“No, it will ruin your dinner.”
Parents who use this line when their child asks for an after-school snack can reconsider.
“Snacks are great opportunities to slip in additional nutrients for the day,” said Kristene Schulte, a Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian.
An after-school snack will not ruin a child’s appetite as long as the snack is healthy, small and eaten at least two hours before dinner. Children have small stomachs and do need planned snacks throughout the day for energy.
Adjust the size and quantity. An after-school snack size should vary depending on:
- Amount of time before dinner
- Age of the child/height and weight
- Activity level of the child
After-school snack ideas
Provide a snack with approximately 20 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Practicing portion control, give your child:
- Homemade trail mix
- String cheese
Parents also can think of after-school snacks as a mini-meal, like a bowl of cereal or half of a peanut butter sandwich.
Avoid empty-calorie snacks such as chips or cookies.
What about pre-packaged snacks?
Some companies provide pre-packaged snacks like apples and caramel or cheese and crackers.
While pre-packaged options seem handy for on-the-go days, Schulte suggests buying whole foods and dividing up into portions or packages on your own.
“Parents save money and give children better nutrition by purchasing whole foods,” she said. “Companies charge extra for packaging and sometimes use preservatives to keep food fresh.”
Try this recipe
After-school snacks don’t have to be ‘fun.’
“Most of the time, if you put a bowl of fruit on the table, kids will eat it without requesting caramel, peanut butter or fruit dip,” Schulte said.
However, if kids are resisting healthy snacks, spice up snack selections with creativity.
Crunchy Apple Rings
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1/2 cup *cereal of choice
*Kellogg’s Corn Flakes®, Cheerios™, Bran Flakes or Special K® cereal are healthy options.
Wash apple. Remove the apple core with a knife or apple corer.
Slice into rings about one-quarter inch thick so the apple has a hole in the middle.
Spread peanut butter on one side of each apple ring.
Place on plate and sprinkle with cereal of your choice.
Each serving contains about 188.4 calories; 17.3 g carbs; 12.2 g fat; 2.5 g saturated fat; 6.3 g protein; 3.6 g dietary fiber; 111.1 mg sodium; 11.7 g sugar.