Don't Just Snack, Snack Smart!
Question for the Registered Dietitian (RD)
“My child gets a snack at the after school program but by the time I pick him up he says he is starving”!! “He usually ends up eating another snack while I am trying to get dinner prepared”. “Is this too many snacks”?
At the end of a busy work day, it’s hard to fend off those desperate snack requests from your “starving” child. Unfortunately the scenario you describe plays out daily in homes everywhere… and here is why.
A quick glance at the on-line menus for the local public school district reveals after school snacks that are heavily processed and carbohydrate based, such as cereal bars, marshmallow treats, cheese flavored crackers, etc. Sugar (in the form of juice) is unfortunately often served with the after school snack. These snacks provide no lasting satiety and in fact tend to PROMOTE hunger according to a 2013 Boston Children’s Hospital study. Soon after eating sugary or refined carbohydrate based snacks, blood sugar levels surge. The pancreas jumps into action by pumping out insulin to help quickly lower blood sugar levels. It’s no wonder that parents everywhere are greeted with the words, “I’m starved!!”
Healthful, satisfying snacks that are packed with needed protein and fats (such as the ones listed below) are far more likely to hold kids over until dinner time.
sliced apple with peanut butter or almond butter
raw veggies with hummus
tuna salad or cheese served with 4 or 5 high fiber crackers (choose a cracker made without harmful partially hydrogenated oils)
cottage cheese (sprinkle with cinnamon and serve with a few apple or pear slices)
handful of nuts or sunflower seeds
black or green olives and string cheese
small dish of mixed fruit, topped with a handful of chopped nuts
Greek yogurt (NOT fat free).Top with chopped nuts for additional protein and heart healthy fats.
Roasted chick peas.Here is the recipe for this tasty and filling snack: http://www.chopchopmag.org/content/roasted-chickpeas-0
Inquire about sending your own snack for after school. There are several good options which do not require refrigeration such as:
Home - made trail mixes with nuts, seeds and a small amount of dried fruit.
Easy, home- made, protein packed cheese crisps. Make these ahead and store tightly covered. Recipe below:
Step 1: Place 2 Tbs. of shredded cheese (any kind) on a microwave safe plate.
Step 2: Flatten the pile of cheese
Step 3: Microwave on HIGH for about 1 ½ minutes, or until edges are browned
Step 4: When plate is cool enough to handle, slip a butter knife under it to remove.
Managing Your Child’s Voracious Hunger While You are Trying to Get Dinner on the Table:
After arriving home, consider serving your child the salad component of the meal.This can be an effective strategy to help take the edge off of your child’s hunger while you finish up with dinner.
If salad is not available, simply offer a few assorted raw veggies with dip such as hummus or a bit of full fat ranch dressing.
While it is definitely OK (and good) for kids to nosh on veggies, do NOT allow yet another heavily processed carb based snack item while waiting for their meal to be ready!