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Fighting the After-School 'Hangries'

For many kids, after-school is the hungriest time of day. Oftentimes, kids get home ravenous and ready to eat down the house. Many parents and caregivers struggle to figure out the best options to feed ravenous, ‘hangry’ (hungry/angry) kids without spoiling their dinner. Here are three strategies on how to address this very common issue along with some easy ideas that kids will love.

1. Fix breakfast and lunch. Before getting into healthy after-school snacks, it is important to make sure that you have not neglected what is happening earlier on in your child’s day. The timing directly influences hunger later in the day and the type of food offered early on in the day.

Maximize breakfast. Be sure to offer a substantial breakfast with carbohydrates from grains and fruits to help provide the brain with energy and a good source of protein since foods such as milk, soy milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts, nut butters, eggs, and meat provide more sustained fullness. Traditional breakfast items are great, but also consider your kids’ favorite supper meals, such as leftover pizza or quesadillas, as other breakfast options.

Build better lunches. Get your kids involved in lunch planning and consider bento box-style lunches with cubed cheese, sliced meat, crackers, cut-up fresh fruit and veggies, hard cooked eggs, French toast strips with jam, mini bran muffins, or dried fruit; these foods are often appealing to kids.

2. Consider moving supper later (or earlier). Ditch the rules you have about what time you must eat supper. There are many ways to eat healthy. Having a large after-school snack and late supper versus a small after-school snack, earlier dinner, and small bedtime snack are both healthy options. Try out a few options and see what works best for your family schedule.

3. Offer a healthy snack with carbohydrates and protein. Consider offering some of the foods that are often trickier to get kids to eat since this is a time they are most hungry. For example, if your child doesn’t love veggies at lunch, offer some of these such as raw veggies with hummus, celery with nut butter, vegetable soup, or Greek salad with a few whole-grain crackers or other grains.                                                            
Six healthy after-school snacks:

1. Hummus pizza. Take regular pita bread or mini pita pockets and spread with hummus. Top or stuff with grated cheese, spinach, red pepper, and cucumber.

2. Homemade snack mix. Air-popped popcorn, dried cereal, pumpkin seeds, shelled sunflower seeds, nuts, pretzels, chocolate chips, dried fruit (dates, prunes, apricots, raisins, cranberries, cherries, blueberries, and more).

3. Fruit and cheese kabobs. Wooden skewers of strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi, and fresh pineapple. Build a caterpillar by using only grapes and making a face (eat fresh or frozen). Serve with ‘yo-nut’ dip (yogurt mixed with nut butter) or Greek vanilla yogurt.

4. Ants on a raft. Whole-grain crackers spread with nut/seed butter or cream cheese and dried raisins/cranberries/blueberries/cherries.

5. Fish on a river. Celery sticks filled with cream cheese and topped with fish crackers.

6. Handmade fruit cocktail. Serve with a hard-cooked egg or other source of protein.

Kids (and adults) love canned fruit cocktail, so why not make a fresh fruit version and enhance the variety and the nutrition? Try these or ask your kids to make their own signature recipe:

RockinRed. Strawberries, raspberries, diced red-skinned apples with cranberry juice.

Tropical. Fresh pineapple slices, banana slices, fresh/frozen mango chunks with pineapple/mango juice.

Bodacious Berry. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries with pomegranate juice.

Calgary Dietitian and mom Andrea Holwegner, “the chocoholic nutritionist,” is owner of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. where she leads a team of nutritionists specializing in family meal planning, weight loss, eating disorders, kids nutrition, and more. She is a media expert and the creator of an online nutrition course for time-strapped parents looking to improve their personal and family eating habits. For more information, call 403-262-3466 or visit healthstandnutrition.com. Subscribe to her free monthly e-Newsletter or award-winning blog. Follow her on Twitter @chocoholicRD, Facebook @chocoholicRD, and Instagram @chocoholicrd

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