"America's Dinner Mom" Jeanne Muchnick gives parents healthy snack ideas to serve their hungry kids after school - say goodbye to the grumpies!
Do you stash snacks in your car to dole out on the way to Tae Kwon Do? Stuff them in the stroller as you head to the park? Find them unearthed at the bottom of your purse...from who-knows-when? With our kids always on the go, what we give them to keep their energy up is as important as ever.
For many kids, when they walk in the door from school, lunch was eons ago (often 11am or earlier) and dinner is yet hours away. This means you need to offer them something that will fill them up and keep them satiated. After all, a hungry child is a grumpy child - and a really hungry kid (especially toddlers and moody tweens) is a meltdown in the making.
Make it easy.
I'm all about convenience and store-bought shortcuts (think packaged cheeses, on-the-go-yogurts and pre-cut veggies and fruits). I also believe in easy access. That means making the snacks you want your child to eat accessible in either a "snack drawer" or section of your pantry, or simply placing items eye level in the fridge. In other words, don't go to the grocery store and then place carrots in the crisper where you still need to cut them up. Slice them, cut them into bite-sized pieces and store in a clear airtight container or plastic bag where your child can see them and access them.
Love your freezer - I do. If you make extra portions, there's always something ready to defrost. Frozen grapes or bananas make great portable snacks, especially if you're headed straight from school to a playground or have a long walk/ride before getting to your destination on a hot summer day.
Keep it fun.
Younger kids especially like foods in unexpected containers as well as things they can stick or stack. For toddlers, I prefert finger-sized snacks like raisins, cut-up bananas, and applesauce.
Don't forget the power of dipping: A plate of crunchy produce in front of a child might not get much action, but give them some dipping options like hummus, ranch dressing, peanut butter, salsa, or even a little melted chocolate or caramel-topping, and watch out!
Why not let them play with their food? Allowing younger children to construct their own snacks makes them more likely to try new foods while also giving them ownership over their choices. My picks: English muffins they can make mini-pizzas out of, frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, or a selection of fruit piled onto frilled toothpicks to make fruit kabobs.
Mix things up.
Surprise the kids with breakfast foods. Pancakes, waffles (you can make a waffle sandwich!), or scrambled eggs are unexpected but satisfying after-school options. Egg salad and deviled eggs are also a breeze with eggs that are already prepared.
Another idea? Smoothies with fruit, yogurt, ice cream, milk, or ice. Make this an easy alternative by keeping your blender on the counter so kids can help themselves (age-permitting).
And make use of those leftovers! That chicken or lasagna you had last night is a great microwavable snack for a hungry and typically rushed tween or teen. (Again, keep it in an accessible place in the fridge so your kids actually see it.)
Lead by example.
The days of milk and cookies (the go-to snack of my youth) have become a thing of the past as we strive to teach our children better eating habits. Show your kids that you, too, enjoy carrots with hummus or apples dipped in peanut butter. They will follow your lead.
|Jeanne Muchnick is the author of the recently released Dinner for Busy Moms, which includes plenty more advice for how to get healthy meals on the table, even if you're not a cook. The mom of two picky-eating daughters lives in Larchmont, NY, and has also written for Parents and Woman's Day. Visit www.thedinnermom.com to learn more.