I love having tons of kids in my house, so when my boys ask for after-school play dates, I always say “YES! And as soon as we get home, I serve a snack — something that satisfies their hunger without ruining dinner. On school days, my kids eat lunch at 11:00 a.m. so by the time they get home at 3:30, they’re famished. But, we also eat dinner early (5:30 or 6:00) so I don’t want to stuff them with heavy fare. I consider snacks mini opportunities to eat healthy foods, things you can’t squeeze into regular meals. When you think of snacks as mini meals, you’re likely to keep them balanced (with low-fat protein, fruits, veggies and complex carbohydrates). Would you serve potato chips for dinner? Cookies? Of course not. So don’t serve them as snacks. My kids adore the goodies below and I bet yours will too. Each has the ideal blend of protein, carbs and healthy fats, plus important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that come along for the ride. Please let me know how your kids like them and share some of your favorites!
Instant Strawberry Cheesecake: Whisk together 2 tablespoons softened light cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese and 1 teaspoon seedless strawberry or raspberry preserves. Spread the mixture on graham crackers and top with fresh strawberry slices or fresh raspberries.
Whole-Grain Crackers With Melted Mozzarella and Grape Tomatoes: Top whole-grain crackers with part-skim mozzarella cheese, place crackers under the broiler and broil until cheese melts. Top with thinly sliced grape or cherry tomatoes (kids prefer grape and cherry tomatoes because they’re sweeter than other tomatoes).
Rice Cake Cheddar Nachos: Top white cheddar rice cakes with mild salsa and shredded cheddar cheese, place rice cakes under the broiler and broil until cheese melts. My kids also like black olives on theirs.
Caramel Corn Rice Cake With Peanut Butter and Banana: Top caramel corn rice cakes with peanut butter and banana slices.
Yogurt-Cereal Parfait: Layer in a glass low-fat or Greek yogurt, whole grain cereal or granola and fresh berries.
My kids also love these snacks and so I serve them regularly:
Carrot sticks and green beans with light ranch dip
Fresh guacamole with baked tortilla chips
Dried cranberries, cherries and raisins
Almonds, pistachios and peanuts
Whole grain pretzel sticks dunked in peanut butter
Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.