What is it with kids and snacks? Mine barely get off the bus before they are asking for a snack and wondering what it will be. Since an after school snack was a part of my childhood, I always try to oblige with something tasty (and nutritious!). But my husband always questions this, wondering if the snack is really necessary.
Christen Cooper, MS, RD of Cooper Nutrition Education & Communications says that after school snacks refuel kids for after school activities and homework. “The after school hours are important for accomplishing a few things: resting and recuperating from the school day; performing well at after school sports or activities; staying awake and alert enough to do homework; and, keeping the brain going until bedtime without overdoing the calories,” says Cooper.
And what you serve matters. While I still wish I could indulge in Ring Dings like I did when I was little, I don’t — and my kids don’t either because that’s really not what they need to be healthy. “Focus on foods with a purpose — foods that contain the nutrients that will help kids accomplish these missions. Junk food won’t help accomplish anything,” says Cooper.
4 Tips for a better after-school snack
Want to give your kids the “right” snack? Well, then think nutritious. Cooper shared these tips for picking better snacks.
- Fill ’em up without the calories – Cooper recommends giving your kids filling, low-calorie snacks. “This is the perfect time to have broccoli, pepper slices, baby carrots, celery and the like already sliced and in an easy to open container in the fridge. Kids can plate some of the veggies, help themselves to a dollop of hummus or low fat dressing, and snack away,” says Cooper.
- Or how about a lean protein? – Lean proteins like low-fat yogurt, turkey breast and peanut butter can also be filling. “Teachers College likes to serve student visitors a neat, homemade dip: plain yogurt and peanut butter (1/2 and 1/2) mixed together. Lean protein keeps kids full, again, without piling on fat and calories,” says Cooper.
- Skip the sweet drinks – Juice? Soda? No way! Instead stick to water. Cooper suggests homemade flavored water, which provides hydration and antioxidants. “Fill a pitcher with plain water. Add an orange peel, slices of lemon, mint, berries and anything else you’d like to flavor your water with. Leave the pitcher overnight to let the water take up the flavors. You can even add a few splashes of juice for some extra color and flavor,” says Cooper.
- Say “no” to junk – Cookies, chips, chocolate — none of them are okay. “There is no place for these snacks in the after school hours because they don’t help with alertness, brainpower, or energy, and they do tend to “spoil” dinner (because they offer little fiber and many calories),” says Cooper.
What’s your kids’ favorite after-school snack?