Adventures in After-School Snacking

As fall begins to really move in, afternoons are focused on the famous after-school snack.  Afternoon snacks are important to school age children because many have eaten lunch in the late morning and their systems are ready to crash.  To children of the preschool age, daily snacks are even more important and can be a challenge.  Many preschoolers get as much as one-third of their total daily calories from snacks.  It is almost impossible for kids to get all the nutrients they need in just three meals.  Some easy tips and plans can make your preschoolers’ snacking go smoothly.

Pairing carbs with proteins makes a long-lasting energy snack.  Start your snack with a carbohydrate like sliced fruit, crackers, or bread and add a protein like peanut butter, bean dip, or a slice of cheese.

Crunchy Apple Snacks
1 crisp apple
3 tbs. orange juice
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 tbs. honey

  1. Cut the apple into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Dip the slices in the juice to coat each side (this prevents the apple from browning). Shake off the excess juice.
  2. In a small bowl, blend the peanut butter and honey together. Spread half the slices with the peanut-butter-and-honey mixture; then top with a second slice.
  3. Seal with plastic wrap and keep chilled until ready to eat.

Mixing tastes and textures is a great way to get children to explore new food combinations.  Put jam on salty crackers for an adventure into the combination of salty and sweet.  Create an interesting texture experience by mixing a chewy food, like raisins, with something creamy, like cream cheese.  Then add to it by combining this with something crunchy, like celery.  Try mixing crunchy and chewy together in granola bars or trail mix.

Homemade Granola Bars
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
1 egg
3 tbs. brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts, such as peanuts, walnuts, toasted almonds
1/4 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit, such as pears, apricots, or apples
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
  2. In a mixing bowl; combine the pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, butter, and honey.
  3. Add the oats, nuts, dried fruit, wheat germ, cinnamon, and orange zest.
  4. Scrape the batter into the baking pan, and bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Cool completely before cutting into 1- by 2-inch sticks. These bars firm up as they cool, so wrap them individually and freeze.

If your days are busy, make it easy to remember snack time by putting it on the schedule.  Schedule two snacks in between the three main meals.  Make sure that there are at least two hours between snack time and meal time or your child may not eat well during meals.

Children have smaller stomachs than adults, so pay attention to portion size.  Stock up on kid-sized yogurts and juice boxes.  When children are extremely active their metabolisms rise.  Meet this calorie need by giving them foods higher in calories instead of increasing their portion size, because this could encourage overeating.

Banana-Yogurt Smoothies
1 cup orange juice
4 tbs. powdered milk
8 oz. non-fat vanilla yogurt
1 ripe banana
Fresh fruit for garnish (orange slices, strawberries, or a cherry)

 

  1. Help your child measure the ingredients and add them to a blender. Kids can slice the banana with a plastic knife and sprinkle the banana pieces on last.
  2. Blend just until smooth and creamy. Give the smoothie a stir with a spoon to see if it is the right consistency for pouring and, if needed, thin with a bit more orange juice.
  3. Pour into glasses and serve immediately. Garnish with a slice of fresh fruit.

A light snack before bed, if your child is hungry, is a good idea. Offer a half-cup of yogurt or a cup of hot chocolate. These will fill your child up but not make them feel uncomfortable.

Snack time can be stress-free and easy if you have a plan. One thing to avoid is making food a reward. Offering food for good behavior may lead to bad eating habits down the road. Enjoy and have fun with snack time. It can be a wonderful time for both of you.

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