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Snacks are all you need

Snacks. That single word conjures up a whole lot of ideas of what is a good snack.

With school back in session, it may be time to think about snacks for when the kiddos are done with school work for the day – either at the school or at home – they are bound to be ready for a break and a snack by the days end.

I can remember foraging through the refrigerator or cabinets in search of something to snack on when I got home from a long day of school drudgery. If I was lucky enough to find a left over biscuit, out came the jelly or apple butter and that would make for a great snack. Finding a jar of peanut butter in the cabinet would also be a welcome find. Throw out a couple of slices of white bread and find that half a jar of scuppernong jelly my mom made and a snack would be had and enjoyed.

I know that many parents these days work outside of the home and finding time to create healthy and enjoyable snacks for their children may be a bit of a challenge. It is certainly tempting to find some pre-made, pre-packaged snacks that make our lives a little easier these days. Some of those things are certainly acceptable and sometimes even preferable for the children. Things like yogurt, raisins or other dried fruits, crackers, chips and even granola are out there for the buying and are usually enjoyed by the children I know. But, sometimes, those store-bought snacks need to be spaced out and consumed only a couple of times a week.

There are plenty of options for snacking and I have enjoyed my share over the years. If you’re looking for healthier options for your children, be sure to consider the amount of sugar (carbohydrates) and fats in a snack. Also be sure to check out the label and consider the amount of protein and sodium in a snack as well.

I’ve scanned aisles and websites to come up with a few ideas that I’m sure some parents have already discovered. But, having been raised in a different time and no longer having a child in school makes my need for pre-packaged snacks very minimal.

At any rate, I’m sharing some ideas for healthier snacks that can be purchased for your kiddos this year for after school, or anytime, snacking. I’ll also be sharing some recipes for healthy snacks that you can prepare at home if you have the time. If you are doing the whole home-school thing this year, maybe you could choose to make the recipes with your children. They will be more apt to try the dish and you could use it as a home economics lesson for school credit.

So, here are my suggestions for snacks you can purchase that have limited amounts of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff for you and your kids.

Beef Jerky – these bags of meaty gold come in some many varieties finding one that pleases every palate in the family shouldn’t be a problem. Just be mindful to watch for the amount of added sugars/carbohydrates and sodium in each variety. Read the labels and look for words you can pronounce. If you have trouble reading the list of ingredients, put that package down and check another variety or brand.

Pop Corn – again, an easy solution. There are pre-popped bags of kernels out there that are very good. I’m kind of stuck on the Smart Pop brand of white cheddar cheese popcorn. Although it is certainly a better choice over oily potato chips, just be sure to read the label to see if it meets your standard of calories per serving, fat, sodium and carbohydrate levels.

Fruit – now, you can’t hardly go wrong with this choice. Fresh apples, oranges, Halo (mandarins) or bananas are all very good choices for snacking. But, if you don’t have fresh and are tempted to keep a bag or two of dried fruits in the house, again, check the label. Dried fruits are usually good and very shelf stable, but they are packed with sugar. Most of it is natural sugar, but by drying the fruit the sweetness has been condensed and some sweeteners have been added in the drying process. Check the label for sugar or total carbohydrate content of the contents. Be sure to consider the “per serving” amounts, most folks can eat a whole bag of the yummy fruit when there may be 6 or more servings per bag.

Hummus & Pretzels – A favorite of mine, you can find individual servings of this chickpea wonder at the supermarket. I have found it in the area where pre-made salads and sandwiches are usually displayed and I’ve also found it in the produce department. You may have to look for it packaged this way. If you can’t find the individual servings, purchasing a large container and dipping out a serving may be a better choice and could save a few dollars as well. If you can’t find pretzel chips, pretzel sticks or the mini pretzel twists are also a good choice.

Cheese – again, there are so many varieties there are bound to be a few favorites in your house. Most cheese manufacturers offer individually portioned cheeses. You can find individually wrapped discs of cheese (Babybel) or packages of pre-sliced cheese perfect for topping a cracker. There are also soft cheeses perfect for spreading on things like pita chips, pretzel chips, or toast. The possibilities are endless, especially if you sliced your own cheese chunks.

Nuts – Almonds are a favorite of mine and are so good for you – if you eat them in moderation (I don’t usually do that.) Some brands have begun to package their nuts in individual packages and most are usually in the 100 calorie range. Be careful of the convenience store packaging. Just because you can eat all of one of those tall packages doesn’t mean you should. Be a label reader and you’ll be fine.

And finally, Yogurt – again flavors available are practically endless and many brands come in a regular and light version allowing you to enjoy the wonderful flavors without all that added sugar. Greek yogurt has become more readily available and that particular version of the dairy treat allows for a creamier, often more satisfying snack. And, if you throw a few pinches of granola on top as you eat the treat becomes even more tasty.

Whether you are one of those parents that has plenty of time for making homemade snacks or if you’re the kind (like most of us) who have to rely on purchasing pre-packaged snack items for your home, there are choices out there that will make you and your school kids happy at the end of the day. Read the labels, be smart and enjoy a little down time in the afternoons.

 

Homemade After School Snacks

 

Apple Energy Bars

1 cup dried apples, chopped

6 pitted dates, chopped

1 tbsp. honey

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Dash of salt

In a food process, puree dried apples, dates, honey, cinnamon and pinch of salt until almost smooth. Add nuts and pulse just until blended in. Firmly roll the mixture into one-inch balls. Refrigerate for at least two hours. These bite-sized treats will keep for about five days to a week in the refrigerator. Per Serving: 75 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g sat), 1 g protein, 15 mg sodium, 14 g carb, 2 g fiber

 

Carrot Cake Bites

2 1/4 cups oatmeal (uncooked) quick or old fashioned oats are fine

2 c. shredded carrots

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 c. chipped dates

2/3 c. chopped almonds

2/3 cup flaked coconut

Stir all ingredients except coconut together until well blended. Add in water, a tablespoon at a time as needed, to aid in shaping. Form the dough into 24 heaping tablespoon-sized balls. Roll lightly in coconut flakes. Refrigerate for at least an hour before eating.

PER SERVING (One ball): 80 calories, 3g fat, less than 1g sat fat, 0mg chol, 15mg sodium, 13g total carb, 2g fiber, 6g sugar, 2g protein

 

Cheddar & Poppy Seed Chips

Tip: Grate your own cheese to make these chips. Pre-shredded cheeses are coated to prevent clumping that will have an effect on your finished product.

8 oz. extra-sharp cheddar, grated

3 large egg whites

1/4 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. poppy seeds

In a food processor, pulse the cheese and egg whites until smooth. Add the flour and poppy seeds and pulse to combine. Divide the mixture between two large sheets of parchment paper cut to the size of a cookie sheet. It will be sticky. Cover each with an additional sheet of parchment. Using a rolling pin, roll until the sheets of chips are paper thin. Transfer paper and dough to cookie sheets and freeze until firm – about 20 minutes. While the chips are in the freezer, pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees. Remove cookie sheets from freezer and peel off the top layer of parchment. Bake until golden and crisp, 45 to 50 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through cooking to allow for even crisping. Allow chips to cool and break into pieces.

PER SERVING 145 CAL, 10.5 G FAT (6 G SAT FAT), 30 MG CHOL, 203 MG SOD, 8 G PRO, 3 G CAR, 0 G FIBER