Are your kids hungry when they get home from school? Is it OK to give kids an afternoon snack? Best Food Facts asked nutrition advisor Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD, about healthy snacks to fill the gap between school lunch and dinner time.
Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD: If your kids need to snack after school to tide them over until dinner – here’s a bit of coaching to pick the healthiest snacks. Choose snack foods rich in calcium, fiber, potassium and vitamin A.
Think of snacks as mini-meals with what I call a “Tasty Snack Trio” including:
- Protein foods (cheese, milk, yogurt, hard-boiled egg, hummus, slice of turkey or ham)
- Whole Grain foods (whole wheat crackers, granola cereal on yogurt, granola bars)
- Garden foods (fruits, vegetables)
- TIP: always cut up fruit so it’s easier to eat. Apple slices will disappear, while the whole apple may go uneaten.
Pair any snack with a cup of low-fat or fat-free milk and you’ll add eight grams of high-quality protein to your snack break, too.
So how much is enough for a snack? Well, it depends on the age of the child and how active they are. Generally, I like to recommend about 150 calories. As an example, add a handful of grapes or easy-to-peel clementine orange to a granola bar and you’re good to go.
To make choosing healthy snacks accessible and convenient, group crackers, nuts and granola bars in a basket on the kitchen counter. Place ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables, cheese sticks and yogurt in a bowl in the refrigerator. Organizing these mom-approved snacks helps kids win by fueling their bodies with the good nutrition and energy they need. It also helps take the guess work out of eating better.
Noted nutrition expert, award winning food journalist and television personality, and Best Food Facts advisor, Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian. Carolyn’s refreshing food philosophy and recommendations are captured in this column to help you Eat Better for Life!
Do your kids take a packed lunch to school?