Friday, September 15, 2006

After School Snacks

By Brandi M. Seals

When kids get home from school, it seems inevitable that they are hungry. Be prepared next time your kids are seeking snacks. Sure, you could rely on a package of fruit snacks and a soda to hold them over, but why not get them interested in healthy snacks now. Good eating habits are developed early in life, start your kids off right by giving them delicious, easy snacks that are good for them.

Celery sticks are a great option for most kids. They are crunchy, easy to prepare and are almost always ready. Simply chop celery into thin stick that can be nibbled on. Celery is also a great option because digesting celery actually uses more calories than the celery contains.

If your kids will not go for the plain green sticks, try dressing them up a bit. Celery sticks can be used with veggie dip, spread with a thin layer of peanut butter, or used in a salad.

Really any fruits or vegetables your kids love will work as great snacks. Some hold up better longer. For example, grapes tend to have a better shelf life then kiwi. Plus, they can be prepared in advance. Wash them and take them off the vine so the grapes are ready to go whenever your kid is.

Always do as much preparation in advance as possible. Wash all fruits and veggies when you bring them home. Some things like celery and carrots can be sliced in advance and still stay good for a time. This will save time when your kids want a snack. It also helps them out if they are returning to an empty house.

For some added variety in their diets, try keeping some apple sauce on hand. It now comes in single serving sizes and offers a variety of flavors. There is strawberry apples sauce, pear apple sauce, and much more to choose from. You can also get individual fruit cups for your kids. They come prepackaged and are available at any grocery store. Keep in mind though, that it would be cheaper to buy canned fruit that has multiple servings then the pre-packaged indy servings.

If eaten in moderation, cheese makes an excellent choice. It provides tons of calcium and most kids like cheese. To save on calories, try buying low fat cheese. You can get cheese sticks, shredded cheese, or cheese crumbles for the kids to snack on. If you want to save a little money, go ahead a buy a block of cheese, just cut it up into child-sized portions or shred it. Of course, if your child is lactose intolerant you will want to buy soy cheese or otherwise avoid this snack.

Nuts are another great snack, but since they tend to be high in fat, they should be eaten in moderation. Go with almonds, peanuts, cashew or whatever your child likes. They are so easy that all you have to do is take the lid off and they are ready to go.

If your kids love potato chips, try switching them to pita chips or pretzels. Pretzels are low in fat and make a tasty treat. You can buy all different shapes of pretzels, find one your kid likes and stick with it. You can also get giant soft pretzels that just require a quick zap in the microwave.

Pita chips are another excellent alternative. You can buy them pre made from most grocery stores or make your own at home. First buy or make some pita bread. Then cut it up into bit sized pieces. Sprinkle the pieces with some olive oil and the seasonings of your choices. Pop them in the oven until they are crisp.

Keep in mind that fresh food is always the best health-wise. You can keep your kids for eating unnecessary preservatives, added sugars and salt. However, fresh does not work for everyone's lifestyles. Just try to keep healthy foods on hand for your kids to eat. Look at labels and compare. You might be surprised to find that several juices and juice boxes have nearly as much sugar as soda. If you kid has been sipping on these all day, chances the sugar will take its toll eventually.

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