Healthy After-School Snacks Your Kids Will Actually Eat!
There's this magical time in the afternoon that parents know all too well. It's that two-hour span after-school yet before dinner. And the keen ears of many a parent have heard the following siren call from pantries all over Converse County: "But… I'm STARVING!!!"
And when you hear those words, you know that soon whatever chips, pretzels, cookies, popcorn, fruit snacks or sodas stored (and no matter how stale) are going to be scarfed down with abandon. If you aren't home after school with your kids, you know the feeling of coming home to find countless bags of snacks depleted as the kids have somehow eaten their way through your larder in ways that border on impressive. This raises the question: How do we provide after-school snacks that are not only healthy but won't be ignored by our kids, and also won't cost a fortune?
We asked that question of Head of Hospitality Services Felicia Masterson Smith and Clinical Dietician Ashley Littleton for input. The snacks had to be accessible, affordable and would be consumed by the average kid. Here are their recommendations!
Peanut Butter Dip & Apple Slices
Perfect for that child with a sweet tooth! And the following recipe uses no refined sugars, all natural, in giving a sweet treat for your after-school crowd. Plus it has excellent ingredients like peanut butter and yogurt giving added bits of vitamins and minerals, protein and fats that will help keep your kiddos feeling fuller, well at least until dinner time! Comprising only three ingredients, with an optional fourth, this is high on the quick and easy scale while also hitting the healthy and kid-approved boxes amply!
For the Dip
- 3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 cup plain Yogurt or Greek Yogurt
- Cinnamon (optional)
Whip yogurt, peanut butter, and honey together until no lumps remain. Bonus: this can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week so a great make-ahead snack!
Apple Slices or other fresh fruit like bananas
For these, you have a few options! If you are home in the afternoons, slicing it fresh is the way to go. But if you can't be there due to work or other commitments, your kids are older or have an active schedule meaning they're scarfing this down in the back of your SUV there are a few pre-sliced varieties available at the grocery stores, organic as well. Another tip is slicing apples ahead of time and storing in lemon juice. This method keeps them from browning, and you can't taste the lemon when you eat.
Whipped Banana Ice Cream
Again a perfect match for that kiddo with a sweet tooth. This one ingredient all natural iced treat is ideal for all year round, and a great way to get rid of those ripe bananas no one wants to take to school! All you need are the following tools to make at home:
- 1 Ripe Banana
- Knife & Cutting Board
- Airtight Freezer Safe Container
- Small Food Processor or Power Blender
That's it. The key to this recipe is the bananas used. You want whatever produce you use to be sweet and soft, i.e., ripe.
Begin by chopping the banana into slices, then place in the airtight container. Freeze them for at least 2 hours, but you can go as long as overnight. After the banana slices are frozen place in food processor or blender and begin to pulse. It takes a while, but keep pulsing. The pieces will move through various stages like crumbly to gooey to oatmeal; then it will become smooth. Keep pulsing to whip the mixture and thoroughly aerate. If you'd like to add mix-ins like walnuts, peanut butter, almonds or other items, this is the moment. Transfer back to your airtight container and freeze. You can sample it right after you have finished mixing but it will be soft. You can make this in bigger batches, be sure your equipment sizes up appropriately!
Ants on a Log
Peanut butter has long been a kid favorite. And even if your kiddo has a nut allergy, you can still make this with sunflower butter! Using three ingredients, ants on a log satisfies by providing salty and sweet in one satisfying crunch for kids that yes, gets them to eat their veggies!
- Hearts of Celery
- Peanut or Sunflower Butter
Clean and wash your celery thoroughly removing any dirt or debris. Slice off the tops and the root carefully. Then sectioning the celery as large as you'd like, cut the stalks leaving a trough. Place your peanut or sunflower butter thoroughly in the trough and adorn with raisins! (ants). And voila: a classic after-school snack!
Another Peanut Butter concoction. And another Banana concoction. But this time wrapped in a tortilla and presented with a bit of sweet!
- Peanut or Sunflower Butter
- Whole Wheat Tortillas
Take whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter maybe even honey drizzled on it and roll a banana in the tortilla. Slice the roll into sections for banana pinwheels. Maybe offer yogurt with this snack.
Cheese and Cucumber Pinwheels
Following much the same format as the PB & Banana variety, these mix in veggies and cheese for a more savory flavor!
- 8-10 inch Flour Tortillas (can use wheat)
- 8 ounces of Cream Cheese (can be low fat)
- Slices of swiss or cheddar cheese
Cut cucumber lengthwise into sticks, about 6 per cucumber. Take a whole wheat tortilla and spread cream cheese on the tortilla, maybe a layer of sliced cheese, and then a cucumber stick or two. Roll and slice into pinwheel shapes. Maybe offer some fruit with this snack, such as pre-washed grapes.
Couple of the items to watch any time you are laying out meat or cheese snacks are saturated fats and sodium. That being said these are delicious bites that have ample protein, calcium and are huge on the taste factor. Not to mention (like most of the recipes listed) your kids can help make them!
- Precut Pepperoni Slices
- String Cheese (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
- Toothpicks or Skewers
Cube and prepare your cheese and set aside. Using a toothpick or small grill skewer place one piece of cheese on end like a stopper. Layer your pepperoni and cheese pieces in kind of a candy cane design so that you have a couple of slices of pepperoni followed by a bit of mozzarella, then repeat. Store in an airtight container. That's it! You can, of course, add in pieces of cooked pizza dough, fresh basil, or if you want to serve with your favorite homemade pizza sauce for an added treat that would be delicious!
Fruit and Veggies with Hummus
Having a fruit or vegetable platter with carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, crackers, cheese slice, hummus, orange slices, deli meat slices, hard-boiled egg, and or some nut is a very healthy snack option, meeting the nutrition needs of the kids but also allowing for exploration of various foods.
- Organic Hummus (or you can quickly make at home)
- Fresh Cut Vegetables
- Fresh Fruit
And some thoughts from Clinical Dietitian, Ashley Littleton on snack time after school:
"It is important to remember that as the parent, with any feeding time with children, we are in charge of the timing of meals and snacks, what is offered for meals and snacks, but we should let children be in charge of how much of those options are consumed," said Littleton. "Having a snack menu can help reduce the consumption of the entire pantry if that is not what is going to be offered with the snack."
"Often, kids are the most hungry around the 3 pm hour. Consider making this time a 'mini meal' of sorts, allowing the kids to eat healthy food options. Then consider dinner time more of a time for connecting with family and sitting together to commune instead of the pressure of eating such a large dinner when the kids are less hungry than other times."
Noting often that parents can feel a bit of pressure from their kids to include more popular items as snacks, she concluded: "The important thing to remember is that if you want to allow Goldfish crackers as a part of the snack, that is ok, but as the parent, being in charge of what is offered is key for encouraging self-regulation and a healthy relationship with food," concluded Littleton.