Fighting After-School Snack Attacks

Here are 10 easy and healthful snacks to combat the after-school munchies.

When the mid-afternoon munchies strike, kids usually reach for chips, soda, or snack cakes. The occasional sugary or high-fat treat is okay, says Tara Gidus, registered dietician and owner of Tara Gidus Nutrition Consulting, but the best after-school snacks are ones that are low in saturated fat and sugar, and rich in vitamins, minerals, whole grains, and heart-healthy protein. She suggests treating after-school snacks as mini-meals that combine key nutrients.

The next time your hungry child hunkers down at the kitchen table, hand him one of these:

  • Baked, multigrain tortilla chips and salsa. Try making your own salsa, or buy it fresh from a farmer's market when tomatoes are in season.
  • Peanut butter spread on a celery stalk and sprinkled with raisins (more commonly known as "ants on a log"). Opt for natural peanut butter, if possible.
  • Wraps made with whole-grain tortillas. Turkey wraps (turkey, lettuce, and low-fat mayo) are always popular, or you can get creative with a combination of string cheese, chopped apple, and almonds.
  • "Gorp" (a snack mix hikers often eat). Mix together multigrain cereal (like Cheerios), nuts, dried fruits, and M&Ms. Get kids involved by letting them pick out the different nuts and fruits they'd like to include and let them help make a batch.
  • Pizza bagels. Spread tomato sauce (mix in a few herbs and spices like basil, oregano, and garlic powder, if you want) on half a bagel or English muffin. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and toast until the cheese melts.
  • Veggies and lower-fat dip. Kids often prefer raw veggies to cooked ones. Try crunchy types, like broccoli, cauliflower, jicama, sweet red pepper, and carrots. You can also try dipping veggies in hummus.
  • Soy crisps. Lower in saturated fat than typical potato chips, soy crisps are crunchy and delicious -- and they come in flavors like ranch, cheddar cheese, and barbeque.
  • Fruit and yogurt. Mix cut-up oranges, apples, banana, kiwi, and berries with a little bit of low-fat vanilla or flavored yogurt.
  • Small bowl of cereal with skim or 1 percent milk. It's a classic. Be sure to choose lower-sugar, wholegrain cereals over sugary ones.
  • Low-fat microwave popcorn. Or, if you have an air popper, you can make your own popcorn and add fun spices (like paprika or Cajun seasoning). Never let your child make popcorn (microwave or popper) unattended.

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