After-School Snacks: Start Stocking Up!
Healthy Eating When Kids Get Home
After a long day at school, your kids often arrive home ravenous, craving sugar-filled snacks or high-fat munchies. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research shows an increase in unhealthy snacking in the last twenty years.
Based on a survey of approximately 10,000 children, twice the number of children eat less-healthy snack foods, such as pretzels, popcorn, and chips, as kids two decades ago. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) reports that soda consumption among six- to nine-year-olds increased almost 40 percent during the same period.
Unfortunately, you can’t always be home before the school bell rings. Will your kids or their babysitter make the right choices when it comes to a post-school treat? You can make it much more likely that they will by doing some advance legwork at the grocery store and in the kitchen. Having nutritious foods available at home does not require fancy preparation or a huge budget. Simply stocking up on snacks that are both tasty and healthy can get the job done quickly and inexpensively.
Many low-fat and low-sugar snacks involve very little prep time, while offering a big bang for their nutritional buck. What’s easy gets eaten, so put healthy snacks within easy reach.
Try Whole Grain
Whole-grain foods are on the top of the healthy snack list for kids. That’s because whole grains offer kids long-lasting energy, without giving them sugar-highs and sugar-lows.
The options for kid-friendly whole grains are endless. With some creativity, you can stock your shelves and be ready for any size snack attack:
- whole-grain pita chips with low-calorie dips
- whole-grain pretzels
- whole-grain tortillas (use as wraps for low-fat meats and cheeses)
- high-fiber, whole-grain cereals
- low-fat, whole-grain granola bars
Sweet, Not Sugary
It’s hard to get kids to stop eating sweets, but you can steer them toward smarter choices. These tasty suggestions are low in refined sugar, but can satisfy a sweet tooth:
- frozen yogurt or fruit bars
- fat-free pudding (try different flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, or butterscotch)
- skim-milk smoothies (add fat-free yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit)
Fizzy Fruit Fun
For an alternative to soda, stock up on seltzer and 100% fruit juices such as apple, orange, tangerine and even blueberry. Make sure there’s no added sugar. The best juices contain only the natural sweetness of the fruit.
Your kids can mix seltzer and fruit juice for a sweet, bubbly treat. Sliced frozen peaches or frozen strawberries can even replace ice cubes.
Find the Fun in Fruits and Veggies
While your kids may turn up their noses at traditional servings of vegetables and fruits, you can make eating these essential foods more fun. Instead of plain carrot sticks, let your kids try dipping them in fat-free ranch dressing or hummus.
Peanut butter or almond butter can jazz up apples, bananas, or celery sticks. Or try offering something unusual to peak their interest, such as cranberries, pomegranates, or tangelos. You can also mix dried fruit and nuts to make a tasty trail mix.
Don’t Fall for Clever Marketing
Watch out for pre-packaged snack food that’s labeled “low-fat” or “fat-free.” Those items can still have high calories and loads of sugar or sodium. Look at nutrition labels carefully to assess fat, cholesterol, protein and sugar content.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the serving size. Sometimes the serving size listed is small, and you can easily consume a high amount of sodium, fat, and sugar. The best snacks are fruits, veggies, nuts, and other natural foods that don’t need shiny packages and clever advertising tricks.
Stock Up Today
Getting the kids to eat healthy foods after school can seem stressful—but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t take the path of least resistance when it comes to your children’s food choices. Make it easier on yourself by stocking up on nutritious after-school snacks now.
Proactive grocery shopping can ensure that you’ll have smart selections on hand when your kids need a snack. And you’ll be guiding your kids toward healthy habits even when you’re not home.
- Healthy Snacks for Kids. (2013). Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Retrieved June 14, 2013 from: http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/healthy-snacks-for-kids
- Snacks, Sodas and Calories – Climbing for Kids (October 2000). USDA Agricultural Research Service. Retrieved June 14, 2013 from http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/np/fnrb/fnrb1000.htm#snacks
- Healthy Snacks for Kids: 10 Child-Friendly Tips (June 2011) The Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 14, 2013 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childrens-health/HQ00419
- Healthy School Snacks (2013) Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved June 14, 2013 from http://cspinet.org/nutritionpolicy/healthy_school_snacks.html