Cool school lunches are all the rage with us moms these days. We take such care in packing school lunches (well, most days we try), ensuring our kids have a protein, grain, veggie and fruit. But no matter what we pack for lunch, those hungry little hippos still burst into the house RAVENOUS! And, you know what? Famished children make snack time a golden opportunity to sneak in some extra nutrients and offer foods that children might not be as willing to try at meal time.
I have to admit… my children almost seem possessed once they walk in the door from school, completely and 100% intent on finding something to shove into their little mouths. And if I do not have a snack ready to go, they will ravage the pantry and fridge until they find something–anything!–to nosh. (I experienced this last week when I made the mistake of putting away our bags before fixing their snack, and within minutes they had created for themselves a smorgasbord of granola bars and s’mores ingredients, complete with graham crackers, chocolate chips and stale marshmallows. It was not a pretty sight.)
Lesson learned? You bet. MUST have easy-to-eat snacks on hand that I feel good about serving to them… QUICKLY. And this is really very simple. Just keep these TWO factors in mind when planning snacks…
- Protein — Like meals, snacks should consist of a complex or high-fiber carbohydrate + lean or heart-healthy protein (think fruit, vegetables or whole grains PLUS fish, beans, edamame, eggs, low-fat dairy and nuts or seeds). Carbohydrates provide the fuel (and those complex or high-fiber carbohydrates provide dietary fiber and lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants). Protein provides the satisfaction and staying power, to help tide us over for a couple of hours until dinner.
- Portion sizes — Just remember… a snack is a snack, not a meal. The goal is to keep little tummies powered for sports practice, band practice or that homework marathon without filling them up. Aim for snacks that provide about 100-150 calories for younger children, a little more for children playing sports and older kids (200-250 calories).
1/4-1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 apple, cored and sliced
1/2 Tbsp. chia seeds
Choice of toppings: blueberries, diced strawberries, low-fat granola, shredded unsweetened coconut, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, mini chocolate chips
In a baggie, add yogurt, honey and cinnamon; squeeze bag gently to mix ingredients together (this is a great task for kids to do!). Place apple slices on a plate. Cut small hole in corner of baggie, and drizzle yogurt on top of apples. Sprinkle with chia seeds and desired toppings. Make 2 servings.
Mash avocado on top of tortilla. Evenly distribute tuna, carrot and bell pepper on top of mashed avocado. Tightly roll tortilla, leaving ends open. Slice into 1-inch thick slices. Makes 2 servings.
Sweet toppings: Cinnamon, brown sugar, mini or dark chocolate chips, mixed dried fruit, cinnamon-flavored crunchy chickpeas, sunflower seeds
Savory toppings: Parmesan or powder cheddar cheese, nutritional yeast, whole grain cereal, pretzels, sea salt crunchy chickpeas, hemp seeds
In a large bowl, drizzle oil evenly over popcorn. Top with your favorite sweet or savory (or a mix of both!) toppings. Makes 2 servings.
PLEASE SHARE: What are your favorite after-school snacks? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!