Nutritious After-School Snacks!
Nashville, Ark. – Can you believe we are more than halfway through the first nine weeks of school? Do your children come home in the afternoons starving? Chances are they help themselves to a snack as soon as they hit the door. According to a national survey, 17 percent of children in kindergarten through eighth grade spend time alone after school. When children are alone, they usually help themselves to a snack. Do they have nutritious options to choose from? Do they make healthy choices?
Chips, cookies, candy and cake are among the most frequently chosen snack foods according to USDA. In fact, snacks make up about 20 percent of daily calories among children ages 6 to 11. Snacks should be planned and should guide your children towards healthy food choices, not just provide empty calories and little nutritional value.
Consider the MyPlate method when choosing foods to eat. MyPlate method recommends dividing your plate in half. Vegetables and fruits should make up half of the foods you should eat. One-fourth of the plate should be protein sources and the other one-fourth should be a whole grain food. Add dairy products on the side for a balanced diet. Here are some great snack choices that will fit in all areas of the MyPlate method.
The vegetable group allows for a variety of foods to eat. Here your snacks can consist of vegetable sticks such as carrots, celery, green and red peppers, cucumber, squash; celery stuffed with peanut butter, cream cheese, or cheese spread; cherry tomatoes cut into small pieces, or strung on a skewer to make a kabob; raw vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, served with a low fat dip.
The fruit group is probably the easiest group to find healthy snacks. Snacks here consist of apple ring sandwiches-peanut butter spread on apple rings, fresh fruit such as tangerine or orange slices, pears, banana or pineapple, grapes, kiwi, strawberries; the list can go on and on. If fresh fruit is not an option, canned fruit packed in its own juice or juice drinks that contain 100% fruit juice are all great choices.
Some snacks in the whole grain group include: cracker stacks-wheat crackers with a cheese spread in between, fig bars, popcorn, graham crackers, trail mix, ready-to-eat cereals, pretzels, muffins and breads of all kinds. Try to choose foods in this group that are whole grain. You must read the nutrition facts label to determine if a product is whole grain. Don’t rely on packaging or color.
Snacks in the protein group are a little harder to come up with. Many times when we think of snacks in this group, we immediately think of peanut butter. Peanut butter is a great snack but can get a little boring if served all the time. Some additional choices include: hard cooked eggs in wedges or slices; deviled eggs, bean dip spread on crackers or a flour tortilla, or meat and bread sandwich cut into interesting shapes.
The dairy group offers a wide variety of snacks. For starters, try frozen yogurt, string cheese, cheese kabobs (cheese cubes on pretzel sticks), cheese toast, mini yogurt cups, pudding cups made from real milk, and of course, the old standby, a nice glass of cold milk.
To assure that you have ingredients on hand for healthy snack alternatives, stock up on everyday foods. These might include peanut butter, cheese spread or slices, whole grain crackers, mini bagels, non-sugar-coated ready to eat cereal, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
When shopping for any kind of snack, read the label carefully. Even foods labeled “low-fat” might contain a lot of calories. Extra sugar in these foods can add additional calories as well.
Allow at least two hours or more before a meal to serve snacks to prevent your child from being full when it is time to eat dinner. If your children come home to an empty house, suggest they have snack that will fit into the dinner plan, such as a snack from the fruit or vegetable group.
Encourage good snacking habits by having healthy snacks available in a special area of your refrigerator or pantry. This way, children will know where to go for a snack and you won’t mind the choice they make.
Involve your children in choosing and preparing snacks and chances are they too will enjoy the choice. Who says you can’t play with your food - as long as you eat it too? Make healthy snacks fun to eat by being creative.
Remember that snacking can and should add nutrition to your diet if planned right and planned ahead. If you haven’t already done so, check out the MyPlate method of eating at www.choosemyplate.gov for complete information about this new plan or visit the Howard County Extension Office located on the second floor of the courthouse or call 870-845-7517 for nutrition information.
Recipe of the Week
Here is a super easy snack that kids can make by themselves after school. It is nutritious and tastes great!
1 wheat or flour tortilla
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
½ cup berries (raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
Lay a tortilla on a paper towel or plate. Spread peanut butter on one side. Set aside. Wash berries and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle peanut butter with berries. Starting at one end, roll up tortilla. Add a glass of milk for a great after school snack!
By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
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