My daughter's five favorite words: "Can I have a snack?" I hear that question throughout the day, rain or shine, 365 days a year. And, right when she gets home from school, she's not just hungry, but starving.
Sure, it would be easy to stick a sugary soda and bag of salty chips in front of her face, but I know better. I listen to the pediatrician and have heard Oprah lecture about childhood obesity. Thus, I try to keep it healthy, choosing alternatives to prepackaged garbage. Still, my daily offering of an apple simply elicits a turned-up nose.
So I went on a quest to uncover healthy after-school snacks that will bring cheers, rather than jeers, from my picky grazer. I talked to other moms, scoured the Internet and even spoke to Stephanie Adin, a registered and licensed dietitian with the Fort Worth school district. She gave her stamp of approval to these 10 snack suggestions.
Some are perfect for in the car, on the way to soccer or ballet practice, while others require a little participation. Involve the kids and they'll find making these snacks a fun project.
1. Popcorn. Microwave a small bag of fat-free, unflavored popcorn. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, pop it on the stove.
2. Applesauce. This healthy snack comes in one-serving containers. The key? Buy the unsweetened variety.
3. Frozen grapes. For some reason, a frozen fruit seems more exotic. Frozen blueberries are also a huge hit.
4. DIY trail mix. Buy sunflower seeds, dried fruit and granola. Let your kids design their own trail mix.
5. Carrots with hummus dip. A dip adds a little fun to a healthful choice, plus the hummus adds protein. If carrots aren't an option, try celery, grape tomatoes or sugar-snap peas.
6. Whole-grain waffle. Serve them whole, to be eaten with your hands. Offer sugar-free jelly or low-fat cream cheese as a topping.
7. Whole-grain English muffins. These are low-fat, plus a good source of fiber. Top with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese. Or, if you want something a bit more involved, set up a make-your-own-pizza station.
8. Celery and peanut butter. We all know this one, but you can easily spice it up. Take the celery, spread on some peanut butter and top with raisins. Call your creation ants-on-a-log, and voilà, you have a healthful hit.
9. Sugar-free pudding. Pudding comes in easy, single-serve containers, so you don't even have to do any mixing, stirring or cooking. Plus, it's a good source of calcium. Add strawberries or cherries and even nuts for a "decorate your dessert" after-school party.
10. Rice cakes. These whole-grain snacks pack the same crunchy punch as chips but are far healthier. Choose from a variety of flavors and sizes.
FRUIT FLIP SMOOTHIESServes 11 cup ice, crushed1 scoop frozen yogurt1/2 cup strawberries, stems removed1/2 cup blueberries1/2 cup sliced peaches1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice1. Wash all fruit well. 2. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for 30 seconds or until the mixture is smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 272 calories, 5 grams fat, 57 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 1 milligram cholesterol, 71 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 15 percent of calories from fat.
COOL CELERY POCKETSServes 11 pita pocket bread1/2 cup lettuce or bean sprouts2 tablespoons celery, chopped2 tablespoons of the following: chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms or apples2 tablespoons low-fat shredded cheese2 tablespoons lean chicken2 tablespoons salsa1. Wash all vegetables and fruits well.2. Cut the pita bread in half and open the pocket. Stuff the pocket with the suggested fillings above. Invent your own personal favorite pocket by chopping fruits or vegetables that you like best.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 258 calories, 4 grams fat, 38 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 573 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 13 percent of calories from fat.
FRUIT KABOBSWash and cut up bite-size pieces of fruit, such as strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, honeydew, oranges, bananas or pineapple. Thread them onto wooden skewers (available at grocery stores) in alternating order to create a “rainbow of fruit” on a stick. (Kids can help!) Serve the kabobs on a plate with fruit-flavored yogurt for dipping, or keep them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve