August is back-to-school time all over the Tri-State—and with it comes a more hectic pace, jam-packed family schedules and structured weekday routines.
As you're managing your kids' get-ready-for-the-classroom tasks, now's a great time to get organized with meals and snacks as well. (Here are 7 Smart Ways to Streamline Your Grocery Shopping.)
As kids are getting into the groove of school and activities, use this opportunity to plan out smart snacks they can dig into when they get home to stave off the hungries before dinner.
Experts suggest that younger kids and physically active older kids should generally eat two snacks per day (along with three balanced meals). Remember that snacks count toward your child's overall daily food intake, so go for food that's high in nutritional value for the calories. Snacks should generally be about 100 calories. Consult your child's pediatrician to discuss daily calorie needs, or use this online calorie chart based on age, activity level and gender.
Snacks are best eaten at least two hours after the previous meal and one to two hours before the next—this helps keep kids energized but doesn't ruin their appetites.
A genius idea for kid-friendly snacking is to dedicate a large drawer in the refrigerator and a bin in the pantry; portion out healthy foods in containers and let kids help themselves without having to ask you if there's anything in the kitchen to eat. Set guidelines—for example, tell kids they can pick one or two items between school and dinner.
Inventory and restock the snack stash once a week, and rotate items from time to time to keep things interesting. Use small, reusable containers like 4- or 8-ounce Mason jars with plastic lids or zip-top plastic bags. Make sure to have plenty of bottled water for kids to grab, too.
Here are 10 healthy snack ideas to make for kids this back-to-school season:
- Fruit or veggie kabobs: Skewer 3 or 4 pieces of fruit (grapes, pineapple, orange segments, strawberries, raspberries) or vegetables (cherry tomatoes, cucumber rounds, lightly steamed broccoli) and place in a plastic container.
- Honey-almond dip for fruit: Stir together 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoons almond butter, a dash of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla extract.
- Herb dip for veggies: blend 1 cup lowfat cottage cheese, 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, a dash of garlic powder, and salt and pepper.
- Frozen fruit: If the freezer's in easy reach for youngsters, portion out individual servings of grapes, chunks of banana or pineapple, mandarin orange segments or blueberries. Freezing fruit enhances its flavor and texture, making it seem like a real treat.
- Low-fat dairy: Choose individual containers of nonfat yogurt, lowfat cottage cheese or part-skim cheese sticks.
- DIY trail mix: Combine 1 cup whole-grain cereal (like mini wheat biscuits or oat squares), 1 cup raisins or dried cherries, 1 cup dry-roasted (no salt) peanuts or almonds and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Portion out 1/2 cup servings.
- Fruit "burritos": Spread 1 whole-grain tortilla with 2 tablespoons nut butter, then top with sliced strawberries. Roll up and cut into slices; 1/2 tortilla equals a serving.
- Tiny muffins: Bake up a batch of mini carrot or zucchini muffins on the weekend, and store them in the fridge for weekday snacking.
- Crunchy snacks: Portion out fat-free pretzel nuggets, baked wheat crackers, mini rice cakes, organic cheese crackers or baked pita chips.
- Frozen yogurt bites: Stir together 2 cups lowfat flavored yogurt and 1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries or blueberries. Divide the mixture among the squares of a silicon ice-cube tray. Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours. Pop out the yogurt bites and store them in an airtight container in the freezer.
Childrens' nutritional experts suggest that planned, portion-controlled snacks help prevent the kind of mindless munching that can lead to unhealthy weight in kids. Help them learn to make smart food choices with a savvy snack selection.