The After-School Snack Dilemma: How to Incorporate Healthy Foods into Your Kids’ Snack Schedule
One thing I have learned after more than 15 years of parenting school-age children: after-school snacks are a big deal.
My three girls are in college now, but I still have a 15-year-old son at home who would snarf down a bag of Doritos and a two-liter bottle of Pepsi if I’d let him. I quickly learned, with four kids, that after-school snacking needs to be planned and managed as much (if not more) than their meals.
School starts again for my over-six-foot sophomore this week, and here’s the schedule we’ve planned together. Borrow a few ideas if you want—or leave me a few of your own. I’m always looking for new ideas to make him (and me) happy with our snacking arrangement.
Manic Mondays: I like to get a busy week off to a good snacking start, so on Mondays I make protein-rich snacks available. I let my son choose from options like: string cheese or cheese cubes and beef or turkey jerky; hummus and carrot sticks or pita chips; peanut butter and celery or crackers; Greek yogurt-covered raisins or frozen Greek yogurt (the only way he’ll eat it).
Fruity Tuesdays: It’s all about fruit on these days, whether it’s fruit kabobs (he likes to make his own) and yogurt dip, banana slices and Nutella, or his favorite smoothie here: Puree 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 frozen banana and 1/4 cup orange juice in a blender until smooth.
Mexi-Wednesdays: My son is a huge taco and nacho lover, so this is what he’ll often do on this day: Split a whole-wheat pita into two rounds, then cut into wedges. Broil until golden, then sprinkle with grated cheddar and salsa and broil until the cheese melts. Or I’ll buy baked tortilla chips and he’ll eat them with “guacasalsa” or “salsamole”—basically avocado chunks (or mashed avocado) mixed in his favorite store-bought salsa.
“Mix it Up” Thursdays: It’s all about trail mix, Chex mix—any kind of mix, really, on this day, as long as it’s not loaded with sugar and empty calories. Here’s one of his favorites: Cheesy Chex Mix. Simply toss 3 cups Chex cereal, 2 cups mini pretzels and 1 cup cheese crackers with 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, 1/2 stick melted butter and a pinch of garlic powder. Spread on a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes at 325 degrees, stirring occasionally.
Favorite Fridays: On Fridays, he gets to choose—within reason. I have to be a cool mom at least one day, right? I’ll even allow a few Doritos once in a while. But his go-to requests tend to be mini frozen cheese pizzas (Trader Joe’s carries his favorite kind), Nutella and animal crackers, a few mini corn dogs with honey mustard and any kind of cookie that includes peanut butter or chocolate chips.
Before you shop: The key with my junk food-loving son is to establish an after-school snack schedule. This way he knows exactly what to expect each day, and I’m able to make sure he’s not gulping down 1,000 empty calories at 3:00 p.m. Do you have any tips for after-school snacking?