As every parent knows, most kids get home from school wanting to eat – right now, if you please. So here’s a simple idea from the nutrition team at Wegmans Food Markets for turning the after-school “hungries” into snacks that give kids the real nourishment their growing bodies need, while helping to set healthier eating habits for years to come:
Start with an empty ice cube tray.
- Fill cubes with assorted finger-foods and stick it in the fridge – try cut fruits and veggies, nuts, low-fat proteins, dairy, whole-grain crackers, cheese, and dips like hummus or flavored yogurts.
- After school, the ice cube tray becomes a mix-it-yourself snack bar for the kids!
"Think about using the ice cube tray to redefine after-school snacking, and include some of the nutritious foods your kids might have missed out on during the day, like fruits and veggies. Be sure to add some power protein too, like cheese cubes, hummus, or even organic yogurt," says Wegmans Nutritionist Krystal Register, MS, RD, LDN. "A smart way to make sure kids are eating right is to balance a snack the same way you would balance a healthy sit-down meal. Instead of filling up on chips or cookies, let them dip raw veggies, munch on whole grain crackers, and top off the snack with fresh or dried fruit and some crunchy nuts.”
What can go into your ice-cube snack tray? Here are some ideas – try different assortments to change things up and keep snacks interesting:
- Fruits: Berries, grapes, or wedges of apple, melon, or citrus fruit. Slices of kiwi or banana. Dried fruits.
- Veggies: Mini sweet peppers, snap peas, cucumber or zucchini slices, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, raw broccoli or cauliflower florets.
- Lean protein: Slices of deli meats such as ham, turkey, or chicken.
- Nuts: Mixed nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
- Dairy: Chunks of mild cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, or spoonfuls of cottage cheese or yogurt.
- Whole grains: Whole-grain crackers, pretzels, or popcorn.
- Dips: Hummus, nut butters, Greek yogurt dips in flavors such as onion, dill, or Mediterranean herb; or flavors that go with fruit such as lemon or French vanilla.
“Everybody likes variety,” says Register. “Go for a rainbow of colors with fruits and veggies - red, orange, green, yellow, purple. Mix up the textures too, like soft, smooth, crunchy, moist and dry. Kids will experiment and find their favorite combinations. Also, some kids who don’t care much for cooked vegetables do like raw veggies, especially if they can dip that cucumber slice or baby carrot in an onion-flavored yogurt dip!”
While the ice cube snack tray is quick to assemble, Wegmans also offers Fresh Cut Snacks, perfect for times when there seems to be no time at all to plan or prep. The Fresh Cut Snacks, available in the Prepared Foods area of most stores, are grab-and-go mini-meals that appeal to kids and grownups alike. They have wholesome, fresh ingredients like whole grain crackers, organic turkey, and cut carrots with hummus; whole grain rice cakes, apple slices, and celery with organic peanut butter; or blueberry Greek yogurt parfait.
Today, Americans are living in The Great Age of Snacking, according to consumer behavior research by the Hartman Group. We snack an average of 2.3 times a day – because we want a treat, or don’t feel like cooking, or just get an impulse to have a bite.
If you’ve grown up thinking it’s best to avoid snacking, maybe it’s time for a fresh look. A study published in 2012 by Cornell University researcher Brian Wansink, Ph.D. showed that kids who were offered a combination snack of vegetables and cheese were satisfied with fewer calories than a group of kids who had a snack of chips only. Wholesome ingredients, extra calcium and fiber, plus appetites satisfied with fewer calories? That sounds like a winning combination for an after-school snack! For even more snack ideas, print out the “Snack with the Power of 3” brochure from wegmans.com.