PRE­PARE EASY SNACKS FOR SOME AFTER-SCHOOL FUEL

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE - CATHER­INE MCCORD

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.

Dip­pity-do

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.

PIC­TURE: THE WASHINGTON POST / GO­RAN KOSANOVIC

Mex­i­can rice balls.

PIC­TURE: WASHINGTON POST / DUD­LEY M BROOKS

Peach fruit leathers.

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