Afterschool snacking success

Tips to maximize your child’s afterschool snacks.

Milk and cookies used to be the standard afterschool snack. But, times have changed. With parents worrying about health concerns, children coming home from school hungry to an empty house and the prevalence of unhealthy foods in kid’s diets, afterschool snacks are an important part of kid’s nutrition.

Snacks are important vehicles to put important nutrients into kid’s bellies. It can be difficult to fit all the fruits and vegetables recommended in just three meals a day, so we must take advantage of snack-time to squeeze in important nutrients. Vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, potassium and many micronutrients are found in vegetables and fruit that children need for growth and to maintain health. For children ages six through 11, recommended amounts are 2.5 cups of vegetables and 1.5 cups of fruits per day. Including a vegetable at every snack will insure that your child is getting what their body needs.

Begin by asking for input from your children. Discuss why we need to include more vegetables into our snacks (helps us grow, helps us fight off germs so we don’t get sick, helps our eyesight, skin, nails and hair stay healthy, gives us energy so we feel good and can play and learn, etc.) Then ask your children for their top five vegetables and add them to your grocery list. Frozen veggies and canned low-sodium vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh. For some children with texture issues, the softer canned veggies may be easier for them to accept. Others may prefer raw, crunchy vegetables. Listen to what they prefer and start with what they already like, rather than forcing them to try all new foods or foods they do not care for.

If your children come home hungry to an empty house and must find their own snacks, Michigan State University Extension says to create an environment that guarantees your children will choose healthy snacks. It is important for children to have choices; just make sure they are not required to choose between a sweet treat and healthy foods. Limit the number of sweet treats (once in a while foods) available in your home. Create a special snack corner in the refrigerator where you keep cheese sticks, prepped, cut and washed veggies with dip, single serving yogurt, portioned out grapes in snack bags. Do the same in the pantry; use a plastic container to keep snack-bags with crackers, nuts, dried fruit and cereal. Rather than taking the whole box of crackers, they just need to grab a snack bag when they come home.

By using these simple suggestions, you will be setting your child up for afterschool snacking success.

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