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4 Healthy After-School Snacks

Posted 9/30/2016 by UHBlog

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4 Healthy After-School Snacks

After a long day of school, the first thing many kids do when they get home is raid the pantry or refrigerator, looking for something to satisfy their hunger. But nutrition-wise, not all snacks are created equal. Snacking on high-calorie junk foods – like potato chips and mint chocolate chip ice cream – can end up spoiling your child's appetite for dinner and lead to obesity over time, says clinical dietitian Janet Kramer, MPH, RDN, LD.

According to Kramer, snacks should be seen as an opportunity to get more nutrients into your child’s diet. When done right, they give your child an energizing, nutritionally rich boost that gets them through until dinnertime. The healthiest snacks, she says, are the ones for which you don’t need a recipe.

“You just throw together a few real foods – the ones without labels and long ingredient lists,” Kramer says.

This includes foods like:

  • Fruit
  • Veggies
  • A handful of nuts
  • Cheese

It’s important to remember that snack calories count, she says.

“Snacks are just supposed to tide you over until dinner, not fill you up,” Kramer says. “You don’t want them spoiling their appetite for dinner or causing excessive weight gain due to too many calories.”

A good calorie target, assuming that your child is physically active, is:

  • 100 to 200 calories for students in grade school
  • 300 calories for teenage girls
  • 400 calories for teenage boys.

If your child is not physically active, then chances are a snack is not needed, Kramer says.

If you're in a rush and need to grab a snack on the run, she recommends avoiding foods with added sugar or too much salt. Choose foods that have less than 200 mg/sodium and no more than 6 grams of sugar per serving. Labels are helpful tools in choosing healthier options.

“If it's packaged, read the ingredients list and look for items with the fewest ingredients,” she says.

If you have a few extra minutes to cook up a healthy snack, Kramer offers up these four recipes for tasty, healthy treats. And, she says, the best way to wash it down is with water or low-fat milk.

Best-Ever Hummus

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 Tbsps. olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed


  1. In a food processor, process tahini and lemon juice for 1 minute
  2. Add garlic, olive oil, cumin and salt and process another minute
  3. Add half the chickpeas and process another minute
  4. Scrape, add remaining chickpeas and process for 2 minutes
  5. In a thin stream, add 2-3 Tbsps. of water while processing until smooth and creamy

Carrot Muffins

Makes 12 standard muffins or 24 mini muffins.

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 cups grated carrots

Optional Ingredients

  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup raisins

Note: ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce can be substituted for ¼ cup milk if needed for milk intolerance/allergy.


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare muffin tins with muffin paper liners./li>
  2. Combine or sift together the dry ingredients and set aside./li>
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and sugar. Stir in the oil, applesauce and grated carrots, mixing well./li>
  4. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix until all ingredients are moistened. Be careful not to overmix./li>
  5. If desired, fold in the nuts and/or raisins./li>
  6. Spoon batter into muffin cups filling each one about 2/3 full./li>
  7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden in color or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Green Smoothie


  • 1 cup milk (cow’s milk or other milk alternative)
  • 2 cups frozen fruit (green grapes, pineapple, mango)
  • 1 banana (frozen) and cut into chunks
  • 2 dates, without pits (adds sweetness without sugar)
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 cups fresh spinach (or kale)
  • Water to make smoothie the desired consistency, or ice if fruit is not frozen


Put dates, half the frozen fruit, half the milk and the frozen banana chunks in blender and blend. Then add remaining milk, fruit, orange juice and blend again until mixture is blending smoothly. Add a splash of water if needed. Then add the spinach, continue blending and watch as your smoothie turns green.

Kale Chips

Super easy and a yummy snack


  • 1 bunch of kale from grocery store or farmers’ market
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (or garlic salt)
  • Optional: add a little cayenne or curry powder for an extra kick


  1. Rip kale into salad sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
  2. Toss with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt over all.
  4. Lay out on a baking sheet in an oven at 350° F and bake for 20 minutes.

Janet Kramer, MPH, RDN, LD is a clinical dietitian, Rainbow Ambulatory Practice, at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with a dietitian or any other University Hospitals health care professional online.

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