Any mother will be very familiar with the chaotic hours’ of the after school period; the rush to get home, get the children to after school activities on time along with the self reports of “starving” children eating the cupboard bare. Unfortunately Australian children are not particularly healthy when it comes to the after school period. In fact, recent data from the 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that almost half of all children surveyed consume biscuits, cakes and pastries after school. Confectionery and cereal bars are consumed by 17 per cent of children, with the majority of these foods being chocolate or other sweets. All in all, high carbohydrate, nutrient poor snack food choices which are likely to be leaving children at risk of over eating and weight gain long-term.
The structure of the school day means that it is to be expected that children will be hungry after school. High carbohydrate choices such as rice snacks, bread, biscuits and lollies though are not the best choices. Ideally a snack food for children will keep them full for 2-3 hours and offer some positive nutritional properties, whether it is calcium, fibre, protein or iron. Nutrients such as fibre and protein will help to keep kids full, while calcium and iron will support optimal growth and development.
Dairy or nut based snacks such as low fat milk drinks, yoghurt, ice cream or cheese are all good choices, especially when combined with low GI carbohydrates such as wholegrain crackers, fruit or vegetables.
Struggle with the balance of a healthy lunchbox and one they will also actually eat? See Susie’s breakdown of what a well balanced lunchbox should look like here.
Encourage good after school patterns by encouraging your children to always sit at the table to eat their afternoon tea, after getting changed after their school clothes. Get into a habit of offering them something that will take some time to chew first, such as an apple, carrot o other crunchy fruit or vegetables to help take the edge off their hunger. Then, offer them one other nutritious snack to keep them full until dinner time. If you do like to include higher fat treats such as cakes, biscuits or pastries, limit them to once each week and let your child know which day they can enjoy a “treat” so they are not nagging you on a daily basis for it.
Top 10 after school snacks
1 piece of fruit or 1 vegetable + one of the following:
Cheese and wholegrain crackers
Milk + 2 mini muffins
Frozen Greek yoghurt
Mountain Bread wrap with cheese
½ frozen banana dipped in dark chocolate
Brown Rice Sushi Roll
Nut based snack bar
Corn thins + peanut butter
Snack plate with veges, crackers, cheese and hommus
Slice homemade banana bread
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