by Colorado Parent
Whether kids have a set snack time during the day or have after-school activities such as football or band practice that will delay mealtime, keeping them energized is an issue faced by every parent. School age children need 1,600-2,500 calories each day, teenagers even more. Healthy snacks help kids meet calorie needs, keep hunger at bay, prevent overeating at mealtimes and furnish a steady supply of fuel for school and activities. Planning a daily snack that is healthy and nutritious can be challenging. When you mention the word “snack,” thoughts often turn to the junk food aisle at your local supermarket – cookies, chips, ice cream and the like. Good snacks can be so much better than that. Here are a few quick healthy snacks for kids that are both delicious and full of the nutrients an active child needs.
According to the Center for Disease Control most U.S. children don’t get the recommended 2.5 to 6.5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily. Fruits like apples and bananas are a great snack but many kids find them too bland. These pear pinwheels contain fruit, grains and cheese in one delicious snack. To make simply sprinkle cheddar cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla, then cover with thin slices of pear. Microwave for 30 seconds, then roll and cut into slices. You can also substitute the cheese with peanut butter or cottage cheese and omit the microwave step.
HEALTHY HOMEMADE SNACK MIX
Trail mixes that are store bought often contain high levels of sodium and preservatives, plus making your own allows you to customize the mix to your child’s palate. Consider using dried fruits such as banana chips and mixing in popcorn or pretzels for a salty savory addition. Nuts and whole grain cereals are also good additions to add texture. This snack requires no cooking and can resist being manhandled in the bottom of a schoolbag.
NO BAKE PEANUT BUTTER BITES
Combine 1⁄2 cup of peanut butter, 1⁄4 cup milk powder and 1⁄4 cup flaked coconut in a large mixing bowl, then stir in 1/3 cup rolled oats, 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1⁄4 cup wheat germ and 1⁄4 cup apple juice concentrate. Roll the mixture into balls and refrigerate overnight. Make sure to use natural peanut butter, which doesn’t have added sodium or sugar, and nonfat dry milk for the healthiest snack. Kids will love making and eating these and the peanut butter bites also contain no sugar.
Spread sunflower seed butter (or peanut, almond, soy butter) on a fajita-sized whole wheat tortilla. Top with half a grated apple, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Roll up and cut into 4 pieces.
STUFFED BAKED POTATO
Poke the skin of a small Russet potato several times with the tines of a fork. Cook it on high in the microwave for 5 minutes. Open and top each half with tuna salad or chopped broccoli and grated cheese.
HUMMUS IN A CUP
Blend together ¼ cup tahini (sesame paste), juice of 1 large lemon, 1-can chickpeas (rinsed and drained), 1 peeled garlic clove, 2 tbsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. cumin. Add 2-3 tbsp. water if needed. Scoop 2 tbsp. of your homemade hummus into a travel mug. Top with carrot, red pepper or celery sticks and take you Mediterranean feast on the road.
Tea sandwiches make a great after-school snack. Just make your usual sandwiches (tuna, egg salad, turkey, or ham on whole grain bread) and cut into four triangles. Don’t overstuff and be sure to include some veggies (lettuce, sweet peppers, grated carrot, watercress).
MORE AFTER SCHOOL SNACK IDEAS
- Cheeseless quesadilla or traditional quesadilla
- An ice cream cone or frozen yogurt bar
- A bagel with cream cheese
- Fruit and cottage cheese
- Yogurt and berries
- An English muffin pizza
- Bowl of cereal with fruit
- Oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit
- Whole grain toast with nut butter
- Cheese melted on whole grain chips
- Protein bar
- Fruit smoothie
Click here for some fun kids lunch ideas.
Tip for Rapidly-Ripening Bananas
Peel, cut up and throw in the freezer for a snack you can drink. Frozen bananas add a creamy texture to any smoothie. Try with nonfat or low-fat milk (cow’s, soy, rice, almond or coconut), and fresh or frozen berries. Yum!
Think of a snack as a nutritional opportunity. Put in this perspective, it’s easy to make choices that are good for you. The right snacks offer a nutritional benefit beyond calories. Encourage children to make it a “mini-meal,” meaning a smaller portion of the wholesome foods they eat at breakfast, lunch or dinner.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for 2016.