If your kids are like mine, they don’t come home from school hungry. They come home ravenous. Yet there’s a fine line between nourishing kids after a long day and completely spoiling their appetite for dinner when it comes to after-school snacking.
How to make it work? You know your kids best, and different families need different solutions–so here are some ideas to consider:
If dinner is 3 (or more) hours away
Serve a snack that has staying power, including carbohydrates for energy, and protein and fat to keep them fuller longer. Though traditional snack foods like chips and sweets are okay occasionally, try to serve “meal foods” more often.
- Yogurt with fresh or frozen berries (like these Fireworks Parfaits)
- Mashed avocado on toast
- Hummus and pita bread
- Half a sandwich and a glass of milk
If dinner is 2 hours away
Serve something light but satisfying. The idea is to quell their hunger with foods that are tasty but quick and easy to digest, so they’re still hungry for dinner later.
- Popcorn + apple slices
- Whole grain crackers + banana
- Homemade ice pops (like these Green Smoothie Pops)
- Small bowl of whole grain cereal
If dinner is 1 hour away
Serve veggies. This was the strategy I settled on with my kids, and it worked wonders! Our house policy was “only veggies in the hour before dinner.” I’d offer both the veggies I was prepping for dinner and any veggie in the fridge.
The beauty of this policy: Your kids will come to the dinner table with a serving or more of veggies already in their bellies.
- Raw, sliced veggie sticks with dip
- Crunchy salad greens with a favorite dressing
- Vegetable salad (like this Carrot Raisin Salad)
- Cooked veggies you’re serving with dinner
If all else fails
Consider moving dinner earlier or later. If your family schedule can swing it, an earlier dinner–such as 4pm–can allow your kids to get a good, square meal at the time they’re hungriest. You can either eat an early dinner too or have part of the meal with them, and part later.
If your kids just can’t get by without a big, filling snack after school, pushing dinner later might be the solution.
Remember: As your kids get older, schedules shift and appetites grow, and your snack and dinner strategy will likely change too. Do what works for your family now.