It’s about that time again. As we say goodbye to summer, there is much to prepare for — buying all the supplies on the list, getting back on track with a regular bedtime, signing up for sports leagues, music lessons, and more — snacks may not be top of mind just yet.
Getting back to school means needing healthy snacks to fuel you and your kids for after-school activities and studying.
So let’s set the tone for a great year to come. Here is our advice on planning the right snacks that will help power your kids through all their myriads of activities from now until next summer.
Planning is Important
When the snack attack strikes, be prepared. It’s easy to fall into the trap of giving kids prepackaged snacks like chips, string cheese, crackers, and sugary yogurts. Stock up on snack ingredients when you do your weekly shopping — your best bet is to have a week’s worth of snacks planned out, but just loading up on some snackable staples is good, too.
On Teaching Kids About Good Nutrition
Serving healthy snacks can be an excellent introduction to new foods, as well as a way to fill in some of the nutritional voids kids experience during the day.
If your kid won’t drink milk at school, for example, make sure they get some calcium after school. Think low-fat cheese or yogurt as part of their after-school snack. Incorporate some calcium-rich veggies into snack time; broccoli and hummus, for example, provide a good range of nutrients.
While most people would argue talking too much about calories might not create the healthiest environment for young eaters, consider making low-calorie after-school snacks for kids who don’t play sports and making more substantial bites for more active tots.
Think About Snack Timing
Consider this: your children are in school all day, generally wrapping things up around 3:00 pm. Younger kids may have a mid-morning snack, while older ones may not — so, chances are, most kids are famished after a long day of learning.
Give kids a little bit of protein coupled with a fruit or vegetable; this will tide them over for a few hours until dinner rolls around, while making sure you squeeze in the daily allotment of nutrients.
On the Go Options
Kids these days are busier than ever. Perfect for active kids with a lot on their plates, here are some ideas you can pack in little baggies or Tupperware containers.
Sports or programs at the local Y, lessons and tutoring sessions — kids have an awful lot going on and need to be fueled up for the whole day. Here are a few choices best enjoyed on the move:
Veggies and Bite-Sized Snacks
This is hardly a recipe, but that doesn’t make this option an any less excellent choice for busy parents who don’t want to skimp on nutrition. Get your Tupperware together and stock up on snack bags. At the beginning of each week, spend a bit of time chopping up celery, bell peppers, and slicing cheese. Assemble, and you have a bite-sized snack that requires very little foresight.
Do this while you’re making dinner or packing lunches—multiple birds, one stone.
Homemade Granola Bars
You can buy all kinds of granola bars at the store, but at $2.00+ a pop for the good stuff, they aren’t the most practical approach to feeding a family full of snackers. These homemade granola bars are the ideal snack for parents and kids alike — especially when you don’t have a ton of time to sit down and take it slow. To make it even better, you don’t need to bake these.
- 1/3 cup of almond butter
- 1/3 cup of agave syrup
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- 1 cup of almonds
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup of dried cherries
- 1/4 cup of walnuts
- 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup of flax seeds
- Grease a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- Add almonds, walnuts, dried cherries, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds to a mixing bowl, stirring gently.
- In a separate bowl, blend almond butter, agave, cinnamon, vanilla, oil, and salt. Microwave for about 30 seconds until the almond butter is melted, then whisk together to ensure ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Pour the almond butter/agave mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula.
- Add the granola mixture to a baking pan and cover with parchment paper. Press firmly to compact the bars. Place in the refrigerator and let cool overnight. Cut into bars or smaller bites and serve.
Fruit and Whole Grain Muffins
Nothing beats muffins when it comes to a snack you can take just about anywhere. This recipe makes 12 standard-sized muffins — that you can halve for smaller kids. If you make them on a Sunday night, you have a good chunk of the week’s snacks covered.
- 1 cup of frozen berries (any kind)
- 2 cups of whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup of almond milk
- 1/2 cup of rolled oats
- 1/2 cup of toasted wheat germ, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup of maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons of lemon zest
- 1/4 cup of canola oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray (or if you have them, those silicon muffin sleeves work great, too.)
- If you haven’t already thawed the frozen berries, place them in the microwave. Heat on high for about 1-2 minutes and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, wheat germ, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir gently.
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs with almond milk, lemon zest, canola oil and maple syrup.
- Combine the wet ingredients with the dry. Then stir with a spatula until both blends are thoroughly combined. Stir in berries, then spoon muffin batter into the greased tin.
- Place muffins in the oven for about 20 minutes. The tops should be a nice golden brown and should spring back when gently poked.
- Once finished, remove muffins from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.
- Remove from tin and store.
These snacks are cute, tasty, and best of all, portable. Whether kids are off to another practice or need something to tide them over during that long stretch of the afternoon, these bites are the ideal balance of sweet, savory, protein, and fiber.
- 2 Granny Smith apples
- 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons of unsweetened sunflower butter
- 3/4 teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoons of rolled oats
- 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
- Turn burner to medium-high, and combine oats and cinnamon in a skillet. Toast the dry mixture until oats are a golden brown. Set aside and let cool.
- Meanwhile, combine sunflower seed butter with honey, stirring gently until completely mixed.
