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Super After-School Snacks

One of the best opportunities for boosting your child's nutrition—and getting her to try new foods—comes when she arrives home from school. After all, what child doesn't come home famished?

With just a little thought and planning, you can greet your hard-working/playing student with tasty, healthful options rather than high-calorie, low-nutrient—but ever so convenient—choices. And if you're not there when your child walks in the door, there are plenty of enticing snacks that you can prepare ahead for her.

Think about holes in your child's diet. Does she not get enough fruit or calcium each day? Fruit kebabs with a yogurt dip fit that bill. Is she short on whole grains and protein? Whole grain breadsticks with hummus will help her meet that requirement.

Here are some good options for after school snacking:

* Popcorn, sprinkled with nutritional yeast, cheese powders, garlic powder and other seasonings. Toss in some dried fruit and nuts for an added boost in nutrition.

* Whole grain pretzels, crackers, bagel, or breadsticks, with hummus, nut butter, or a white bean or yogurt dip.

* Deviled eggs. Using cottage cheese in place of some of the yolk and low-fat mayo will cut the fat, if that's a consideration for your child. A pinch of dry mustard will give it just the right punch. Consider alternative fillings, too, such as guacamole and hummus.

* Twice-Baked potatoes. Add some chives, paprika, and a topping of beans, grated cheeses, and fresh or grilled veggies. (Broccoli is standard, but any veggie is a good candidate. In fact, leftovers often make good potato toppers.)

* Quesadillas or tortillas. Pile on cheese, veggies, and beans. Serve with yogurt and salsa. Or make a sweet version, with fruit and a few chocolate or carob chips.

* Fruit slices or chunks, served with a yogurt, tahini, or cream cheese dip. Make dips ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Slide the produce on kid-safe skewers for added fun. Include an occasional cheese chunk or for some added protein.

* Muffins. Include fruit, spices, and whole grains. Use a recipe that substitutes applesauce for some or all of the sweetener. Serve with a big glass of milk or a fruit smoothie.

* Gingerbread, zucchini, or banana bread with a dollop of plain or fruit yogurt.

* Yogurt parfait, layered with fruit and topped with granola.

* A fruit salad. Toss together whatever's in season. Here's a nicely seasoned option:

* Fruity Ice pops. Combine in a blender fresh or frozen fruits, such as crushed pineapple, banana, and berries. Add a little fruit juice and yogurt. Give it a whir. Serve as a smoothie or pour into ice pop molds and freeze.

* Whole wheat waffles, drizzled with honey and topped with fruit.

* Apple slices or a large whole-grain pretzel dipped in peanut butter then rolled in chopped nuts and dried fruit. (Leave a portion on one end undipped, to serve as a handle.)

* Sandwiches. Use whole grain bread, and stock up on fun options, such as pitas, mini deli-style ryes or pumpernickels, and tortillas. Some good filling options:

  • Tuna salad with apple slices and tarragon
  • Egg salad with raisins, pecans, caraway seeds, parsley, and pepper
  • Chicken salad with dried cranberries, grapes (halved), chervil, and parsley
  • Crabmeat with cream cheese, lemon juice, chives, basil, paprika, or saffron
  • Tofu slices with mayo, tamari or mustard, parsley, basil, pepper, and rosemary (Or blend it all together to make a tofu spread.)
  • A variety of cheeses, spinach, avocado, mango or tomato slices, sprinkled with Italian Seasoning Blend.
  • Peanut butter and apple slices, with a sprinkling of cinnamon
  • Cream cheese with cucumber slices and dill weed
  • Falafel with a dollop of plain yogurt. (Frontier Natural Products sells falafel mix to make this option almost instant.)

Don't forget leftovers, too! And keep in mind that most of these treats make great bedtime snacks, too (another opportunity to boost nutrition). Just make sure your child brushes her teeth afterwards!

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