Eating Wisely: Afterschool Snacks

By Kendra Atkins-Boyce, Portland, Oregon

I sometimes wonder if my seven-year-old eats lunch at school the way she tears through afterschool snacks. Left unchecked, she’s been known to devour an entire bag of crackers in one sitting. I don’t want to keep her from snacking if she’s hungry, but it seems like every day brings news of another food additive in processed foods, so I want to go back to basics with our afterschool snacks this year. I’m sure we’ll still keep a few non-perishable food items around, but I am going to try to swap whole foods for processed ones whenever possible this school year.

I keep a drawer full of easy-to-grab snacks so that my daughter can help herself when she’s hungry. Its contents were dominated by chips and gummy snacks, but here are a few healthier options I can add to the snack drawer:

Trail mix: When I involve my daughter with making trail mix, she’s even more likely to enjoy eating it. We browse the bulk section of the grocery store and pick out her favorite nuts and dried fruits and vegetables to make the perfect mix.

Mixed nuts: We either buy premixed nuts or make our own mixture based on the best prices and our favorite flavors.

Dried Vegetables: Pull out the dehydrator, or buy pre-dried vegetable chips for an easy snack. We love the variety, especially with whole green beans and dried beets.

Pretzels: Pretzels fall under the prepackaged food category, but they are more filling than some snack crackers, so they are less likely to be gone five minutes after we open the package.

Tuna fish: My pescatarian daughter loves to eat tuna straight out of the package.

Keeping a bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables within reach helps my daughter (and the rest of us) eat more vitamin-packed foods. Here are a few of our favorites for grab and go snacking:

Bananas: Built-in packaging makes a banana the perfect sweet treat to throw in the diaper bag. As a bonus, my seven-year-old and my seven-month-old can both snack on bananas.

Apples: Living in the Pacific Northwest, we have a huge variety of apples to choose from, so we make a point of trying new types of apples regularly. My daughter loves to choose apples with fun names like Pink Lady and Gala.

Berries: In the summer, we eat berries we have picked ourselves from the back yard or the farm stand. In winter, we have been known to snack on frozen berries.

Seasonal and Tropical Fruit: Mangos, papayas, peaches, plums, and oranges are all good snacking options, even if they do require a bit of prep work.

I keep perishable snacks on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to make it easier for my daughter to access.

Yogurt: We try to avoid added sugar by buying plain yogurt and adding our own flavors or fruit. Vanilla, cinnamon, stevia, and granola are all great in yogurt.

Cheese cubes or slices: Cheese is the perfect protein-packed snack.

Hard-boiled eggs: I boil six eggs at a time and keep them in a labeled egg carton. My daughter eats eggs by themselves or adds mayonnaise and mustard to make egg salad.

Vegetable sticks: Cutting up carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, celery, and other vegetables into snack-sized pieces once a week means we have vegetables on hand all the time.

In my experience, children will eat what’s around, so I’m going to make an effort this year to keep fresh, delicious snacks around for my daughters’ health as well ours.

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