By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director, Healthy Child Healthy World, and Dawn Undurraga, Nutritionist, Environmental Working Group Reproduced with the permission of the Environmental Working Group www.healthychild.org.
Your kids rush home after school, sports practice or a busy day at the park, searching for food to replenish their empty tanks.
They're ready to devour a pizza, but parents know it's the perfect moment to serve a healthy, nutritious snack. So what's on the menu?
Here are our tips and suggestions for snacks to satisfy even the hungriest -- or pickiest -- child you know.
Upgrade family favorites
Do your kids love chips, crackers, granola bars and other packaged snack foods? There may be healthier versions of these favorites they'll enjoy just as much. Search EWG's Food Scores before your next shopping trip or access the mobile app on the go.
For great flavor and go-power, combine a healthy protein with fruits and veggies. Buy foods certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as often as possible. Click the links below for easy recipes you can try at home.
- Hummus or white bean dip with carrots, broccoli, bell pepper or cucumber. Homemade is best, but EWG's Food Scores can help you find good store-bought brands.
- Greek yogurt with almonds, walnuts or berries. Look for yogurts that contain eight grams of sugar or fewer per cup, or let EWG do the math for you.
- Peanut or almond butter on crunchy celery, apple or pear. Look for nut butters that contain nuts, oil and salt, period. No other ingredients. Visit EWG's Food Scores for help finding healthy trans-fat free options such as those made by Arrowhead Mills, Crazy Richard's, Marantha and Santa Cruz. Adding jam or jelly? Fruit butters like apple and pear are the best bets, as well as fruit spreads that are less than 35 percent sugar by weight.
- Plain yogurt and fruit smoothies. Try strawberry banana, peanut butter and jelly and apple pie smoothies to get started. Half servings are best.
- Cottage cheese with sweet fruit such as berries, pears, persimmons and figs
- Black bean dip with jicama or carrot
- Cheese fondue with apples, broccoli or asparagus (limit snacks to a half cup of fondue or make only half of the recipe)
- Smoked salmon with radish or cucumber slices
Combine whole grains with healthy and hearty accent flavors:
- Homemade energy bars with fruit and nuts
- Whole grain toast with avocado
- Stovetop popcorn
- Whole grain tortilla with queso blanco or queso fresco for a healthier quesadilla. (Pregnant women should eat these cheeses only if they're pasteurized.) Fill with spinach, broccoli or kale and top with tomato or fruit salsa. Find a healthier tortilla using EWG's Food Scores.
Quick and easy snacks
Keep these snacks on hand so when kids reach for something fast, they find a healthy option.
- Whole fruit: apple, orange, banana, pear, berries and any other fruits in season for the best flavor and least environmental impact.
- Sliced vegetables: carrots, bell pepper and cucumber. Blanch veggies such as asparagus or broccoli to reduce "raw" flavor but retain nutrients and crunch.
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Of course, nuts aren't for kids with food allergies.
- Hardboiled eggs
Tips for making snack-time easier:
- Offer small servings of snacks. Snacks should take the edge off hunger but shouldn't fill kids up so they don't eat a healthy dinner.
- Pack your kids' bags and backpacks with snacks they can enjoy on the go. Stock up on glass or lightweight stainless steel food storage containers for easy transport.
- Save time and money by preparing your kids' favorite snacks in bulk when you can. Dips and chopped veggies are perfect to make in advance.
- Freeze favorites such as berries and raw nuts, so you'll always have some at the ready. Frozen fruits are often less expensive than fresh ones and are available year-round.
- Active kids need plenty of water to stay hydrated. Send your kids to playtime with a reusable glass, stainless steel or BPA-free plastic water bottle full of filtered tap water. Limit juice.