School’s out and it’s a long time until dinner. My 17 healthy after school snack ideas provide the perfect fuel for any activity, from soccer to spelling lists.
Any adult with the 3-o’clock slumps will tell you that it’s a long time between lunch and dinner. How much more so for a kid — with their smaller stomachs, growing bodies, and all the energy they burn running and playing? If you add in their often early lunch periods (10:30 for Frances!) and after school sports, the gap between lunchbox and dinner table can be long and oh-so slumpy, hangry, grouchy and growly.
Kids leave school hungry. Whether they’re heading off to swimming, piano, a playdate, homework or just some time out in the backyard, they need fuel to replenish from the day and keep going.
The quick answer is a bag of chips or a pack of cookies. They travel well and are easy to buy in bulk and dole out in the morning. And for sheer calories, these do well in a pinch. But ideally, you’ll look for a snack combination that features protein, healthy fat and fiber, rather than empty calories and a quick rush of sugar. Hit the sweet spot and your kid will sail on toward dinner with sustained energy, rather than crashing and burning in a 4:30 tantrum on 3rd base.
What kind of after school snack is best for my child?
You can best gauge snacks based on what after school activities your child has that day. If it’s hot outside and they’re heading to soccer, make sure to choose snacks that will help with both energy and rehydration, like a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Another important consideration for after school sports is to avoid snacks that can cause gas, reflux and cramping — so you might want to skip something like spicy hot wings or a big bunch of raw broccoli and dip. If your child will be having a quiet afternoon doing homework, pick something lighter — maybe some fun finger-foods like my roasted chickpeas that they can pop while reading.
You’ll also want a snack that is sized just right so your child is not too full for a well-balanced dinner later on. This will be based on your child’s age and size, their activity level, and whether they’re growing. You don’t necessarily need a chart for this…just watch your kid and adjust up or down. If they’re growing well, maintaining a healthy weight, have consistent mood and energy through the afternoon and eat reasonable portions of a healthy dinner, you’ve nailed it.
Most kids will be fine with a single, well-balanced after school snack. If your child seems hungrier than normal after school, be sure to investigate why. Did he or she not eat lunch? Has PE or recess been more active than usual? Is your child in a growth spurt? If your child truly seems to require more calories just now, you can increase their snack portions or even include two snacks to cover a long afternoon out. Bored child raiding the cupboards as a distracting activity? If so, a light, well-balanced snack and some fun new activities might be just the ticket.
Much like with packing a fun, healthy lunchbox day in and day out, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut. But I have plenty of simple, fun after school snack ideas for you that are perfect for kids both at home and on the go. Many of these work great in the car, too. Check out my video and list below and let me know how it goes in the comments. Mix it up, see what works for your kid, and happy snacking!
17 Healthy After School Snack Ideas
1. Snack mix. Snack mixes can be a great, grabbable option. Be sure to read the label and pay attention to the ingredients since many snack mixes are like glorified deconstructed candy bars. You can always hit the bulk bins and make your own, choosing your child’s favorite nuts and dried fruits. Give this popcorn bar a try for a fun DIY mix.
2. Energy balls. Try my No Cook Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites.
3. Sandwich. For portable energy and sheer tastiness, it’s hard to beat a good sandwich and I think it’s one of the best after school sports snacks. Here’s a delicious healthy option.
4. Snack box. Skip the premade lunchables and make your own mini bento box.
5. Scrambled egg sandwich. Kids can easily whip up scrambled eggs in the microwave.
6. Muffins. Try these irresistible and protein-packed Mac and Cheese Muffins.
7. Slice of pizza. Make your own healthy version, use left-overs, or grab a take-out slice on the way to practice.
8. Quesadillas. These are fun to make at home, travel well when cut up, and you can pack in all sorts of healthy goodies. Here’s one with beans and greens.
9. Cereal with fruit. A whole-grain and fiber-rich cereal can be a great self-serve choice for kids at home after school.
11. Nachos. Layer up the traditional kind (like these chicken nachos) with healthy protein and veggies, or try my fun fruity banana split version.
12. Cookies. If you make your own, there’s no end to the healthy ingredients you can cram into a tasty cookie snack.
13. Apple Donuts. This one is a snack and an activity. A snacktivity!
14. Pimiento Cheese Poppers. These zingy bites are dead simple to make ahead in a big batch.
15. Roasted Chickpeas. Light, salty and oh-so-good, these are the best for protein power.
16. Fruit Salsa. Mmm. Kids can help make my Strawberry Mango with Cinnamon Tortilla Chips, or any of these delicious ideas.
16. Smoothies. What kid doesn’t love a frothy cool smoothie? And it’s so easy to blend in protein, fruits and veggies for a hit of solid nutrition. Try my super greens or carrot cake smoothies.
17. Yogurt, fruit and granola parfait. Let kids assemble at home from their favorite ingredients, or layer up in a wide-mouth thermos.
In a time crunch?
Here are 5 after school snack ideas that are simple to buy and pack:
Sabra Hummus and Pretzel containers
Chicken of the Sea Infusions
Trader Joe’s Happy Trekking Trail Mix
Clif Bar (I like Oatmeal Raisin Walnut)
Wholly Guacamole Guac and Chips
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Pack a healthy lunch to go with that healthy snack.