Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus.See all posts »
After School Snacks: The Fourth Meal?
Did you know that children consume about 25% of their calories from the snacks they eat?
When children get out of school they are very hungry because their last meal was lunch, and they may or may not have actually eaten much. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your kids have healthy food choices available after school. After school snacks help provide your children “brain” food for homework and energy for after school sports or activities.
Planning is the key to making sure your kids eat nutritious snacks. Without planning, kids may be more likely to choose whatever is around and quick to eat, leading to unhealthy choices like vending machine food or fast food. Snacks are a great opportunity to fit in nutritious foods.
When it comes to snacks, focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Another important part of a snack is fluid -- make sure your child is staying hydrated by drinking lots of low-sugar and non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day.
Also, keep in mind that the size of the snack depends on the age, size, and activity level of your child. Active teens may need a larger snack, similar to a “fourth meal,” while younger kids only need a small snack. Start with a small portion; you can always give them more if they’re still hungry when they finish.
Keep your kids fueled up after school with the right foods!
Examples of healthy small snacks:
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese with fresh or canned fruits
- Smoothies with whole fruit and veggies (think Jamba Juice when you’re on the run!)
- Nutrition bars
- Hummus with veggies, whole grain pita or chips
- Nuts with fruit or veggies
- Trail mix – whole grain cereal, dried fruit and nuts
- ½ sandwich on whole grain bread
Examples of healthy larger snacks for active teens:
- Whole sandwich or 6-inch sub
- Smoothies made with whole fruit and protein powder
- Veggie burger
- Salad with protein and whole grain bread
How many servings of fruits and vegetable does your child need each day?
- Very young kids need about 3 servings of fruits and veggies a day
- Older, active children need 5-7 servings a day (boys may need more than girls)
What counts as a serving?
- One fruit serving – 1 cup fruit; ½ cup of dried fruit, ½ cup fruit juice.
- One veggie serving – 1 cup of raw or cooked veggies, 1 cup of veggie juice or 2 cups of raw, leafy greens.