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 Lindsay Yau, a registered dietitian nutritionist and wellness education specialist at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers. “Have your child help too.”
Instead of bagged chips
Try low-fat string cheese and whole grain crackers, with no added sugars and minimal salt. "Some cracker brands offer a 'hint of salt', which keeps them flavorful without overdoing the sodium," says Yau.
Instead of ice cream
Pick up single-serving cartons of plain yogurt, which is high in protein and has no added sugar. Yau explains that choosing a yogurt that doesn't have added sugar gives you more freedom to add mix-ins with naturally occurring sugars, such as frozen fruit, raisins or dried apricots.
Instead of fruit juice
Blend your own smoothies. “They are a great way to get in a lot of different veggies and fruit, and leafy greens are virtually tasteless in smoothies,” says Yau. To make a “milkshake,” try blending milk or plain yogurt with frozen fruit, and steer clear of ingredients with added sugar. 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 pre-packaged or pre-cut fruits and vegetables 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.
- Have your children prep healthy snacks with you in advance. The feeling of responsibility will encourage them to want to eat what they made.
- 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.