After a long day at school, your kids may come home ravenous. Dinner is not for a few hours, but handing them a bag of chips is not going to be satisfying nor is it healthy. Keeping nutritious snacks on hand doesn’t have to be difficult, however. Here, Cassandra Umile, a licensed dietitian/nutritionist with ShopRite of Delaware, provides some insight on how to improve your kids’ after-school snacks in just a few easy steps—two easy recipes included.
1. Aim for balance
Umile recommends pairing carbohydrate groups, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, with healthy fats and proteins.
“The reason behind that is the carbohydrate groups are your source of quicker energy, and the protein and the healthy fat are going to be your long-term energy, which are going to keep you full for longer,” says Umile.
She suggests fruits like apple slices, fruit cups and dried fruit; vegetables such as baby carrots and cherry tomatoes because they don’t have to be prepped beforehand. Pair whole grains like whole grain pretzels, pita chips and low-fat popcorn with proteins like string cheese.
Umile also recommends proteins like hardboiled eggs, hummus and low-fat Greek yogurt. Low-fat cottage cheese makes for a great protein, even though sometimes, “Kids aren’t crazy about cottage cheese,” she adds.
Healthy fats, she says, are items like almonds, walnuts, any kind of nut butter and avocados.
Create your own antioxidant trail mix with almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, Cheerios and dark chocolate chips or a healthy party mix containing whole grain pretzels, whole grain chips, multi-grain tortilla chips and Chex cereal.
“Those are just easy things to make ahead of time and they stay fresh for a while,” says Umile.
2. Minimize prep time
Umile recommends having snacks easily on-hand and pre-portioned.
“Pre-portioning is a great thing. You can just grab it,” she says. “And it also teaches portion control.”
For parents on the go, she suggests having dry goods on hand, which will last a bit longer and make for good snacks, such as nuts and dried fruit.
3. Continue re-introducing foods
Is your child a picky eater? Try every food in a food group and keep introducing different foods to your child’s plate, Umile says.
“The more times you introduce it, the more likely they are to eat it. If they say ‘no’ nine times, that tenth time they might try it,” she says. She also recommends reintroducing foods as kids’ age, because their taste buds change. “What they didn’t like last year, they might like this year.”
Apple Crunch Snack Mix
Prep time: 15 minutes I Cook time: 90 minutes I Serves 10
Cooling time extra
- 3 cups apple chips
- 1 cup Chocolate Chex® Gluten Free
- 1 cup unsalted whole almonds
- 1 cup mini pretzels
- ½ cup yogurt-covered raisins
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
In a large bowl combine apple chips, cereal squares, almonds, pretzels, raisins and cranberries; toss gently to combine. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to two weeks.
Per serving: 180 calories, 9g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 130mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 4g protein
Frushi (fruit sushi)
Prep time: 20 minutes | Makes 1 roll
- 1/3 cup cooked rice
- 1/2 banana
- 1 tsp. soaked chia seeds
- Plastic wrap
- Fresh fruits: blueberries, raspberries, sliced strawberries and kiwi
Mash the cooked rice with the banana and the chia seeds. Lay out the plastic wrap and spread the rice mixture on top of the plastic. Spread the rice in a rectangle shape. When spread over the plastic, the mixture should be no more than a ½ inch thick.
Layer fruits in a neat, tight row on one side of your rice rectangle. Try any combination of fruit, maybe even some avocado.
Pull on side of the plastic wrap up and gently roll the frushi together. Stick the roll into the freezer for two hours to help solidify the rice.
(Calories per serving vary depending on fruit used.)