Guest column: Making healthy choices for after-school snacking
AAfter a day of reading, writing and arithmetic, school-aged children likely will want a snack when they get home to tide them over until dinner time. However, parents do not want their children to spoil their appetites.
Smart and healthy snacking can bridge the gap between meals.
When snacking is done properly it can keep your whole family energized. The trick is to provide snacks that are just filling enough to curb hunger pangs until dinner is ready. It also is a great idea to have snacks readily available that kids can get on their own. Fruit, string cheese, low-fat yogurt, cereal bars, graham crackers, whole-grain crackers, pretzels, light microwave popcorn and no-added sugar fruit bars are quick and easy snacks. Be sure to keep these snacks visible and easily accessible in the kitchen.
One of the key elements of snacking, as well as eating regular meals, is keeping an eye on portion size. Take the time to prepare single-serving snacks. Put single servings of acceptable snacks such as grapes or pretzels in the snack size zipper bags. Making single-serving snacks
readily available can help eliminate overeating that easily happens with a large bag of chips or crackers.
Many snacks such as yogurt, crackers, cheese sticks and applesauce can be purchased in single-serve size. These types of products are especially handy for families who are always on the go, however they will cost more. In addition, it’s important for parents to set a good example when it comes to snacking. Older children may ride their bicycles to the local convenience store and purchase snacks that aren’t healthy. By modeling good food choices, children are more likely to make wise choices for themselves.
When it comes to choosing a snack, encourage children to pick fruits or vegetables first. That way, if the snack reduces hunger at dinner time, at least they have had fruit and vegetable.
Another idea is peanut butter on rice cakes, apple slices, celery sticks, pretzels or crackers. A selection of fruit coupled with wooden skewers can make great tasting fruit kabobs for children.
Keep in mind that younger children will need adult supervision when putting the fruit or vegetables on the skewers. Healthy dips are another way to encourage kids to fruits and vegetables. Vanilla yogurt makes a fun dip for the fruit. Fresh vegetables can be used with a healthy dip, such as hummus.
Children will be exercising their brains during the school day and at home while doing homework. It is important to remember physical exercise also is important, especially when coupled with healthy eating. Even if your child has a lot of homework, encourage at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day after school.
When done correctly, healthy snacking can help with weight control and prevent sharp fluctuations in blood sugar. Simply making the snacks healthy and accessible are important elements of a successful school year.
Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local Governments Cooperating: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.