Children need nutritious food to help them grow and thrive, and healthy snacking is a way to supplement their diets. After a day of learning and playing at school, afternoon snacks bridge the gap between lunch and dinner. Although kids eat lunch and snacks during the day, bonding over a wholesome treat is special.
Why not make prep time a learning experience about nutrition. Have little ones guess the name of the fruit or vegetable while blindfolded, or reinforce science and math concepts with school-age children. With supervision, older children can cut fruit and vegetables. It is true that children who took part in preparing food tended to eat a wider variety of foods.
These snacks are quick to prepare, tasty, and nutritious. Whether parents are at home or at work, keep snacks handy in the refrigerator with microwave instructions or on the counter in resealable bags.
Dried fruit is as sweet as candy but does not contain empty calories. Use dried apricots, pineapples, and banana chips, which make excellent choices for trail mix. Add nuts and store in plastic bags. Reduce sodium levels with unsalted or low-salt nuts. A glass of milk adds calcium and more nutrition to a crunchy snack and if it is chocolate milk, all the better. For variety and interest, try other fruits and nuts.
Apple Slices with Peanut Butter
This is a favorite snack with younger and older children alike. Spread protein-rich peanut butter on a Granny Smith apple slice for a healthy snack. When preparing, younger children enjoy spreading peanut butter on the apple slices, and older children will like making skewered apples and cheese for a delicious combination of a carbohydrate and a protein.
The American Dietetic Association suggests a twist on frozen bananas. First, dip bananas in low-fat yogurt. Then, roll them in crushed cereal and freeze. Another way to add fiber is using a cereal made from whole grains, without artificial ingredients, and sweetened naturally. For a flavorful option, use blended, naturally sweetened yogurt like vanilla. It is a good way to use overly ripe bananas because they are sweet without adding sugar.
When it is cold outside, try this version of cinnamon applesauce. In a saucepan, add applesauce and Red Hot cinnamon flavored candies. Heat on the stove or microwave until the candy melts and the applesauce turns red. Because of the sugar in the candy, use unsweetened applesauce. Make a cup of hot chocolate, and this snack duo is sure to brighten and warm kids on the bleakest and coldest days.
Eating cake is not limited to birthdays, and a cupcake is the perfect size for an afternoon snack. Cupcakes are desserts but these are delicious and nutritious. Sneak in fiber and beta-carotene with canned pumpkin. Combine a box of vanilla or chocolate cake mix and pureed pumpkin, and follow the instructions on the box. Both cake mix flavors hide the pumpkin taste; however, when mixed with chocolate, the pumpkin is undetectable. Top this nutrient dense snack with crystallized sugar or frosting.
Parents make after-school snacking another way for children to learn about nutrition while presenting the information casually. Healthy snacks do not mean boring or flavorless choices, and snacks run the gamut from a piece of fruit to a small meal. Remember, have fun and create exciting new food combinations that spark interest in experimenting with new foods.
Becky Harris writes on a variety of subjects including moving with U-Pack an ABF company.