PREPARE EASY SNACKS FOR SOME AFTER-SCHOOL FUEL
THE FINAL school bell rings, and your sweet child runs into your arms exhausted, hungry and, as a result, totally grumpy. Sound familiar? To keep their energy (and mood) up for after-school activities, homework and good ol’ play, children require wholesome, nutritious snacks to tide them over until dinnertime. But having plenty of tasty options on hand can be challenging for parents. Having made kids and food my life’s work for the past decade, I have come up with these rules of after-school snack making:
Being dense can be smart
When you want to stimulate young minds and tummies, nutrient-dense foods are the best. Simple snacks such as yoghurt, nuts or a banana can eliminate a child’s hunger pangs and sate their cravings. (I like it that they tend to be virtually clean-up free.)
Take them to the water
Staying hydrated is essential, but picking the right drink is key. Instead of reaching for a juice box or a bottled fruit smoothie (the latter being a better choice but pricey), try offering your child a whole piece of fruit and a glass of water. That way, their body gets plenty of fibre from nutritious fruit, plus the water they need to stay hydrated. Aside from being good for you, keeping the water flowing is a snack-time tip that’s easy on your wallet.
Make your freezer your new best friend
Whenever you make cookies, waffles or pancakes, freeze what’s left over in zipper bags or containers labelled with the contents and the date. Then, simply remove a few to pop into the toaster so you never need to prepare an after-school snack from scratch again. This tip is also ideal for those times when you have leftover soup. Freeze it in a glass container filled ¾ full, then quickly reheat on the stove or in the microwave whenever a hot cup of soup seems like the ideal afternoon snack.
If your children tend to be finicky about vegetables, after school (when they’re super hungry) can be the perfect time to try this. Put out an array of raw or steamed vegetables, such as carrots, celery and cucumber spears, and offer hummus, salad dressing or a creamy yoghurt dip on the side. The combination of hunger and the fun activity of dipping food can help engage a child in eating something nutritious. (In these cases, avoid putting out crackers or anything else that might distract from the veggies.)
Everyone can use a boost
Add wholesome ingredients to favourite snack recipes. Up the nutrition of cookies by mixing protein – and omega-rich hemp seeds into your batter. Use wholewheat flour and a touch of honey instead of sugar in Cinnamon Wheat Thins. Or add a handful of chopped kale or beet greens to a smoothie. Nutrient-packed chia seeds sprinkled on top of a fruitand-yoghurt parfait is another time-tested favourite of mine. The options are practically endless, but remember that balance is important, so make a list of those things that can seamlessly blend into your snacks (nuts, seeds, fresh or dried fruit, granola, protein powder, etc) so you can always feel good about what you’re offering.
Most important, keep it simple
When it comes to snack time, don’t overthink it. A few simple ingredients can create an afterschool snack your kids will love: a delicious quesadilla made with tortillas, cheese and a handful of spinach; a toasted slice of wholegrain bread topped with almond butter and sliced banana; Mexican rice balls made with leftover brown rice, cheese cubes and a handful of spices; a healthful parfait made by layering yoghurt, berry and granola in a glass or jar. You’d be surprised how simple it is to make your own fruit leather from peaches, strawberries or pineapple, and it lasts forever.
It may take a few tries to figure out what works best for you, but once you do, snack time can be something you actually look forward to rather than dread. McCord runs the website Weelicious. com, is the author of Weelicious and Weelicious Lunches and is the founder of the family-friendly organic-mealdelivery company, One Potato.
Mexican rice balls.
Peach fruit leathers.