Healthy after-school snacks

With another school year underway, kids are looking for after-school snacks to quell their growling stomachs. By offering healthy foods, you will not only provide a source of energy after a long day at school, but also contribute to your child’s daily nutrient needs.

Try to serve snacks one to two hours before a meal so that children are hungry again at mealtime. Grazing from the time one gets home until dinner will interfere with natural hunger cues and may lead to weight gain.

Make a snack part of the overall daily intake of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats. Resist the urge to rely on a candy bars, cookies, or some types of processed foods that may be high in sodium or sugar. Such foods taste good, but offer fewer nutrients and more saturated fat than fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or nuts.

The suggestions for healthy snack foods are endless. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers helpful ideas for kids of all ages. Here are a few to get you started.

•Make a yogurt parfait by layering low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fresh fruit and a whole grain cereal.
•Set out carrot and celery sticks with nut butters or low-fat salad dressing for a dip.
•Mix together raisins or other dried fruit (chop into smaller pieces if needed) with whole grain cereal, pretzels, small fat-reduced crackers, or nuts. (Choking hazard alert: use only if your child is old enough to eat nuts and small dried fruits without choking).
•Spread peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese on a small, whole wheat tortilla and roll up. Wrap around a celery stick for a crunchy center.
•Freeze banana slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet for a cold treat. These are really yummy! Or, serve unfrozen and kabob style by threading on a thin pretzel with other sliced fruit.
•For something warm, toast an English muffin, a bagel, or whole wheat bread round, and spread with peanut butter. Another tasty version is to add shredded, low-fat cheese to the breads and melt in the microwave.
•Applesauce is a yummy treat when warmed a bit in the microwave and topped with ground cinnamon.
•Pop some popcorn, a perennial favorite of kids and adults alike. This is an easy snack to prepare ahead of time and take along in sandwich bags when after-school events are scheduled.
•If serving crackers and low-fat cheese, try Ry-Krisp, Wasabrod, and other similar items.

And on those days when you may be too busy to chop and bag, good-for-you-food is still within reach. Registered dietitian Elaine Magee of WebMD has compiled a list of healthy, prepackaged choices from the grocery aisles including Nabisco Fig Newtons, Healthy Choice Fudge Bars, Bumble Bee Tuna Salad Kit, and various soups.

Enjoy your healthy snacks.

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