by Tracey Shaffer, RDN, LD
We have all been there; we get home from a day of work and the first thing we think of is “What can I snack on before it’s time for dinner?” Like many adults, kids may be having the same thought after getting home from a long day of school. Snacking consumption among kids is on the rise. It has been estimated that more than 27% of a child’s daily calories are coming from snacks, so providing the right kind of snacks is not only important but necessary in helping meet a child’s daily nutrition requirements.
The first thing the child may need when he or she gets home is a small source of fuel. The best way to get that is by snacking on carbohydrates. Our brains’ preferred source of fuel is sugar and, luckily, all carbohydrates break down into sugar. So having different sources of carbohydrates available for kids to snack on when they get home is a great way to give them a burst of energy so they can be active and alert before their next meal. But there are different sources of carbohydrates, so it is important to choose the right ones. Look for whole grains such as whole-grain crackers and bread to give them energy but also provide vitamins, minerals and fiber. Of course you can never go wrong with a piece of cut-up fresh fruit. Leave the skin on for the added fiber bonus! For those chip cravings, try bean chips to get more nutrition such as fiber and protein from chips.
One important nutrient to always have on hand for after-school snacks is different sources of protein. Protein builds, maintains and repairs the tissues in your body such as muscles, which is important for active kids. Protein also requires a longer time to digest than carbohydrates, so putting a protein in your snack can give you just enough energy to get to the next meal, without overeating and spoiling dinner. A child’s protein needs vary by his or her weight: an average of 1 gram of protein for every 2 pounds the child weighs. So simply take your child’s weight and divide by 2 to find his or her protein needs.
With snacking on the rise, it is important to fit protein sources into those in-between-meals snacks to help kids meet their needs. Quick sources of protein can be a cheese stick (about 7 grams), a glass of milk (8 grams), turkey slices (2 ounces, about 10 grams) a hard-boiled egg (6 grams) or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (7 grams.)
Pairing carbohydrates and protein together in a snack is a perfect combination of providing enough energy without overdoing it.
It is always important to factor in your child’s hydration when he or she gets home from school. Children require 5 to 11 glasses a day of total water (coming from liquids and food) to meet their needs. With this in mind, stock your refrigerator with water flavored with fresh lemon or other fresh fruit for your children to grab when they get home. It will help meet those needs and avoid the calories and sugar that come from juice or other sugar-sweetened beverages.
Of course you can always prepare fun and different snacks for the kids to grab when they get home. Chickpeas provide a great source of carbohydrates, fiber and protein, while still staying low in fat. Try this Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas recipe for a new snack.
Tracey Shaffer, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian at the Blue Springs Hy-Vee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The information is not intended as medical advice.
Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.