After School (or Lunchbox) Snacks

After School (or Lunchbox) Snacks

With holiday season in full swing, sticking to a healthy snack routine is not easy.

If your family is like mine, your kids are always ravenous before, during and immediately after school. I’m not sure what it is about the school day that makes kids so hungry, but any parent will tell you that it’s a real thing. Here is a list of some of our favorite snacks to keep the hangries away. I hope they will be useful for you, too.

The most important advice I can give you is to wash and prep your food (if necessary) when you get home from the grocery store. I know it’s an extra step, but it may be the difference between your family reaching for healthy foods or you throwing away produce at the end of the week because it was never prepped in such a way that your kids could eat it.

Veggies + Dips
You can use any vegetables and dips (or no dips) that your family likes.  Try them in different combinations and you may be surprised at what you like.  Here are our faves:

Veggies:

  • cucumbers
  • sugar snap peas
  • baby carrots
  • cherry or grape tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • mini peppers or bell pepper strips

Dips:

  • ranch dressing
  • spicy ranch dressing (ranch + wing sauce)
  • hummus (they have so many great flavors)
  • guacamole (Wholly Guacamole brand is our fave)
  • pimento cheese (Palmetto brand is our favorite, especially the spicy version)

Fruits
There are so many delicious fruits available.  I try to rotate our favorites so we don’t get tired of them.  My kids also love trying new or unusual fruits so don’t be afraid to be adventurous in your choices.

Our standbys:

  • all berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberiesy, raspberry, etc…usually whatever is on sale)
  • seedless grapes
  • bananas
  • seedless watermelon
  • apples (we prefer honeycrisp)
  • cutie oranges
  • kiwi
  • peaches
  • pears
  • plums
  • nectarines
  • pineapples

Dairy
My kids think that flavored Greek yogurt is a dessert food. If you see them, please don’t tell them otherwise.  😉

Here are a few dairy options we keep handy:

  • string cheese
  • Babybell cheese wheels (my girls LOVE to peel them out of their wax coatings)
  • flavored Greek yogurts (watch the nutrition labels and avoid any with boatloads of sugars; we reach for Oikos or Dannon Light and Fit. If you’re concerned about additives, go with plain Greek yogurt and stir in your favorite fruit preserves)

Meats & Eggs
While no one will argue that deli meats are the pinnacle of nutrition, they ARE convenient. We often include them in our snack cycles.

  • deli meat (the least processed the better)
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • deviled eggs
  • jerkies (watch your nutrition labels)
  • tuna packs (these come in great flavors)

Convenience Foods
Sometimes you need something you can grab and go.  While these options may be more expensive or somewhat more processed, they are still good options in moderation.

fruit and vegetable squeeze pouches (baby food consistency but great for big kids or grownups)
P3 Snackers and Plates, Balanced Breaks, etc. (basically Lunchable-style snacks without crackers, cookies, etc)
fruit cups (opt for those in 100% juice when possible)
yogurt squeeze pouches (we love GoGo Squeez for yogurts and fruit + veggie combos)
protein bar (but check your nutrition label to be sure they’re really protein forward; we like Nature Valley protein bars but they do include soy protein, which is not my favorite)

In addition to buying healthy snacks, you also need to present them in such a way that your family will eat them.

Before you worry that I’m going to ask you to make Pinterest-worthy animal veggie art, let me explain:

  • Be sure snacks are cleaned, cut, and ready to be eaten.
  • Include a list of available snacks on the fridge or cupboard so your family knows what’s available.
  • Make it as convenient as possible to grab and go. For our family, that means shelf-stable snacks are in a clear plastic tote at kid level and refrigerated snacks are on the bottom shelf or drawer so they can serve themselves.
  • Eat healthy snacks with your family. No kid is going to buy the story that veggies and dip are cool if they watch you eating a Snickers while you serve them celery and pb.  Walk the talk and be aware of the example you’re setting.

I hope this list is helpful to you. Don’t worry if your kids won’t eat everything listed; just add a healthy option or two to your rotation as you slowly phase out the less favorable choices that may be lingering at your house.  Like everything else, establishing healthy snack habits is a process and the only goal is to eat a little better than you did last week.  Small changes over time will add up to HUGE successes.

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Ashley Stephens, Ed.D.

Guest Blogger Ashley Stephens is a Huntington native, Marshall graduate, wife and mom of 2 who found a new love of flipping family-friendly recipes into healthier versions. In addition to running an online nutrition education program, Ashley regularly hosts live cooking classes at Huntington’s Kitchen.