Healthy, Colorful After-School Snacks

Kids love making their own after-school snacks, and they're a healthy alternative.

Every day, without fail, my 11-year-old son trudges through the front door, theatrically tosses his backpack onto the nearest chair, and asks weakly, "Mom, do we have any food?"

While I'm tempted to tease him, "No, sweetheart, I'm planning to forage in the back yard for dinner," I instead ask him to wash his hands so we can make an after-school snack together. Bonus: I get to spend quality time with my favorite person. Total win!

Here's a few tried-and-true winners that will keep your kids happy and healthy.

Yogurt Parfait

There is absolutely no way to mess this up, and it's incredibly good for you. You'll need a cup of plain yogurt, fresh seasonal fruit (stay away from anything in syrup), and, if you wish, your favorite granola or dry oatmeal.

Have your child scoop some yogurt into a clear juice glass -- part of the fun is seeing all the yummy layers. Add a handful of fruit, and then top with more yogurt. We like to alternate blueberries and strawberries for extra color. Top it off with cereal and it's done! The result is a deliciously appealing high-protein snack, perfect for after school.

Quesadillas

My six-year-old daughter loves to make these. Her favorite combination? Canned, drained black beans (loaded with fiber and protein) spread on a plain tortilla and topped with lots of cheddar and jack cheese, fold it, and warm it on the stove or in the microwave to melt the cheesy goodness. We make our quesadillas with everything from shrimp to leftover chicken, and they never fail to please. My son often adds avocado and diced tomato to his, making it a super heart-healthy choice.

Healthy Loaded Baked Potato

Forgo the fat and carb-smothered variety for this gorgeous, tasty option. Split open a small baked potato and add broccoli florets and thin-sliced mushrooms. Top with cheese and, instead of bacon, add a thinly-sliced piece of prosciutto (which is dry-cured instead of fried) or low-salt deli ham. You get tons of fiber with this snack, and it's a good way to use leftover veggies. It's also a great snack option if dinner's going to be late. If the oven's still warm, pop the healthy loaded baked potatoes in long enough to melt the cheese, or you can just as easily do it in the microwave.

If there's a study group at your house, set out all the ingredients out and let your teens assemble their own colorful, edible masterpieces.

Fruit Kebabs

You've probably seen beautiful, edible fruit arrangements at parties before. They're kid magnets, and are ridiculously fun to make.

I like to use a mixture of kiwi slices, strawberries, blackberries, different melons and mangoes. It works best if you clean and cut the fruit ahead of time and have it separated into bowls. You'll also need wooden skewers, which you can find in the produce or kitchen gadget area of the grocery store. If you have small cookie cutters in simple shapes, this is also a great chance to use them: slice cantaloupe, watermelon or honeydew melon into slices thin enough that the cookie cutter will make its way through the fruit cleanly.

All that's left to do now is assemble your fruit kebabs. If you have very young children, let them pick the fruit and then thread it on the skewer yourself. Older kids will love coming up with tasty, colorful combinations.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

This one has my vote for best-ever after-school snack, because they make the whole house smell incredible while they bake.

Peel and slice a sweet potato into slices around ½" thick, drizzle them with olive oil, and have the kids literally dig in with their hands, tossing the sweet potatoes and making sure each slice is evenly coated. Place the sweet potato slices on a foil-lined cookie sheet and sprinkle them with sea salt. Bake them in a 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, because the sugar content can cause them to burn easily. Remove them from the oven, turn them over and return them to finish baking for another 10 minutes or so.

With a little creativity and preparation, snack time becomes healthy quality time with your kids!

Content by Kimberly Morgan.
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