After-school snacks get healthy makeover

Dieticians urge parents to ditch pizza rolls for fruits, veggies, homemade treats

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

Related story

Cookbook author aims to educate college students

If parents followed the advice of TV advertisements, they'd be serving their kids after-school snacks of Doritos, Oreos and pizza rolls.

Dietitians, however, have a different idea of what after-school snacking should look like: trail mix, veggies with low-fat dip and apples with peanut butter.

Healthy Snacks

Here are some healthy after-school snacks suggested by dietitians:

• Grapes and a cheese stick.

• Low-fat yogurt topped with low-sugar cereal.

• Cut-up vegetables and low-fat dip.

• Peanut butter and graham crackers or apple slices.

• Low-fat cottage cheese and fruit.

• Low-fat Greek yogurt with berries.

• Air-popped popcorn.

• Whole grain toast with nut butter (almond, peanut or sunflower seed).

• Quesadilla with whole-wheat tortilla.

• Boiled egg with vegetables.

• Homemade trail mix (Cheerios, raisins and nuts).

"The best snacks are ones that provide a variety of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber," said Chris Collins, a registered dietitian at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

Nutritious, portion-controlled snacks are beneficial for children, who need the snacks because their small stomachs fill up more quickly at mealtimes, Collins said.

But parents should also caution against overeating, said Dominique Lopez-Stickney, a registered dietitian at PeaceHealth. If kids do too much snacking after school, they won't be hungry at dinner time, she said.

Appropriate snack portion size varies, depending on the kid's age and activity level. If kids are eating healthy snacks, like cut-up fruits and vegetables, they'll naturally stop eating once they're full, Lopez-Stickney said.

But processed foods, like the pizza rolls, tend to be low in fiber and easier to overeat, she said.

"Those really processed foods, we don't feel full after eating a proper portion," Lopez-Stickney said.

Another potential pitfall: eating while watching TV.

"Make sure kids are not mindlessly eating in front of the TV or computer," said Sarah Winans, a registered dietitian and nutrition services manager for Camas School District. "People consume larger quantities of food when watching TV or being distracted while eating."

Parents and children should also avoid snacks with added sugars and fat, which offer extra calories and little nutrition. Instead, Winans said, eat high-fiber, whole-grain crackers, fruits and vegetables.

"Snacking is a great way to introduce new fruits and vegetables to kids," she said.

Winans also recommends pairing two items from different food groups. For example, try hummus with a whole-wheat pita or string cheese with pretzels. Pairing a protein with a carbohydrate will keep kids fuller longer, Winans said.

A little preparation can help parents steer their kids toward healthy after-school snacks, even when they're not home. Parents can let their kids pick snacks that can be prepared in advance, such as cut-up fruits and vegetables, Lopez-Stickney said. Making a list of healthy snack options is also a helpful reminder for kids, she said.

"Kids, they can have a conversation with their parents but totally forget by the time they get home and go for the pizza rolls because they're easy to make," she said.

Homemade snacks also tend to be healthier than the store-bought variety. Vancouver resident Chrisetta Mosley has written two cookbooks

dedicated to making meals and snacks from scratch.

"If we can make the food at home, it's going to be better for you," she said. "If you had to make a lot of that junk at home, you wouldn't eat it."

Her favorite made-at-home snacks include kale chips, roasted pumpkin seeds and nonfat yogurt topped with granola, fruit or seeds.

"And fresh fruit, what's wrong with that?" Mosley said. "I think that's the key here. We need to go back to the basics."

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.

Granola Fruit Nut Crunch

Prep time: 5 minutes; total time: 25 minutes; serves 6.

Provided by Chrisetta Mosley, author of “Shop, Cook, Eat: Outside of the Box.”

2 cups old fashioned or quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

½ cup whole or sliced almonds

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons honey

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup dried apricots, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the oatmeal, coconut, almonds, oil and honey until combined.

Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven. Let cool on sheet pan.

Once cool add dried cranberries and apricots. Serve immediately, or the granola can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Brown Bag Popcorn

Prep time: Less than 5 minutes; total time: 5 minutes; serves 3.

Provided by Chrisetta Mosley, author of “Shop, Cook, Eat: Outside of the Box.”

½ cup unpopped popcorn

1 teaspoon canola oil

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Butter, optional

In a small bowl, mix together the unpopped popcorn, oil, and salt.

Pour the coated corn into a paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over twice to seal in the ingredients.

Cook in the microwave at full power for 2½ to 3 minutes, or until you hear pauses of about 2 seconds between pops.

Carefully open the bag to avoid burning yourself, and pour into a serving bowl. Melt butter in microwave if using.