5 Healthy After-school Snacks

By: Maria Trimarchi

Reward your little scholar with a healthy after-school snack.
Reward your little scholar with a healthy after-school snack.

We've all read the news: Diets that are high in refined sugars and calories -- from candy, soft drinks, fast foods and vending machine snacks -- have been shown to contribute to obesity in kids, and adults for that matter. It can be so easy for them to grab a bag of chips to snack on in the afternoon but, as research continues to show, simple carbohydrates aren't necessarily your kids' friends.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 80 percent of 10- to 15-year-olds who are overweight become obese adults by the age of 25. One way to be sure your kids are on a healthy track? Pay attention to how they snack.


The best after-school snacks are those that are full of protein and lots of complex carbohydrates, and we have five tasty suggestions to get the snacking started.

5: Yogurt

Yogurt is an easy, grab-and-go, nutritious snack that most kids find yummy. It's also a great source of calcium and vitamin D, and studies show eating it can boost a body's ability to build strong bones. While it's naturally packed with goodness, pay attention to the yogurt you buy -- avoid ingredients that you can't pronounce, artificial coloring and high-fructose corn syrup. Bring home organic, low-fat or non-fat varieties to keep this snack healthy.

Add honey for sweetness, and have fresh fruit and granola on hand for kids to add as toppers. Or whip up a yogurt smoothie that contains your child's favorite 100 percent pure fruit juice and fresh fruit.


Did You Know?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids drink no more than 6 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice a day.

4: Trail Mix

Trail mix is so easy to make, many health conscious families opt to make their own - especially since you can control what goes into the mix. A diverse, healthy base is a combination of dried fruits, mixed nuts and seeds.

Nuts contain magnesium, iron and zinc. Dried fruits, such as raisins and dried cranberries, are packed with antioxidants, fiber and carbohydrates. And seeds are a good source of minerals, protein and monounsaturated fat (good fat).


Mix in any variation of nuts -- peanuts, almonds, walnuts or cashews -- and seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Add pretzels or naturally dried banana chips for crunch.

Store your homemade trail mix in a sealed storage container or in sealed baggies for easy, after-school convenience.

3: Peanut Butter Sandwich

Peanut butter sandwiches are a long-standing snacking tradition, whether after school or as a midnight snack. Peanut butter is rich in both protein and fiber, and when you make the sandwich on whole wheat (or another whole-grain bread) you also increase the high-fiber carbohydrates. And that's all good news for kids.

Don't spoil little appetites, though. A half a sandwich will go a long way to satisfy after-school snack attacks.


For those worried about kids with nut allergies, swap peanut butter for other nut butters, found at groceries, health food stores and local farmer's markets. Shake up the sandwich world even further by swapping out the bread for whole grain mini waffles or rice cakes for a fun change.

Skip the Jelly

Peanut butter and jelly used to be the standard, but there are healthier options these days. Opt for sliced banana in its place or choose locally grown fruit spreads. These options are much lower in sugar.

2: Snack Kabobs

Perfect snacks should be not only healthy but also be easy to make. And kabobs fit that bill. Stack fruit and cheese on thin pretzel sticks, plastic drink skewers or long toothpicks for older kids for a fun take on a standard fruit and cheese plate.

Try strawberries, grapes, pineapple and cubes of Monterey Jack cheese, or swap the fruit for vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers. Don't stick to what we say, though -- these kabobs are perfect with whatever fruit, veggies and cheese your kids like best.


Add a good source of calcium to this snack with a small serving of low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese on the side for dipping.

Watch Those Serving Sizes

A child-sized serving of fruits and vegetables is approximately equal to the size of a tennis ball, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Food & Nutrition Service's Team Nutrition initiative.

1: Dips

Snacks should taste good but when they're fun, too, then you've hit it out of the ballpark. Kids (and adults, too!) love to dip. Whether it's fruits into yogurt, veggies into hummus or flax chips into salsa, you name it, they'll dip it. Tip: Keep the ranch dressing to a low-fat option, if you offer it.

Keep washed, snack-sized fruits and veggies on hand in the refrigerator along with dipping options. Use single-serving containers to pre-portion the amount that's served up -- and kids can easily serve themselves this way. And when you're shopping, ask the kids to help choose which fruits and veggies you buy -- if they picked them out, they're more likely to eat them.