The new school year has begun, and it's time for families to get back on track with healthy eating habits. Swap out the summer ice cream treats for yummy foods that will help boost focus and memory.
“An after-school snack – meant to provide relief and energy to combat the afternoon slump – is a commonly added meal in families with children," says Caitlin Hoff, a Health and Saftey Investigator with Consumer Safety.org. “The snacks are meant to provide relief and energy from the afternoon slump."
Caitlin explains that it's important to eat the right foods and says, "Foods high in protein and low in heavy carbs are best to provide energy and satiate your hungry children."
"Foods such as eggs, nuts, and Greek yogurt have been proven to help with keeping kids sharp and ensuring proper brain development," says Lisa Rotondi, founder and CEO of Organic Kids L.A. "While it may be easier to just grab something pre-made, there are healthier alternatives that are quick, easy, and sure to keep both parents and kids happy in the snack department."
Lisa finds that kids love the mix-and-match approach of Bento boxes. "The idea of getting a taste of a few different healthy options is always a hit," she says.
Mini Bento Box 1
- mini blueberry bagel and organic cream cheese
- cold, crunchy carrots
- all-natural chewy fruit snacks
"Most kids are ravenous after school so it's a great time to support your kids health, growth, and energy with a satisfying and nutritious snack when they get home," says registered dietitian Adina Person of HealthyLittleEaters.com, who says snacks are just as important as meals.
"Aim to serve a source of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber," says Person. Try crackers, hummus, and fruit; or a platter with lunch meat, cheese, and veggies; or sandwiches and apples; or fruit and nuts.
"Even cookies and milk, while generally low in fiber, cover many nutrients and are a nice treat from time to time," says Adina.
Mini Bento Box 2
- mild cheddar cheese
- your child's favorite crackers (have you tried gluten-free?)
- apple slices
- a hard-boiled egg
"Jazz up the apple by cutting it in the shape of a donut and topping with peanut butter and sprinkles," suggests Kristen Smith, a registered dietitian and founder of 360Family Nutrition.
Does your child prefer bananas? "Make banana sushi," says Kristen. "Slice a peeled banana and roll it in peanut butter and sprinkles or coconut."
Mini Bento Box 3
- celery with flower butter (experiment with sunflower or almond butter if your child has no allergies)
- handful of raisins to put on top
Mini Bento Box 4
- mini croissant
- cut-up celery and red bell peppers
- homemade ranch dressing
Recipe: Ranch Dressing
- 1/2 cup dried buttermilk
- 1 tbs dried parsley
- 1 tbs onion powder
- 1 tbs dried chopped onion
- 2 tsp dried chives
- 2 tsp dried dill
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
Mini Bento Box 5
- avocado slices (or mashed up slices for guacamole)
- tortilla chips
- sliced jicama
Mini Bento Box 6
- homemade trail mix
Recipe: Lola Berry's Ultimate Trail Mix
Lola Berry, Australian nutritionist, yoga instructor, and author of The Happy Cookbook, makes a mega-batch of trail mix that the family can enjoy for the week ahead. “If this recipe doesn't suit you, then tweak it as much as you like until you make a mix that you love," she says.
- 1 cup almonds (raw or toasted)
- 1 cup shelled pistachios
- 1 cup macadamia nuts
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup raw cacao nibs
- 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
"I just find a big jar and tip everything in, then turn it upside down a few times," Lola says. "Store your trail mix in the pantry and pack little snack packs for quick pickup."
Make it a snack that counts
"There's really no wrong thing to eat after school, but keep snack time contained to a set time and a sit down, no-distraction location like the kitchen table," says Adina. "Grazing all afternoon not only spoils a child's appetite for dinner, but makes a mess, and increases the risk of cavities. "