If your kids (especially the teen set) are anything like mine, they have one thought when they walk through the door after school…food. They cannot be compelled to share tales of their day, prepare for evening activities, or certainly start on homework until the growling stomachs that have been functioning on the brink of starvation since lunch are satisfied. Led by their empty guts and parched throats the newly returned scholars begin a systematic search of the kitchen cupboards, fridge, and freezer pulling out just about anything crunchy, sugary, salty, or wet.
As a mom these moments drive me crazy. I don’t like them hunting through my cabinets and I really don’t like the ridiculous concoctions they create. In an effort to avoid frustration (and to improve my children’s eating habits) I strive to achieve a pre-emptive strike- a planned, plated, and enticing after-school snack. This may sound easy but understand I have four children ranging in ages from 14 months to 12 years. I homeschool one and one attends Jr. High. Both get those after-school episodes of starvation described earlier and the 12-year-old often walks home accompanied by one or more friends who are also seeking sustenance. I have to work with a wide range of ages and a variety of taste buds. And remember, I am “competing” for the coveted position of after-school hang out against grown-up-free homes stocked full of chips and sodas- my food has to be good. Here are a few of my tried-and-true tips for serving up a fresh, colorful, healthy, after-school snack that will even satisfy the big kids in your kitchen.
Let’s face it kids love to dip their foods. The trick here is that, if you’re not careful, dip can take a healthy plate of veggies and turn it into one very fatty not-so-good-for-you dish. Cream-based dips are general no-no’s in my house- partly because of allergies and partly because of their general unhealthiness. (OK- really it’s because I LOVE them, have no will-power around them, and know that if they are on the table I will give in- eat far more than the laughable 2T serving size, and regret it the next morning because the scale knows all.) So here are some healthy options that will lighten the dip and skip the chip.
• Cut veggies into sticks and serve up in fun containers like snow cone cups, tortilla wraps, or these torn paper cup holders from
• Hummus- VERY easy to make yourself but easily available in most grocery stores.
• Veggies ARE the dip with this yummy carrot spread– (spread it onto celery logs for a double whammy!)
• Make fruit the dip with this yummy fruit salsa
• Yogurt Dip– Add a little extra flavor to yogurt and enjoy dipping berries, melons, apples, and stone fruits!
Kabob sticks and popsicle sticks are both fun ways to make easy, raw, snacks. Use these Kabob and popsicle ideas to get your own ideas flowing- (just don’t have a “Christmas Story” moment and shoot an eye out.)
• Caprese Kabob- Cherry tomatoes, torn pieces of basil, and mozzarella cheese
• Smoothie Kabob- Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Kiwi, Banana (whatever you would put in their smoothie)
• Melon Kabob- Use a variety of melon pieces
• Pizza Kabob- Tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni slices, cheese chunks
• Fruit Salad Ice Pops–
• Fruit Smoothie Popsicles–
Fruit Meats Cheese
• Wrap thinly sliced turkey and cheddar cheese around apple slices
• Serve chicken salad on jicama that has been sliced into thin squares with a mandolin (this also works nicely with cucumbers)
Mix it up
• Give your kids’ taste buds an upgrade by trying this family-favorite fruit salad: In a big bowl mix melon balls (we like a mix of watermelon and cantaloupe), strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple chunks. Drizzle with honey that has been combined with chopped rosemary (yes rosemary. It gives a delicious earthiness to the fruit that my kiddos really enjoy. I suppose you could take it out if you had to but don’t underestimate your kids- give it a shot!) Mix it up and enjoy- Let them eat using chopsticks or toothpicks for extra fun!
• Tossed Salad- Chop up a bunch of different veggies and lettuce into small pieces and put into a plastic container with a lid (I really like the “Twist ‘n Lock” containers by Ziplock for this. But anything with a good seal will work). Add a couple tablespoons of your favorite salad dressing and seal up tightly. Stand in a circle and let the kiddos take turns tossing it to each other. Each time they are tossed the salad they have to tell something that happened at school that day. Once everyone has had a turn and the salad is well mixed, open the “tossed” salad and enjoy! (yep- I’m always looking for ways to get ’em talking)
• Slice larger fruits like melons and larger veggies like jicama into thin squares. Use cookie cutters to help you create fun shapes like animals or “gingerbread” people. Put healthy “decorations” including berries, raisons, diced veggies, diced cheese, etc. into bowls and let the kids decorate their fruit or veggie “cookies”. You can even make frosting if you want. Just use food coloring to tint cream cheese or yogurt into the desired colors.
• Try making edible art like this bell pepper octopus, or this fun veggie skeleton, or these
sesame street veggie trays
One of the healthiest habits to start is that of snacking on fruits and veggies. What better time to get that healthy habit started than the after-school snack? Set aside the chips, crackers, and microwave snacks and serve up some beautiful, fun, tasty treats. Even if it doesn’t get them to talk you can rest assured your kids will be thankful. (Who knows- maybe they are just not talking because the food is so good!)