Just as our little toddlers need to eat snacks between meals, our school age children need to have snacks for after school to fill the gap between lunch and when dinner is ready. When kids get home from school, they are often hungry since it’s been a while since they ate lunch.
This is the perfect time to provide nutritious snacks since they are sure to eat most anything!
Keep reading for suggestions on how to build healthy snacks as well as my favorite snacks for after school!
Back in the Day…
When I was in elementary school, I rarely went straight home after school because my parents were still at work. Often, I went to a friend’s house until I was picked up by my mom a little later.
My favorite part of hanging with friends after school was the variety of snacks we got to have! My friends always had new and different things than what I had at home.
Since we were usually starving right after school, my friends and I looked forward to snack time to eat something delicious together and chat about our day. We enjoyed favorites like Dunkaroos, GoGurt, Gushers and Pop Tarts while remembering fun games we made up at recess.
Looking back, I now know these snacks were not the healthiest foods we could have been eating, but these were the sweets and treats I ate within the week, so for my family it was completely justified as a time to eat yummy and fun foods with friends.
There is no “Right Way” to Approach Snacks
There is a time and a place for yummy treats and sugary snacks. My advice is to consider what your child eats throughout each day, and how that all adds up over the course of a week. Try to provide nutritious foods for most meals and snacks. That way, you can allow for fun treats and sweets after school.
After all, we want our kids to have a good relationship with food. That means enjoying all foods!
Think of snacks as the best way to bridge meals. If meals are easy-peasy and your kids eat well, then use snack time as a low stress way to introduce new and interesting foods. If your kids are lacking certain food groups at meals, use snack time as a way to fit those in.
Snacks for After School as Kids Age
When kids are in preschool, snacks after school may vary. The snack may be a small after lunch snack before rest time. Or if your child stays at school through rest time, the snack may be more substantial to hold them until the dinner meal.
For elementary age children, the school day typically ends midafternoon, when your child will be hungry for a larger snack.
As kids get older and become more involved in after school activities, snacks for after school become on the go foods that fill the gap between meals and provide fuel for those after school activity demands.
Any Snack Time
While these suggestions are aimed for snacks for after school, the ideas can be used to create any snack time, with any aged kid or adult! Let’s face it, we parents need our snacks throughout the day too!
Before I jump into my ideas for snacks for after school, let’s chat about the components that make up a good snack.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you may have heard me mention that combining at least two major food groups is an easy way to ensure a nutritious snack. This can look like toast with peanut butter or other nut butter, or sliced apples with cheese.
I go into detail about building snack combinations in my article Quick and Easy Healthy Toddler Snacks!
Back to the Basics
The major food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Canned fruits (with no added sugar) and vegetables (with no added salt) and frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as fresh produce.
Whole grain foods contain more fiber than processed, so try to choose whole grains about half the time.
Plant based proteins like nuts and nut butters are great for snacks. Animal protein like meat sticks or sliced deli meat can be great options too.
Dairy foods in snacks are often in the form of cheese or yogurt. Make sure to choose yogurts that have more protein than sugar by looking at those labels. Greek yogurt is a great option, too.
Snacks On the Go
Let’s keep in mind that schedules vary, and families are busy! If your child’s only chance of having an afternoon snack is between school and activities, then you may want to consider single serve snack items that are shelf stable. Perhaps you pack this snack for them with their backpack in the morning and they find their own time to eat their snacks after school.
Keep the snack combination framework in mind for any snack so that you child eats a snack for energy and staying power while they are busy.
For more ideas about snacks on the go, check out my article Road Trip Snacks for Kids. I give ideas on foods that are easily transportable that still make great snack combinations.
My 12 Favorite Snacks for After School
The list below are my top snack ideas that are probably best eaten at home, rather than on the go. However, many options could easily last in snack containers for eating while you’re out and about!
- Apple slices with string cheese and pretzels
- Greek yogurt with granola
- Homemade muffins or bars
- Toast with peanut butter or other nut butter
- Toast with avocado spread
- Vegetables with hummus
- Energy bites (I use oats, peanut butter, honey, flaxseed meal, chocolate chips)
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Cheese and crackers
- Fruit and cheese plate
- Hard-boiled egg with toast
I am Here for You!
Tell me, did this change how you plan to approach making snacks for after school? I partner with parents on feeding their kids in ways that work best for their family. My goal is to keep meals and snacks stress free for parents and kids. I’d love to help you and your family, too! If you want more help with mealtimes and snacks for your busy family, just contact me to get started.