Healthy after school snacking

Early lunch hours and long bus rides are the makings of hungry kids; here are some hints to healthy after school snacks.

The bus pulls away from the driveway, the door pops open and the first words heard are – “what is there to eat?” A second scenario that may have occurred at your house goes something like this: Your kids have been home for over an hour when you arrive. You begin gathering ingredients for dinner only to discover what you placed in the refrigerator this morning has been reduced to a single serving.

What to do now? It’s already after 6 p.m. Do you call for a pizza order? Gather everyone and head for the nearest fast food restaurant? Maybe this time, but before this happens again reach for paper and pencil. Putting a plan together is your best defense for providing healthy snacks and nutritious meals, and don’t forget to include the kids. Working the plan out together will help eliminate finding remnants of dinner in the refrigerator when you arrive home. Focus not only on what not to eat, but what can be eaten after school. Stock up on small plastic bags or covered containers to house snacks. Pick a time for a family meeting to discuss meals and snacks. If your kids are old enough to stay home alone after school, they are old enough to get dinner started, even if that means setting the table.

After the discussion, post a written plan for all to see. Line everyone up and begin filling containers or bags with allowable after school snacks. This is a great teachable moment; discuss the difference between certain snack foods by pointing out amounts of fats and sugars. Another valuable lesson to focus on is portion sizes. What is a serving? A vegetable serving is a 1/2 cup, unless you are considering leafy greens such as spinach or kale, then it’s a full cup. A fresh fruit serving is one cup, but if you choose to eat dried fruit switch to a 1/2 cup. Get in the habit of reading food labels and consult the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for more nutrition information.

The following list is just the beginning of what you can choose for low calorie snacks that won’t ruin dinner:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on one piece of bread
  • One boiled egg
  • 1/2 a large bagel with cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of yogurt
  • Hummus with pita chips
  • 1 cup of ready-made cereal
  • 1 piece of string cheese
  • Cottage cheese with two peach slices


  • One banana
  • Six strawberries
  • Two plums
  • 15 grapes
  • One apple
  • One peach
  • 1/2 cup of orange or other fruit juice


  • Five broccoli florets
  • 10 baby carrots
  • One Roma tomato
  • 3/4 cup tomato juice
  • 3/4 cup vegetable juice
  • Half a baked sweet potato

The whole family will appreciate the effort of this plan and you’ll be providing more than just a great snack; you’ll be taking away the temptation to eat high fat and sugar products by eliminating them from your cupboards and providing basic nutrition information for family members to make healthy choices. Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for more information on nutrition for families and individuals, as well as nutrition education classes.

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