Do your kids come home from school starving like mine do? The first step to preventing an afterschool snack attack is to ensure they’re staying fueled all day. Start off with a balanced breakfast that includes protein, a nutrient many kids don’t get enough of in the morning, to help keep them full and focused until lunch. One easy way to add some protein at breakfast (or any meal) is to pair it with milk for 8 grams of high-quality protein in each 8 oz glass.
After school, instead of resorting to crackers or chips, use this opportunity to give them some high quality, nutrient-packed foods to fuel the rest of the day (and days to come). Whether they have sports, music, religious school, homework or are just enjoying playing like a kid, they still have many hours left in the day and healthy snacks can help bridge the gap until dinner.
Tips to Remember:
- Monitor Liquid Calories. Juice, soda and other unhealthy beverages can be culprits in excess weight gain for kids. Instead focus on getting kids used to drinking plain water, or making your own smoothies and pack them with healthy nutrition such as milk, yogurt, berries, other fruit and veggies.
- Offer Sensible Snacks. Cut up veggies and hummus, Greek yogurt with dry whole grain cereal and berries.
- Stick With Nutrient-Rich Foods. Think protein and other nutrients that kids need throughout the day. Snack time is a great time to pack in extra calcium (glass of milk) or veggies (dip into nut butter, hummus or yogurt) or healthy fat (avocado, nut butter or nuts) that your child may have skipped out on during lunch at school.
- Place No Limits on Fruit and Vegetables. Keep plenty of options washed and cut up in the refrigerator so it’s easy to grab and eat. Kids like things in small containers so appropriate portions of cut up fruit or veggies in nice containers are more appealing to afterschool eyes.
Sample Power Snacks:
- Make your own trail mix: Kids love choices, so let them mix peanuts, almonds, cashews, raisins, dry whole grain cereal and even a few chocolate chips. Pair with an 8 oz glass of milk for high-quality protein, calcium and vitamin D.
- Super Smoothie: Mix 3/4 cup milk, 1 ripe frozen banana, 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter, optional teaspoon of organic chocolate syrup.
- Berry Burst Smoothie: 1 packet of plain instant oatmeal; 1/2 cup lowfat or fat free milk; 1/2 cup strawberries, hulled, chopped; 1 tablespoon honey; 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon; 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped. This recipe is great for breakfast too!
- Dip it: Cut up veggies, pretzel sticks dip into 1/2 cup hummus or mashed avocado.
- Spread it: Nut butter spread on a slice of whole grain bread or toast, optional sliced banana on top.
- Any healthy leftovers.
As a mom of three boys and a pediatrician, I see too many kids who inhale hundreds of empty calories after school every day. Start the day on a good note with a nutritious breakfast and be aware of what your kids are snacking on—make breakfast, lunch and dinner and snack time into nutrition time. A healthy snack after school with a glass of milk will help your children get nutrients they need and hold them over till dinner. Try it for a week and let me know how it goes!
*This blog post is in partnership with Milk Life