The kids have headed back to school and you know what that means—they’ll be hungry when they get home. But before you reach for the cookie jar, try adding these dietitian-approved after school snacks into your routine. Easy to prepare, rich in nutrition, and kid-approved, these snack ideas will fuel your little one’s body while filling their belly at the same time.
Why are nutritious after school snacks important?
Every parent knows that a hungry child equals a cranky child. And that cranky little one will repeatedly ask when dinner is ready until you can’t take it anymore. Providing a filling after school snack can help to solve this problem, but that isn’t the only benefit snacking provides. “Children have small stomachs, but their bodies are undergoing major growth and development. Because of this, snacking is a great way for them to get much-needed nutrients throughout the day,” explains Chrissy Carroll, MPH, RD, at Dairy Free for Baby.
A balanced after school snack can provide your child with the energy and nutrients they need to refuel after a busy school day, while allowing you to incorporate exposure to new foods in a fun and stress-free way. (Note that it could take up to 10 to 12 exposures for a child to accept a new food. Don’t feel discouraged if your child refuses after only one or two attempts!)
Not sure what snacks are best? Here are five easy after school snack ideas that nutrition experts rely on to feed their families.
The Hummus Platter
As a busy mom, dietitian Kelsey Lorencz, RDN, of Graciously Nourished knows a thing or two about after school snacking. Her go-to is to create a snack plate balanced with a variety of fresh vegetables, fruit, and hummus as a dip. “Providing children with a few options to choose from lets them practice tuning into what sounds good and make independent choices,” Lorencz says. And regardless of what options they pick, this snack platter is sure to provide them with the nutrition their bodies need. “I love that they’re getting a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins, and minerals no matter what options they choose.”
To make a hummus platter at home, arrange a colorful display of washed and sliced raw vegetables along with fresh fruit and whole grain crackers. Place your family’s favorite hummus dip in the center or experiment with a variety of hummus flavors to offer even more choices.
The DIY Trail Mix Station
What kid wouldn’t want to come home to a build-it-yourself trail mix station? This after school snack is Carroll’s go-to, especially when friends come to visit. “This snack provides carbohydrates along with healthy fats and protein to create a satiating snack that will tide them over to dinner,” she recommends. “Plus, it gives your kiddos a little independence to create their own fun flavor combos.”
To make your own trail mix station at home, Carroll recommends setting up bowls of low-added-sugar cereal, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and air-popped popcorn. (Remember to be conscious of any nut allergies.)
“Let the kids take a bowl and build their own trail mix with the ingredients they’d like to combine,” she says. “As a bonus, mix all the leftover ingredients and portion them into zip top baggies for easy grab-and-go snacks throughout the next week.”
Mini Pizza Bagels
Has there ever been a kid who said “no” to pizza? If you have a pizza lover at home, these mini pizza bagel snacks will be a huge hit after a long day at school. Dietitian Kelly Sloan, MS, RD, recommends these easy-to-prepare snacks as a great way to boost your child’s nutrition intake. “These are packed full with fiber, calcium, protein, vitamins, and minerals that are important nutrients for bone growth, energy, and brain function.”
To make simple pizza bagels at home, slice a mini bagel in half and top with marinara sauce, shredded cheese, and colorful vegetables. “I recommend using yellow or green bell pepper, zucchini, and red onion,” adds Sloan. Then simply toast until the cheese has melted and serve warm. You can even experiment with toppings as a way of exposing your child to a variety of vegetables such as mushrooms, broccoli, or kale. When a new food is combined with a food your child feels comfortable with, like pizza, they may be more willing to try it.
Both Carroll and Lorencz recommend yogurt as an easy and nutritious after school snack. Whether you choose a plant-based yogurt, traditional yogurt, or protein-rich Greek yogurt, keep an eye on the Nutrition Facts panel on the label. “Look for flavored varieties with less added sugar, or create your own ‘flavored’ yogurt by microwaving frozen berries and mixing those with plain yogurt,” explains Carroll.
Serve yogurt alone or let your child experiment with a variety of nutritious toppings. Fresh or frozen fruit, chopped nuts, or even chia seeds can be sprinkled onto yogurt to add flavor as well as provide a source of fiber and nutrition.
Turkey Avocado Roll-ups
Want to take your after school snack on-the-go? These turkey avocado roll-ups are the perfect option. “Using a whole grain tortilla, spread softened cream cheese evenly over the tortilla and top with deli slices of turkey and pieces of avocado. Wrap like a burrito and cut in half or into pieces for easy grab and go,” explains Sloan. Looking for a dairy-free option? Try hummus—or your preferred spread—instead of cream cheese.
The combination of lean protein in the turkey with healthy fats in the avocado will help your child feel satisfied for hours to come, which means they may finally stop asking that dreaded question: “Is dinner ready yet?”
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.