summer fruits.)

Hungry for more?

Check out more recipes I featured in an earlier post.

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