With lunchbox packing having become a chore and a bore (the boys, now 11 and 12, want something simple they can despatch quickly before returning to their busy social lives), my attention has turned to the hitherto overlooked after-school snack.
The kids tend to barge into the kitchen ravenous after seven hours of school, and raid the fridge and larder for anything they can find. Unfortunately, though fruit and peanut butter are on prominent display, their hands seem to be magnetically attracted to cookies.
To pre-empt the dilemma of empty-calorie consumption, I would have fruit smoothies ready for them as they rushed in, or proffer platters of cheese, crackers and fruit. These, too, got a little tired.
Thankfully, the routine got some fresh inspiration the other day when I presented my older son a pretty plate – meze-style – with a selection of crackers and cheese, apples and peanut butter and strawberries. His, “Oh, wow, Mummy!” was enough to inject new life into the thus-far yawn-inducing after-school snack.
Since that happy day, I’ve been exchanging ideas with my friend Gudrun who has two similar-aged daughters, and both of us have been having fun coming up with balanced snacks substantial enough to tide the children over between 3:00 or 4:00pm and the family dinner at 7:00pm.
And the kids are happy! They seem to be enjoying the variety and visual appeal of the made-over snacks, and their nutritional focus. Their energy levels get renewed zip, and blood-sugar levels are kept on an even keel.
Here are some combinations that are both nutritious and attractive on a plate. Many of these ordinary things are vastly made more alluring to children by plonking them on a stick, or serving them with a dip:
- edamame, mango slices, homemade vegetable sushi
- half a tuna/chicken/egg sandwich, an orange, slices of red pepper and a dip
- cereal (Cheerios), grapes, and a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese or tube of string cheese
- crackers and guacamole, a pot of plain yoghurt, slices of nectarine
- apples and peanut butter, cheddar cheese slices and cherry tomatoes
- wholegrain crackers or pita bread, hummus, slices of pear, handful of nuts
- a toasted mini bagel with egg white omelette and slice of turkey bacon, with green pepper and apple slices
- toasted mini bagel with egg white omelette and smoked salmon, and grape and pineapple salad
Other ingredients to have fun with:
- wholegrain chips/crackers/pita bread
- goldfish crackers
- nuts and/or seeds
- sliced cucumber
- turkey or tuna or chicken or cheese wraps
- tubes of yoghurt
- boiled egg
- raisins, dried mango or apricot or other fruit
- leftover couscous, faro, quinoa
- fish cake or leftover veggie noodles
- cold leftover chicken or turkey
- blueberries, grapes, mango, kiwi fruit, strawberries, apples, pears, oranges, nectarines, peaches
Feel free to drop by with your suggestions, too! 🙂 Happy snacking.