“Mom, I’m home!…What can I have to eat?”
Children come home after a day of school hungry and looking for food. They have had a day of bustling activity with little time and attention spent on eating. In this day of maximizing learning and optimizing standardized test scores, nutrition in the school has suffered.
For a child, “after-school” is synonymous to hunger. Surely, those individually packaged, pre-portioned, calorie-controlled 100- calorie snack packs are perfect for the hungry student running up the driveway, right?
You child needs a power snack.
Unlike the power snack, low calorie snack packs are pervasive and have transcended generations. It is not uncommon to find them in school lunch boxes, diaper bags, the commuter lunch sack, and in America’s pantries.
Some believe that because they are pre-portioned and calorie-controlled, they must be good for us. However, for children who are hungry, they may not be the best choice.
Few children get full and satisfied after consuming one snack pack. When children are left feeling hungry, they proceed to other snacks or more snack packs to fill their bellies. After-school eating can turn into a scavenger hunt for food in an effort to feel satisfied, or full.
The result? Overeating and nutrient-poor choices.
If your pantry is replete with 100-cal snack packs, use them to your child’s advantage. Pair them with other healthy foods, such as a glass of milk (or milk substitute) or a piece of fruit and they can be part of a nutritious snack, and you may have peace until dinner-time!
Better yet, approach after-school snacking with a “mini-meal” mentality. This tactic may satisfy your child’s hunger and improve the overall nutrient quality of their diet.
Provide a wholesome “power snack”, one that includes a source of complex carbohydrate (fruit, vegetables, whole grains, or milk products) and a protein source such as nuts, peanut butter, deli meat, milk, yogurt, or cheese. Opting for healthy, whole foods will give your child a rich source of nutrients and help them to be physically and emotionally satisfied.
“Power snacks” pack a punch and may eliminate the feeding frenzy after school, and contribute to the overall nutritional quality of your child’s diet.
A good rule of thumb: include 2-3 food groups in your child’s power snack, and be sure to be aware of portion sizes.
Here are three examples to try this week:
- 1 mini-bagel with 2 tsp. peanut butter and 1/2 banana, sliced on top
- 1/2 sandwich (1 oz. turkey, lettuce, tomato, 1 slice whole wheat bread) with a small bunch of grapes
- 1 c. unsweetened cereal with ½ c. lowfat milk and 1 Tbsp. raisins
Need a planning tool or a fresh list of healthy snack ideas? Check out my new E-Guide, The Healthy Snack Planner for Kids!
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: November 12, 2009
Updated on: March 21, 2017