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Snack Time at Home

“Mom, can I have a snack?”

If your kids are anything like ours, those familiar words are some of the first to come out of their mouths when they come bounding through the door after school. Their minds and bodies have been busy all day, and while you don’t want to spoil their appetites for dinner, they need something to tide them over. Don’t miss the chance to make that “something” as nutritious as possible! There’s nothing wrong with the occasional plate of freshly baked cookies as a special treat, but getting kids used to reaching for an apple instead will give them the energy they need for sports and homework, while also setting them up for healthy habits down the road.

After-School (and Anytime) Snack Ideas

The first thing you can do to help your kiddos create healthy snack habits is to set yourself up for success. Limit the amount of junk food you have in the house, and stock the fridge and pantry with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Bonus: If only (or almost only) healthy options are available, you don’t have to be the bad guy by always saying no.

Below are some of our favorite nutritious snack ideas – for after school, or anytime – organized by how quickly you can pull them off. Because, let’s be honest, some days, removing the packaging is about all that’s possible.

On the Fly

  • Low-fat string cheese and a piece of fruit
  • Low-fat cottage cheese with fruit
  • Whole-grain crackers topped with low-fat cheese slices
  • Sliced apples topped with low-fat cheese slices
  • Graham crackers with nut butter
  • Sliced apples, bananas or other fruit with nut butter
  • Whole-grain rice cakes topped with nut butter and sliced bananas or other fruit
  • Baked tortilla chips with salsa or bean dip
  • Low-sodium sliced turkey wrapped around slices of cucumber, bell peppers or carrots
  • Ready-to-go or pre-cut veggies (think baby carrots, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes and broccoli) served with a healthy dip like hummus, honey mustard, salsa or bean dip

Requires a Little Forethought

  • Frozen grapes or bananas: Pop them in the freezer the night before for a cold, healthy treat that makes fruit more fun.
  • Baked apple chips: Thinly slice an apple (use a mandolin if you have it) and place slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 200 degrees for two hours.
  • Fruit-and-cheese kabobs: Everything’s more fun on a stick! Just skewer diced fruit and cubes of low-fat cheese on a popsicle stick for an easy snack.
  • Seasoned popcorn: Move aside, butter and salt. Give plain popcorn some personality with salt-free, store-bought spices like chipotle powder, lemon pepper, or pumpkin pie spice, or try fancier combos like freshly grated parmesan and chopped rosemary, or chili powder and the zest and juice of a lime.
  • Trail mix: Let the kids create their own trail mix blends with ingredients like nuts (almonds, pistachios), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower), dried fruit (cranberries, apricots), grains (pretzels, popcorn, whole-grain cereal) and sweets (coconut flakes, mini chocolate or peanut butter chips).
  • Mini sandwiches: Make a few full-size sandwiches (try nut butter and banana slices, or low-sodium turkey and low-fat cheese) and cut them into fun shapes with cookie cutters.

Feeling Ambitious

  • Smoothies or slushies: Only in this category because of the cleanup! Blend ice with fresh or frozen fruit, nuts, and some yogurt, low-fat milk or almond milk for a delicious and nutritious snack. Try adding a different veggie (think carrots, beets, spinach and kale) each time, and have your kids guess the mystery ingredient.
  • Health(ier) baked goods: Bake a loaf of banana or zucchini bread for the week, or add fruits (bananas, berries) or veggies (shredded carrots, zucchini) to muffins or other baked goods your family already loves. Experiment with swapping applesauce for oil and yogurt for buttermilk or sour cream for some extra nutrition.
  • Edible Art: From a strawberry octopus to a veggie train made of hollowed-out bell peppers, carrot-stick cargo and cucumber wheels, Pinterest is the limit when it comes to creative snacking. Better yet, set out a variety of healthy ingredients and let your kids’ imaginations run wild.

See how Debra finds ways to get her kids to eat healthier foods.