Published on September 14, 2017

Let's redefine after-school snacks


Contact: Jeri Hughes
Marketing & Community Relations
Essentia Health
(218) 828-7583

By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

With school back in session, it' time to plan for after-school snacks.

For kids and many adults, snacking is necessary to meet our daily needs for vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Children eat 25 percent of their calories from snacks but still may come up short in nutrients if the snacks are not planned and structured.

For many kids, a snack has been defined by the food industry. They think about a bag of chips or some cookies.

Let' redefine a snack. Think of snacks as a mini-meal. And think of nutrition as key in choosing snacks.

Reach for nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds as well as low-fat dairy, whole grains and protein-rich foods. The goal is balanced nutrition, and snacks that have some staying power. Water and milk make the best beverages.

The best time for snacks is two to three hours after a meal or before the next meal. Healthy snacking isn't grazing, which is mindless munching for hours.  It' easy to graze after school if snacks aren't planned. Grazing leads to extra calories and the risk of gaining excess weight. Kids also lose touch with their body' internal cues for hunger and feeling full.

So, set up some snack-sense guidelines. These could include:

  • What time is the kitchen open for snacks?  Post a "closed" sign at other times.
  • Where are snacks allowed to be eaten?  Snacks should not be eaten in front of the television or computer. Have a clear definition where the eating-only spaces are in your home. 
  • What snack options are available today or this week?  Post them in a set location. Text them to your older kids and other adults.
  • Set up a system to have your kids choose snack options with you, using the guidelines of including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and dairy.
  • Set up a snack location and fruit bowl that is visible to make the right choice easy.
  • Don't eat snacks from a bag or a box that contains more than one serving. 
  • Avoid buying unhealthy snacks and beverages that are high in sugar and bad fats.  Out of sight is out of mind.

Get creative. Check out my list of healthy snacks for kids. Convenient ready-to-serve snacks are a necessity for many households, but when you have time, try Banana Bran Muffins or Chocolate Granola Apple Wedges.

Healthy snacks for hungry kids
Fresh fruit with vanilla yogurt or peanut butter as a dip
Smoothie with frozen fruit, yogurt and low-fat milk
Raw vegetables with a hummus dip
Whole-grain muffins
Oatmeal with fresh or dried fruit and low-fat milk
Whole-grain cereal with fruit and low-fat milk
Whole-grain tortilla chips with salsa mixed with black beans
Trail mix or gorp:   Mix a variety of nuts with dried fruits and seeds
Low-fat Greek yogurt with a little granola
Celery sticks filled with nut butter and sprinkled with craisins or raisins
Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and fruit on side
Popcorn sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese
Frozen grapes
Toasted whole-grain waffle topped with peaches and vanilla Greek yogurt
Apple Pie Oatmeal:  Make one packet of microwave oatmeal with low-fat milk.  Mix in 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce.  Sprinkle with apple pie spice or cinnamon.
Ant attack:  Spread a mixture of 1/4 cup Neufchatel cheese and 2 tablespoons salsa onto a whole-wheat tortilla. Top with shredded leafy greens and green onions (grass) and black beans (ants).
Fruit parfait:  Layer vanilla yogurt with berries and mandarin oranges in a glass. Top with granola.
Mini pizza:  Toast an English muffin, drizzle with pizza sauce and sprinkle with low-fat mozzarella cheese.  Microwave until cheese melts.
Banana split: Top a banana with low-fat vanilla and strawberry frozen yogurt.  Sprinkle with your favorite whole-grain cereal.
Sassy potato:  Microwave a small baked potato.  Top with reduced-fat Cheddar cheese and salsa.
Waffle sticks: Toast a whole-grain waffle, cut into strips and dip in cinnamon applesauce.

Banana Bran Muffins
Use white whole-wheat flour to provide 10 grams of whole grain per muffin. I reduced the sugar so there' only one teaspoon of added sugar in each muffin along with 3 grams of fiber so these are a great snack. 

1 cup mashed banana (about 2 medium bananas)
1 cup unsweetened shredded bran cereal (like All-bran)
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
1cup white whole-wheat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick baking spray or line with muffin papers. In a medium bowl, stir together the first 7 ingredients. Set aside for at least 5 minutes to soften bran. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and cream of tartar. Stir; make a well and add the banana mixture, stirring just until blended. Spoon into prepared muffin cups.  Bake for 15 minutes or until centers spring back when lightly touched. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from muffin pan.

Nutrition facts
Servings: 12 muffins; serving size, 1 muffin; calories, 110; total fat, 3 grams; saturated fat, 0 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 140 milligrams; potassium, 250 milligrams; carbohydrate, 20 grams; fiber, 3 grams; protein, 3 grams

Chocolate-Granola Apple Wedges
1/4 cup 60 percent cocoa chocolate chips
1/4 cup low-fat granola
1 large Gala, Fuji or Braeburn apple, cut into 16 wedges

Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave at High for 1 minute, stirring every 15 seconds until chocolate is melted. Place granola in a shallow dish. Dip apple flesh, holding onto the skin side, into the chocolate.  Allow excess chocolate to drip back into bowl.  Dredge wedges in granola.  Place wedges on a large plate.  Refrigerate 5 minutes or until set. 

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4; serving size, 4 wedges; calories, 95; total fat, 4 grams; saturated fat, 2 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; sodium, 15 milligrams; potassium, 65 milligrams; carbohydrate, 16 grams; fiber, 2 grams; protein, 2 grams.

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