I’m out of step this week trying to get back into the swing of things following Christmas break. After a fun and relaxing holiday season, we’re back to our usual crazy schedule of work, school and after-school activities. I’m driving here and there, cracking the whip on homework, piano and guitar practice, and repeatedly asking for help folding the laundry that the kids keep ignoring.
The kids are growing, eating more lately — and, when they return from school, they’re eating a lot! More than ever before, it is clear to me that I’d need to get thinking about what to have on hand in the afternoon that would help the kids power through the hours before dinner. If left on their own, they would scrounge through the cupboards for crackers and chips, and munch on carbs for hours on end.
I must get back on track and start Planning, and then get Preparing.
Did you know that nearly all Americans (93%) snack at least once each day, and often treat it as equivalent to a meal. In fact, one-third of consumers regularly skip meals and instead, choose to snack throughout the day.
Traditionally, snacks were prepared from foods already at home. They were left over from dinner the night before, perhaps made into sandwiches or small bites to fuel the body in between main meals. Snack time was a time to sit down, rest, and refuel before the next meal.
Now, the American way of snacking rarely includes food from the fridge. Instead it takes the form of snacking from a bag or a box, typically highly processed and filled with lots of salt, saturated fats, and sugars. These snacks are purchased from a store, vending machine, or fast-food outlet; Eaten in the car, at the desk or on the run.
What’s America Snacking On?
A survey by the NPD Group, a market research company, found that yogurt is the most popular snack among children ages 2-17. Rounding out the top 10 snacks in the U.S. $60.5 billion snack food market in the U.S. are potato chips, fresh fruit, string cheese and cheese cubes, hard candy, ice cream/fudge pops, chewy candy, corn ships, donuts, and snack pies/pastries.
Clearly, snack time is when most people make unhealthy choices. And, that is often because consumers approach their snacking choices according to convenience, grabbing that snack once they are already hungry.
I knew that I’d have to beat the kids to the punch. I’d have to take the time to plan a bit of healthy snacking so that I could resist the temptation to snack from a bag, box, or drive-thru.
I got to searching my brain for after-school snacks. We have our favorites at home, and I had to choose those that were portable, so I took to the internet as well. It was essential that I didn’t just fill their bellies, but fueled their bodies so they could get through homework, sports, and just plain being a growing kid.
After I planned the meals and snacks, I knew that in order to make things go smoothly through the week, that I’d need to take some time on Sunday to get ahead of the game – and do a bit of preparation for the week.
By preparing ahead of time, I was able to start the week off at ease, knowing that I wouldn’t find myself in the position scrambling to find something to feed us.
Here are some suggestions to get you on the right track. And, be sure to carve out some time on the weekend, to start Preparing for the week ahead.
Low-fat Dairy Products
Filled with calcium, protein, minerals and vitamins, low-fat dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and other dairy product s (in the low-fat versions) are great choices for a snack.
- Try plain yogurt and add berries or granola.
- Create Parmesan crisps and eat them with sliced pears.
- Mozzarella, a delicious lower fat cheese, is perfect when paired with tomato slices, a bit of basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
Nuts, Seeds and Legumes
A great way to provide your body with proteins, and offer your body healthy fats (monounsaturated fats), choose seeds and nuts in small quantities.
- Create your own dried fruit and nut/seed mix. Add toasted coconut and chocolate chips for added flavor.
- Whip up a white bean dip and spread it on toasted bread and top with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.
Whole Grain Snacks
- Try chomping on some delicious crisp breads or low-fat crackers.
- Buy, or make, some whole grain pretzels, they’re rich in fiber and will give you sustained energy to get you to the next meal.
- Spread a wheat tortilla with low-fat peanut butter and a banana, drizzled with a bit of honey, and roll it up.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables serve as a great and tasty way to get your vitamins, fibers and minerals. The natural sugars are a great way to get a bit of healthy energy to boost your body through the day.
- Enjoy raw vegetables with a delicious homemade hummus.
- Have fruits ready to eat and enjoy whenever the snacking urge hits you. Try dried fruits as a more portable way to tote around snack foods.