When hungry kids need an after-school snack, it is tempting to grab any quick commercial treat. Instead, consider the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Choose My Plate" dietary plan when deciding what foods to offer. You might notice, for example, that your child is not eating the half plate of fruits and vegetables at every meal recommended in the "Choose My Plate" plan. If so, include them in daily snack choices and take note that healthier snack choices do not require more time to prepare.
Grains are probably one of the easiest healthy snack choices to provide. Make a large airtight container of snack mix from granola and dried fruit. Kids can grab a handful and place them in a zippered plastic bag to eat while doing homework. Toast cheese on whole grain bread or English muffins. Spread peanut or almond butter on whole grain rice crackers and sprinkle with dried cranberries.
Fruit is another kid favorite and a simple, quick snack ingredient. Make frozen fresh fruit puree ahead of time for after-school snacking. Puree chunks of fresh fruit in a blender and freeze in small paper cups with craft stick handles stuck in the center. Have kids help make fresh fruit kabobs of banana and grapes to freeze. Roll bananas in yogurt and crushed granola, then freeze. Keep fresh fruit chunks in the refrigerator and have kids eat them with whipped cream cheese dip.
Kids may be disgruntled with plain vegetables for a snack, so use them in a variety of ways. Thinly slice vegetables and serve them on a tray with bean dip. Beans add substantial protein and fiber to the snack. Help kids stuff pita bread with shredded vegetables, cheese and ranch dressing for a portable and nutritious snack on the go.
Protein and Dairy
Protein intake should be less than a quarter of each meal, according to dietary guidelines. If kids need a protein boost, try oven-baked chicken breast chunks coated in Parmesan cheese, salad dressing mix for seasoning and bread crumbs. Nuts also add protein. Eat them alone or stir them into yogurt, granola or snack mix. Buy light or whipped yogurt and freeze for a cool snack treat. Add hard cheese to sandwiches, kabobs or vegetable snacks to increase dairy and calcium nutrition.
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