Healthy After-School Snacks

After school can feel like a rampage of energy as kids rush home from a long day at school, and are eager to come home to play, eat dinner, or move onto another activity. With today’s busy lifestyles, there’s not a lot of time to plan and eat healthy food while on the go, and sensible snacking may be too much of a stretch. The key to healthy after-school snacks is to keep plenty available, and ensure that your kids are eating a variety of natural snack foods that won’t ruin dinner.

Eating processed and sugary after-school snacks may give kids a boost of energy after along day, but it’s also likely to keep them up later than needed and limits their ability to focus. Although kids do not need a day’s worth of energy right after school, sensible snacking will keep their energy levels stable until dinner. Unhealthy after- school snack choices will only contribute to poor food choices and bad food habits over the long-term. When dinner is a few hours away, you can take steps to keep the following healthy after-school snacks available. You’ll be glad that your kids will have options, and they can actually look forward to an after-school snack to carry them through the evening!

âÂ?¢ Homemade trail mix: Mix up a large bowl of some favorite cereals (non-sugared such as Chex, Cheerios, and Oatmeal Squares are ideal), pretzels, raisins, sunflower seeds, and light savory crackers. You can add a few M&Ms for a colorful addition. ‘Serve’ in paper cups so that your kids can munch on them slowly while playing and getting situated back at home.

� Keep fresh carrot sticks, celery sticks and cucumber wedges on hand. This is a great opportunity for kids to enjoy some veggies without the hassle of having to prepare and choose. Simply cut these up 1-2 days earlier, and leave them in a colored Tupperware-style container so that they can grab it easily!

âÂ?¢ String cheese or fresh cheese cubes. It’s easy to overdo cheese, so do be mindful of portion or serving seizes. You can add this snack to the vegetables for a well-rounded protein.

� Peanut butter with apple wedges; this is a great hit, and offers some variety to standard peanut butter servings. Be sure to monitor portions, as peanut butter is still full of fat and calories. However, it is a great source of protein and natural/organic blends are your best choice for fat content.

âÂ?¢ A glass of milk or soymilk with crackers; this is a very good ‘chill out’ snack, and will help ease your kids into downtime very quickly

âÂ?¢ Homemade popcorn; this is a well-known favorite, and can take just minutes to pop on the stove. You’ll prevent the greasy and oily feel of microwave popcorn, and can add sprinkles of , cinnamon, low sodium salt, and stevia powder (an organic sugar substitute) for variations

âÂ?¢ Veggie tortilla rollups: these are a great after school snack made of tortillas spread with a light cream cheese and some chopped veggies. Roll them up, slice them, and keep them in the refrigerator for a fun appetizer-style snack that’s super healthy too.

âÂ?¢ Homemade granola is a great after-school snack, but do watch portions as this sweet but healthy snack can add up (you’ll find a recipe for great homemade granola here)

� Graham crackers with peanut butter; spread some cinnamon graham crackers with peanut butter and stack them for an easy-to-grab treat.

� Bagel snacks; cut up some favorite bagels into cubes, spread with a dab of peanut butter, hummus, or light cream cheese, and you have an instant snackable stash of healthy bites!

After-school snacks can be far from mundane when you eliminate sugar and processed foods. Teach your kids to focus on the health benefits of the foods they are eating, and you will start to contribute to healthy eating in their daily routines. Schools are difficult places for kids to learn all of the outcomes of poor food choices; instead, consider that eating healthy after-school snacks is your ‘window of opportunity’ to encourage, enlighten, and have fun with real food and instill habits for sensible snacking!

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