Did you know that most children need to eat every three or four hours to recharge their bodies? Growing, active children use a lot of energy, and snacks are a good way to provide a steady energy supply. An after-school snack is also a necessary component of a school-age child's overall nutrition intake.
While after-school snacks fall into a vast food group that includes everything from carrot sticks to candy bars, fats and sugars should be limited as much as possible. Wise snack food choices should provide essential nutrients while replenishing energy stores, and not just contain empty calories. If children aren't getting the recommended daily servings of a food group or groups, concentrate on providing them in afternoon snacks. Fruits and vegetables make fast, easy snacks that are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Lifelong eating habits are formed during childhood, so this is a good time to instill a balanced approach to snacking. For example, unconscious over-eating patterns often originate from eating while engaged in other activities such as watching TV. To help make snacking a purposeful experience, limit snacking to certain locations such as the breakfast nook, kitchen or dining room. Designate a "snack spot" to make it easy for children to find after-school snacks. It can be on the kitchen counter, refrigerator, cupboard or pantry.
Avoiding hunger-induced conflicts between sweet-loving kids and health-conscious parents is a matter of creative planning and compromise. Let children help choose foods for their snacks, mostly nutritious, with a few sweet treats thrown in for good measure. But if you don't want your kids munching on candy or sweets, just don't keep any in the house.
When children are old enough, encourage them to prepare their own snacks. Many children enjoy selecting and making snacks, and often show more interest in eating these foods. With minimal assistance, kids are quick to develop variations of their favorite foods. Even preschoolers can experiment with their own snack creations.
Remember to give children the freedom to indulge their own tastes. Keep in mind that the ultimate delectable treat for a young child may simply involve combining two favorite ingredients, such as peanut butter and apple or banana slices.
Whatever snack foods your family settles on, the winning treats should meet several criteria: 1. They should be foods that kids enjoy. 2. They should be simple enough for kids to prepare by themselves. 3. They should be made with basic, readily available ingredients. 4. They should be easy-to-eat finger foods. 5. They should not take longer to make than they take to eat. (Exceptions to this rule would be foods such as baked goods that can be made ahead in batches and stored.)
For those days when even a few minutes is too long to wait, keep a supply of nutritious instant snacks on hand--fresh fruits, canned fruit, raisins, peanut butter and crackers, dry cereal and milk, granola bars, muffins, graham crackers, pretzels, bagels, and yogurt.
Below you will find suggestions for nutrient-rich snacks that are a delicious source of vitamins and minerals. They can all be prepared by school-age kids with little supervision. Even Mom and Dad will be tempted to have fun making and eating these snacks!
After a long day, kids need some brain food before tackling their homework. Wake up your brain and taste buds by transforming a few ordinary ingredients into a brand-new treat.
1 10-inch flour tortilla
Spread mayonnaise or salad dressing on tortilla.
Part pizza, part quesadilla, this snack sandwiches cheese, sauce, and toppings between two flour tortillas. Kids can cut it into slices just like a traditional pizza.
2 flour tortillas (6 inch)
Cover each tortilla with a tablespoon of sauce. Sprinkle half of each type of cheese on one of the tortillas. Add additional toppings if desired. Cover with the other tortilla, sauce-side down. Bake on a tray in a toaster oven until the cheese is melted, or set on a microwave-safe plate, cover with a sheet of wax paper, and microwave on high for one-and-a-half minutes. Let cool for two minutes, then cut into wedges. Serves 2.
These sweet treats are made by twisting up cinnamon and sugar inside a flour tortilla. When heated, the filling oozes into the dough, creating a comforting snack that is best when accompanied by a glass of cold milk.
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Spread out the tortillas on a flat surface and brush the tops with melted butter. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon and sugar mixture over each. Roll up the tortillas in jellyroll fashion and set them seamside down in a small baking pan that has been brushed with melted butter. Brush the tops and sides of the tortillas with butter. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let the tortilla rolls cool and then slice them into ½ inch pieces. Serves 2. (An even easier variation on this recipe would be to simply brush a flour tortilla lightly with vegetable oil, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake briefly to warm.)
Making these no-cook protein-packed peanut butter balls gives kids a legitimate excuse to play with their food. For a deluxe version, roll the finished balls in shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and/or chopped peanuts and call them "meteorites."
1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Roll the batter into 1-inch balls and set on waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm, or roll in shredded coconut or chopped nuts before chilling. Makes 24-30 balls.
This salty-sweet combination is a quick and easy way to get a serving of fruits and vegetables all in one glass.
Mix together 1/2 cup tomato juice with 1/2 cup pineapple juice, apple juice, or pear juice.
Orange Yogurt Slushie
Combine equal amounts of nonfat plain yogurt and thawed frozen orange juice concentrate or frozen pineapple-orange-apple juice concentrate. Freeze the mixture in ice cube trays. Plop several of the cubes into a tall glassful of calcium-fortified orange juice. Let juice stand for a minute, then crush the yogurt cubes with a spoon for a slushy refresher.
Yogurt Fruit Smoothie
Blend together your favorite fruit(s) and/or yogurt with fat-free milk or pineapple juice.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Blend together 1 banana (may be frozen), 3 tablespoons peanut butter (chunky or smooth), 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup, and 1 cup milk.
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