- Core the apples, then cut each piece of fruit into six flat slices — these will be the “bread” for the sandwich.
- Spread the sun butter/honey mixture on half of the sliced pieces of apple and top with toasted oats and dried cranberries. Top off with the remaining apple slices.
Treats in Disguise
It’s no secret that most kids have a major sweet tooth. But, as a parent, it’s hard to strike the perfect balance between feeding kids something healthy and nourishing, and something that tastes good (we’re looking at you, frozen dinners). Below, we’ve put together a few recipes that taste like the treats little ones so often crave but offer some solid nutrition for parental peace of mind.
Blueberry and Spinach Smoothies
These green smoothies lean more toward the blue side of the color spectrum—colorful and kid-friendly—with a little spinach thrown in for good measure. This option is the perfect after-school snack for those days that the temperatures are still pretty warm and those kids have been running around all day. If you need something more substantial, swap out the coconut water for yogurt or milk of your choice.
- ½ cup of frozen berries
- ½ banana
- 1 ½ cups of coconut water
- ½ cup of fresh spinach
- ½ cup of frozen mango
- Combine banana, berries, mango, coconut water and spinach in a blender.
- Puree for about two minutes, or until ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Fruit and Yogurt Pops
Healthy, but deceptively so, these fruit and yogurt pops are a great way to squeeze in some protein—via Greek yogurt—and a little bit of tasty fruit. We’ve opted to use a frozen berry blend, but anything goes. Anybody with a working popsicle mold can put these guys together—and they’re sure to be a hit with parents and kids alike.
- 2.5 cups of berries (we think a mixed approach is best—raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, you name it.)
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 2 cups of Greek yogurt
- In a blender or food processor, add mixed berries, and blend until berries, break down, but are still a bit chunky.
- Place blended berries in a mixing bowl, add honey and stir. Add in the yogurt and loosely mix. These popsicles look best if you leave them a bit unblended since the swirls of berry have a tie-dyed look of sorts.
- Transfer mixture into popsicle molds and place in the freezer. For best results, freeze overnight — or a minimum of four hours.
- When ready to eat, place the popsicle molds under warm water to release them.
- This recipe makes about 4-6 popsicles depending on the size of molds.
Savory After-School Snack Ideas
Whether it’s a simple sandwich or a basic wrap, sometimes a “mini-meal” is just the thing kids need to power through the rest of the day. Here are a few super simple ideas to stir up some inspiration.
Turkey and Veggie Mini Wrap
It’s a basic delivery system for a little protein, some veggies, and a bit of hummus. Enjoy!
- 1 8” tortilla
- 1-2 slices of deli turkey
- ¼ cup diced tomato
- ¼ cup of diced cucumber
- About a handful of lettuce
- 2 tablespoons of hummus
- Spread hummus evenly over the tortilla.
- Add turkey and layer vegetables over the top.
- Roll tortilla into a wrap and serve.
Boost your traditional hummus with some healthy avocado fats. Serve with pita chips, sliced vegetables — carrots, celery, broccoli, whatever your kids love.
Bonus points, this dip doubles as the perfect spread for sandwiches and wraps, making it a great addition to tomorrow’s lunch.
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
- 1 large avocado, peeled, with pit removed
- 2 tablespoons of tahini
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chili flakes and pine nuts for garnish (optional)
- In the base of your standing mixer, add chickpeas, avocado, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Combine for about two minutes, on high, until contents have become smooth.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
Whole Wheat Quesadillas
Quesadillas are the perfect versatile snack for kids — pair cheese with just about anything, fry it up in a tortilla, and you’re good to go. They’re super quick to whip up in a pinch. Here is a recipe that will cut down on the “I’m hungry” between school and dinner.
- 2 whole wheat tortillas
- 1 teaspoon of oil or butter
- ¼ cup of shredded jack cheese
- ¼ cup of spinach
- Salsa, for dipping
- Grease a frying pan with the oil or butter, then place one of the tortillas in the pan and cover with spinach and jack cheese.
- Turn the burner to medium-high and let cook until cheese begins to melt, then cover with the other tortilla. Press together, and flip.
- Fry the quesadilla until the cheese is fully melted and the outside of the tortillas are slightly crispy.
- Remove the tortillas from the pan and slice into small wedges.
- Serve with a small cup of salsa for easy dipping.
Finally, Be the Example You Want to be for Your Kids
As parents, it can be hard to be the role model you want to be for your kids 24/7. But if your children see you skipping breakfast while you’re convincing them to eat their most important meal of the day, you may find yourself with a healthy-snacking challenge on your hands.
Yes, your kids are watching what you eat — guilty pleasures are a part of life, but excess habits like these around your children could be counterproductive. These recipes aren’t only for your kids; we hope that you can indulge in them too!
Learn More about Harrisburg Area YMCA
Now that we have plenty of good after-school snacks covered, it’s time to find those kiddies something to do in their off-time. At the Harrisburg Area YMCA, we provide a range of youth services to the community, from affordable after-school care to sports leagues like cheerleading, basketball, volleyball, football and more.
The Y is a great stepping-stone to get your children’s health habits from good to great! Call the Y at 717.232.2068 to learn more about signing up for our programs.