Bells are ringing, school buses are back on the streets, and parents and caregivers everywhere are sending their kiddos off to school. Whether you’re tearful that summer is over, ready for fall to start, or a little of both, these kids are going to be heading home hungry after school. We’re firm believers in healthy snacking for kids, as it not only helps keep their hunger at bay and energy up until dinner, but also helps them fill in nutrition gaps that meals may not hit throughout the day. At the same time, we know snacks need to be fast and easy to make to realistically fit into busy schedules. Here are some of our favorite after-school snack ideas:
1. DIY Trail Mix:
Combine the kids’ favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit along with a whole grain unsweetened or lightly sweetened cereal like Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Spoonfuls or air-popped popcorn. The cereal and popcorn both lend a lightness to the nuts and dried fruit, which are more calorie-dense, as well as additional fiber to help kids stay satisfied and meet their daily fiber needs. Some favorite combos include: Cashews, apricots, coconut flakes, and whole grain O’s – or – Almonds, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and spoon-sized shredded wheat cereal. Portion out individual servings and store them in plastic snack bags or snack containers, so they’re ready to go when kids need them.
2. Peanut Butter Yogurt Fruit Dip:
We love this dip because it tastes great, offers protein, and is a fun way for kids to snack on fruit. Combine 1/4 cup plain yogurt (use Greek for a thicker consistency and regular for a thinner dip) with 1 tablespoon peanut butter (or any nut or seed butter you like.) Add cinnamon to taste, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey. Stir together until well combined (it will take a minute or so of constant stirring to incorporate the nut butter), and serve with cut up fruit such as apple slices, strawberries, and/or banana chunks.
3. Mini Tuna Melts:
Top whole grain woven crackers, like Triscuits, with tuna salad made with albacore tuna, mayo, and whatever other fixings your favorite family recipe calls for (or use this fun mini tuna melt recipe that swaps hummus for mayo!). Then top with cheese and heat in the broiler until cheese is melted. We love that the albacore tuna provides a mild flavor and meaty texture that kids love and is packed with protein to keep them satisfied. These bite-sized versions are easy and fun for kids to eat.
4. Crunchy Mexi Snack Platter:
Arrange firm/crunchy veggies like grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrot sticks on a platter. Add whole grain tortilla chips and an assortment of fun dips such as hummus, guacamole, and/or salsa (serve salsa plain or mixed with plain yogurt for a creamier dip). Kids will love the variety, and parents should love getting in a veggie serving during snack time!
5. Homemade Pizza Bites:
Using whole grain mini bagels, pitas, or English muffin halves, add a thin layer of marinara, then top with part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly. Most kids love pizza and this snack provides all of the key components of a healthy, satisfying snack – fiber from the whole grains, veggies in the marinara sauce, and protein and calcium from the cheese. Even better, try mixing some chopped baby spinach into the marinara. These pizza bites are miles healthier than most store-bought frozen options and take about the same amount of time. Older kids can assemble them on their own!
Any favorite after-school snacks we didn’t list here? Tell us your family’s favorites in the comments below!