Resorting to the old standbys like milk and cookies or sliced vegetables for after-school snacks feels a bit lackluster for the start of a new school year. You can liven up snack time with these creative alternatives and keep your kids satisfied until dinner.
Here are five inventive ideas to switch up the typical go-to snack foods:
Instead of baby carrots
Create a snack platter using cupcake tins. Fill each tin with a variety of colorful foods. “Start with items they like in the categories of veggies, fruit, whole grains, dairy and healthy protein,” says Jessica Bixenmann, a health coach and behavior change expert at Sharp Health Plan. “Have your child help too.”
Instead of cheese and crackers
Use cookie cutters to cut cheese and fruit, such as watermelon and apples, into different shapes. Another option is to “take their favorite fruits, and maybe a new one to try, and skewer them up on a (kebab) stick,” says Bixenmann.
Instead of ice cream
Pick up single-serving cartons of low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt, which is high in protein. Bixenmann suggests mixing the yogurt with almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries or fruit — whatever your child likes best. It’ll have a similar texture to ice cream but without all the extra fat.
Instead of fruit juice
Blend your own smoothies. “They are a great way to get in a lot of different veggies and fruit,” says Bixenmann. To make a “milkshake,” try blending milk or yogurt with frozen fruit. A greater fruit-to-milk ratio will make the shake thicker and comparable in consistency to ice cream shakes.
Instead of ice pops
Make frozen bananas. Cut a banana in half and insert a wooden stick into the end. Roll the bananas in low-fat Greek yogurt. Then roll them in granola or mashed-up nuts. Lay them on parchment paper and freeze. They will be ready by the next day.
Tips for healthy after-school eating:
- For kids who come home to an empty house, leave snacks in a visible location. Keep a refrigerator drawer dedicated to them. It makes it easy to grab and go; kids are more likely to eat what requires minimal work.
- If your children head to an after-school program, pack a small bag of homemade trail mix that you make with them; they can choose their favorite nuts and dried fruits.
- Take your kids with you to the grocery store to keep them involved in the food preparation process.
With a little advance planning, you’ll be helping your kids stay healthy and teaching them food habits that can stay with them for life.