Make healthy snacks an after-school treat

Use whole foods, not processed ones, to create tasty nibbles that will tide youngsters over until dinner

Do your kids come home from school and head to the kitchen for something to eat?

It’s a ritual for many youngsters, especially if they have an early lunch hour or if they’ll be heading to sports practices or extracurriculars.

After-school snacks can take the edge off hunger and boost nutrition — just try to pick healthy treats that will still satisfy a youngster’s taste.

Make chips, sweets and similar foods the exception rather than the rule. Make a list of healthy options together with your children, and include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein foods.

One of the simplest things is to try to include two of the five basic food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy — into their snack.

These snacks could be a yogurt cup sprinkled with granola, apple and string cheese or carrot sticks.

Embrace fruit and vegetable dips, anything from a tangy yogurt dip for veggies to honey-sweetened peanut butter for fruit.

And for those days when it doesn’t seem like there’s time for much of anything, packaged snacks  such as string cheese and hummus are fine — just avoid anything that’s overly processed. If there are more ingredients than you can count and you can’t pronounce many of them, it’s not a good sign.

And when you eat them, don’t do it in front of a screen. That’s when you lose track of how much you’re actually putting in your mouth. Set that time aside to share the day’s happenings and really taste the food you’re eating.

Remember, kids are more likely to eat what’s handy, especially when they are hungry, so keep healthy snacks out where kids can see them. Keep fruit on the counter and healthy items such as yogurt and cut-up vegetables front and center in your fridge.

Following are some healthy snacks from marthastewart.com.

 

marthastewart.com

 

Cucumber Blueberry Smoothie

 

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 cup white grape juice or pear juice

1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt

 

Blend cucumber, blueberries, juice and yogurt.

 

 

Loaded Sweet-Potato Skins

 

4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry

1 tablespoon olive oil

Coarse salt

Ground pepper

1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika, plus more for garnish

4 slices bacon

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1 scallion, sliced, for garnish

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

On a rimmed baking sheet, rub sweet potatoes with oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until tender. Let cool on sheet.

Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise. Scoop 1/3 cup flesh from each half into a medium bowl. Add buttermilk and paprika to bowl. Mash until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Stuff sweet-potato skins with filling. (To store, refrigerate, as long as two days.)

Arrange sweet-potato skins on baking  sheet and bake about 15 minutes, until lightly browned around edges.

In a skillet, cook bacon over medium heat for five to eight minutes, until crisp. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate, then crumble.

Stir together sour cream and two tablespoons water. Drizzle over sweet-potato skins. Garnish with bacon, paprika and scallion. Cut in half and serve.

 

 

 

Chocolate Banana Pops

 

4 to 5 firm-ripe bananas, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon sprinkles

 

Insert a toothpick into each banana piece. Arrange bananas, toothpick side up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze two hours, until firm.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips in 10-second increments, stirring between each, until melted and smooth. Working quickly, dip each banana piece in chocolate, shake off excess and cover with sprinkles. Chocolate should set quickly, but if necessary, freeze pops to harden coating before serving.

 

 

 

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

 

2 15.5 ounces cans chickpeas

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt

1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, paprika or cinnamon, optional

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drain and rinse chickpeas and scatter on a paper-towel-lined rimmed baking sheet. Let stand 15 minutes.

Remove towels and toss chickpeas with olive oil. Roast in a 400-degree oven about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden. Toss with salt and ground coriander, paprika or cinnamon, if desired, and serve.

 

 

 

Watermelon-Strawberry Pops

 

2 pounds seedless watermelon, cut into cubes

1/2 pound strawberries, halved and hulled

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

 

Working in batches, puree watermelon in a blender. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, discarding solids. Puree strawberries, then add to bowl. Add sugar and lime juice and stir until sugar has completely dissolved.

Pour mixture into 10 three-ounce ice-pop molds and insert sticks. Freeze 2-1/2 to 3 hours, or until solid).

 

 

 

Tortilla Cups With Yogurt and Fresh Fruit

 

6 6-inch flour tortillas

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons sugar

1-1/2 cups plain yogurt

3 tablespoons light-brown sugar

1-1/2 cups fruit, such as berries or sliced nectarines, peaches or plums

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

 

Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with melted butter, then sprinkle both sides with sugar. Lay tortillas over six jumbo muffin cups — tortillas will overlap — and bake in a 375-degree oven for three minutes, until tortillas are soft and pliable.

Remove from oven and, with the bottom of a glass, gently press each tortilla into a muffin cup so it folds and forms a cup shape. Bake about 12 minutes, until tortillas are crisp and golden at edges. Immediately remove tortillas from cups and let cool completely on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt and two tablespoons brown sugar. In another small bowl, toss together fruit, one tablespoon brown sugar and lemon juice.

To serve, divide yogurt mixture among cooled tortilla cups and top with fruit.

You can make tortilla cups a day ahead, just let them cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

 

 

 

Guacamole Hummus

 

1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 cups fresh cilantro leaves

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Coarse salt

Ground pepper

Lemon wedges

Tortilla chips

 

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, cilantro, garlic and avocado. Process until finely chopped. With machine running, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, then add lemon juice, and then add water, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture is smooth.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with lemon wedges and tortilla chips.

 

 

 

Cinnamon Tostada

 

2 10-inch whole-wheat tortillas

1 tablespoon light-brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-1/2 teaspoons butter, room temperature

 

Heat broiler, with rack 4 inches from heat. Place tortillas on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Dividing evenly, spread butter on one side of each tortilla, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Broil one to two minutes, until sugar is golden brown and has melted. Cut each tortilla into wedges.

 

 

 

Crispy Cereal Treats

 

For base recipe:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan

1 10-ounce bag mini marshmallows

For cocoa nutty treats:

5 cups chocolate puffed rice cereal, such as Cocoa Krispies

1 cup cocktail peanuts, roughly chopped

1/2 cup chopped semisweet chocolate

For trail mix treats:

5 cups puffed oat cereal, such as Puffins

1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

1/2 cup toasted pepitas

For tropical breeze treats:

5 cups flaked corn cereal, such as Corn Flakes

1/2 cup chopped dried tropical fruit, such as mango and/or pineapple

1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes

1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

For berries and cream treats:

5 cups whole-grain oat cereal, such as Cheerios

3/4 cup chopped freeze-dried raspberries

3/4 cup chopped white chocolate

 

Grease a nine-inch square baking pan with softened butter.

Melt three tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add marshmallows and cook, stirring, until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in cereal and chosen mix-ins to combine. Press into pan, then let stand about one hour, until firm.

Cut into squares and serve, or store in an airtight container at room temperature as long as three days.

 

 

 

Dried Fruit and Nuts Bites

 

2 cups mixed dried fruit

2 cups raw mixed nuts and seeds

Cinnamon

Coarse salt

1/3 cup raw sesame seeds

 

In a food processor, pulse dried fruit, then transfer to a bowl.

Pulse nuts and seeds until finely chopped and add to dried fruit with a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Knead together and form 1-inch balls, then roll each ball in sesame seeds.

 

 

 

English Muffin Pizza Snacks

 

 

1 English muffin, split

Unsalted butter, softened

Marinara sauce

Fresh mozzarella, sliced

Sea salt

Dried oregano

Fresh basil

 

Place muffin halves, cut-side-up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush generously with butter. Bake in a 400-degree oven about 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Layer on marinara and mozzarella and bake six to eight minutes, until melted. Sprinkle with sea salt and dried oregano and basil leaves before serving.

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