I remember when I was a kid I would race off the bus after school, run right in the kitchen and grab junk food to eat because I was so hungry. I would not eat the healthy dinner that my mom cooked for me because I was so stuffed from the ice cream, candy and chips that I ate after school.
Since I now have 3 children of my own, I didn’t want them to go down the same junk food path that I traveled when I was a kid. I decided that my kids’ daily snack attacks needed to become mini-meals for active children that need that afternoon lift.
So I decided to view snacks as the fourth meal of their day. After all, kids receive at least one-fourth of their calories from snacks. As with breakfast, lunch and dinner, the challenge at snack time became serving healthy foods that my children would eat. I smuggled nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains into old favorites and disguised them with skewers, science experiments, parfait glasses and crazy straws.
Here are some tips and recipes that you can use to make the fourth meal of the day another healthy and fun meal for your children.
Fruit and Cheese Kabobs
The protein in this kid-friendly snack keeps energy levels high until dinnertime. Sometimes, my kids like to stick salt-free pretzel sticks into cubes of cheese to make “Cheese Atoms”; but you can also make cheese more interesting to kids by cutting it into fun shapes with a cookie cutter and making kabobs with your favorite fruit.
My daughter loves to help me arrange vegetables to look like flowers. We use cucumbers and tomatoes for the flower, celery for the stem, spinach or lettuce for the leaves and we use carrot sticks to make a fence. Then my kids dip the veggies in hummus and they will love it!
Even my pickiest kids can’t resist fruit smoothies, which are naturally sweet and can be an excellent way to sneak nutrition into their diet. Add some bananas, strawberries, Greek yogurt and a little nut butter for a healthy source of calcium, fat and protein.
Give the kids a few slices of bread, lunch meat and cheese, and a couple of miniature cookie cutters to make tiny, fun-shaped sandwiches.
Pizza can be a perfectly healthy snack. Use half of a whole grain English muffin, a whole wheat pita, or a tortilla as a pizza crust. Let them smear on a bit of tomato sauce, add a light sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, and then top with chopped vegetables. Heat it up at in the oven at 350 for a few minutes and yummy pizza is served!
These are just a few easy recipes that your kids can help you make after school. All of the ideas are packed with nutrients rich foods, and good sources of fat and protein. Remember, healthy snacks don’t have to be bland and it’s another great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen.
Sarah Kuretzky, MA, CPT, CHHC