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Monday, August 26, 2013

The Art of After-school Snacking

Remember the story of Goldilocks - too small, too big, just right?  That is the goal when it comes to after-school snacking.  I remember coming home from high school and eating an entire quart of peaches (ah the joys of teenage metabolism), but one or two peach halves for my grade schooler may be too much.  So let me throw out a couple guidelines when it comes to after school snacking:
  • Keep it snack sized.  This obviously changes as your child grows, and may vary quite a bit from day to day as their appetite waxes and wanes.  But try to teach your child that a snack is just that - not a meal.  You should eat enough just to take the hunger away, not enough to feel full.   That way, they aren't hitting the pantry all afternoon, and they will be hungry again for dinner.  Remind them that they should be hungry again in a couple hours when it comes time for family dinner. 
  • Think beyond treats.  If we are to get in 9 servings of fruits and veggies each day, or follow the Choose My Plate guidelines, we should make half of our snacks fruits and veggies as well as our meals.  I generally let my kids choose their own snacks if they approve it with me, but I always let them know that the crackers, or the granola bar are fine as long as they eat a fruit or veggie with it.  
  • Add protein for those extra hungry tummies.  A spoonful of peanut butter, a piece of cheese or even some nuts can add that little bit of protein that active kids need to get them through gymnastics or soccer practice.  Even a glass of milk with their snack can do the trick.  The protein will sustain them longer than just carbohydrates will.
  • Stock up on smart snack options.  Whole-wheat english muffins, crackers or bread that provides 3 or more grams of fiber per serving will generally let you work some whole-grain servings into snack time.  Replace the cookie jar with a fruit bowl.  Keep fruits, veggies and water visible and handy.  Choose higher-fiber, lower-sugar cereals on hand for a great go-to snack.  Add in some fresh fruit and viola!
The internet is full of darling, cutesy, snack ideas for those willing to put the extra time and effort in.  But when it comes down to it, sitting down to listen to your child's day over a bowl of nuts and some grapes probably shows more love on an emotional and healthful level than the cutest cut-out cookies ever will. 

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