It is easiest to just plop your child down in front of the television after school with a cup of ramen or some sweet snack cake. However, you are setting them up for disaster later in life. Our society has reached a point where if we do not install healthy eating habits early in our children, they will fall prey to all the delicious, but unhealthy alternative foods in life. A good way to encourage healthy eating for our children is through the after school snack.
There is a lot of time between lunch hour at school and dinner at home, your child needs a healthy snack to keep their metabolism and energy up. I know, we all can't be those moms who have nothing to do but dote over their children, but many of these healthy snack options can be prepared ahead of time in bulk. As your child gets old, maybe you can talk (or pay) them into making these snacks for themselves before the week starts.
Let us start at the basics, shall we? The sandwich roll is a great snack option especially if you want to keep your child from filling up before dinner on a sandwich. All you do is pile all your favorite sandwich toppings onto a whole wheat tortilla and roll them up. Cut the rolled up concoction into about 1/2 an inch pieces and serve. Because of the lack of filling bread, your child will get all those nice vitamins and nutrients from the sandwich filling, but not be full up for dinner. Just make sure whatever you put in there rolls up well. Tomato may be great, but it does not roll very well. If you really must have it, cut it very thin to make it flexible.
Granola is a great breakfast, lunch and snack food. Depending on what you put in it, it can have a lot of good energy boosters to support and active lifestyle. You can mix it in healthy Greek yogurt or encourage water drinking by giving it to them dry to snack on.
To make a basic granola mix 3 cups of rolled oats, chopped mixed nuts, 1/4 a cup of shredded coconut, a pinch of both salt and cinnamon. Mix with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons of honey and spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes at 325 degree then cool and crumble the mixture. You can then add some dried fruit if you would like. You can add just about any kind of oat, nut, seed or dried fruit to the granola. Just make sure that the dried fruit or raisins are added after baking.
Usually pretzel sticks, you know, the ones covered in melted chocolate and nuts are reserved for serving on holidays with a nice cookie platter. However, there is a healthier alternative that you can serve as an after school snack.
Dip one on of the pretzel stick in creamy peanut butter then roll in chopped nuts. You can also add a few small chocolate chips if you want to give them that extra bit of sweetness. The peanut butter and the nuts are a great source of energy and the pretzels are infinitely healthier than the potato chip as they are high in carbohydrates and low in fat. If you don't want to use pretzel sticks, try doing this with apple slices!
Peanut Butter Crackers
The peanut butter cracker was, and still is, a staple at my house for snack time. However, eating just some peanut butter on a saltine everyday can get a little bland. While peanut butter is a great source of energy and protein, you can still amp it up a little bit. Once you have made your peanut butter cracker, add a thin slice of apple and just a dollop of honey on top. You can also really mix things up by using strawberry slices instead of apple. This give this classic snack a good variety of flavor and texture. It keeps things from getting boring and shows you put just a little bit of love into making a snack for your children.
After school snacks don't always have to be food, and the fruit smoothie does not always have to be an after school snack. It is an excellent kickstarter for breakfast as well. A simple fruit smoothie starts with adding 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, 1 frozen banana, and 1/4 a cup of orange juice to a blender. Blend until smooth and serve. If your child has a strawberry allergy or your are trying to mix things up, try adding blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries.
Defrost some bread dough or buy some fila dough and cut into roughly 3 inch circles. Fill these with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, brush the edges with eggs, then fold in half and seal. Sprinkle a little parmesan on top the back for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. These little homemade treats are a great alternative to the microwaveable greasy pizza pops you find in stores.
This snack is not limited to pizza though. You can stuff jam and cream cheese, ricotta and apple, or cheddar and broccoli into that dough and make a whole bunch of lovely snacks. mix and match some things and find one your child really likes.
I know what you are thinking. How in the world can brownies be healthy? There is a reason I call these brownie lies. It is because I am a master of cooking for children and hiding vegetables in food. All brownie lies require is a batch of your favorite brownie mix and 1 cup of shredded zucchini. Add the zucchini to the batter and then bake. Zucchini is a wonderful source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. Since one cup of zucchini only has about 36 calories, it is a great low calorie food to sneak into things.
The brownies may not be very healthy by themselves, but sneaking in some zucchini makes them a little bit better when your child has a killed sweet tooth.