How can I choose healthy after-school snacks for my child?

Diadra Harnden, a registered dietician with College Park Family Care Center and HCA Midwest Health, shares some healthy options for after school snacks.
Erin Palinski
Nutrition & Dietetics
Here are a few tips to help you make the best choice when choosing an after-school snack:
  • Look for a snack that contains a good source of whole grains, is high in fiber (3 or more grams), and contains little to no added sugars. For instance, if you want to give your son or daughter cheese and crackers after school, choose a cracker made from 100% whole grain, such as 100% rye crisps or stone wheat crackers.
  • If you need the snack to keep your child full for more than two hours, choose a snack high in lean protein or healthy fats. Both protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates, making snacks high in these nutrients long lasting. Consider snack choices such as low-fat string cheese, natural peanut butter, or even lean deli meats.
  • Concerned about calories? If your child needs to lose or maintain his body weight, it is important to provide him with healthy, lower-calorie snack options. However, to do this and still keep your child satisfied can be tricky. Aim for snacks that are large in volume but low in calories, such as air-popped popcorn (3 cups = 100 calories), fresh fruit (1 medium piece of fruit provides approximately 80 calories), or raw vegetables with two to three tablespoons of hummus or low-fat dip. Not only are these snacks low in calories, they are also loaded with healthy fiber, helping to keep your child satisfied until dinner.
  • Have a picky eater? Encourage your child to try new fruit and vegetable options by providing fun dip options such as applesauce, peanut butter, and low-fat yogurt.
To choose a healthy after-school snack for your child, steer clear of high-sugar, high-fat treats, like candy bars, cookies and chips. These foods won’t keep your child satisfied for very long and are full of empty calories. So she won't ask for junk food, don't keep it in the house. Instead, stock up on nutritious foods that are high in fiber (to help keep her full until dinnertime) and low in fat and calories. These kinds of snacks don't have to be boring for kids. Here are some examples of nutritious, kid-friendly after-school snacks:
  • popcorn
  • cut-up veggies with a dip like hummus or guacamole
  • smoothies made from fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt
  • a yogurt parfait (layers of vanilla yogurt, low-fat granola and fresh fruit)
  • apple or pear slices dipped in peanut butter
  • whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and berries
  • a whole-grain English muffin with a sliced tomato and cheese melted on top

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.