Back to School with Healthy Snacks

Story by Rachel Buford, TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist

Back to school can be a fun and exciting time for both children and their families. With homework, activities, lessons, and sports, school-aged children are busier than ever. Many kids walk through the door and make a beeline to the kitchen to find something to curb their hunger. After school snacks are a great way to provide needed energy and nutrients and encourage healthy eating habits. Knowing how to prepare or how to purchase healthy snacks will help to keep your children happy and healthy.

Avoiding high-calorie, high sugar and high fat snacks is important according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Allowing your children to only have those types of food sometimes will help make them truly a treat! Teaching and encouraging healthy eating habits is an important step to help prevent obesity in our children.

According to the CDC about 1 in 5 school-aged children (6-19) has obesity. In 2016, 15.3% of adolescents in Oklahoma were overweight and 11.8% were obese. Childhood obesity is a predisposing factor of adulthood obesity. The rate for adulthood obesity in Payne county in 2016 was over 28%.

Children who struggle with obesity are at a higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and even heart disease. They are often bullied more at school and can suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self esteem.  Supporting data from the CDC reports that children with obesity miss more days of school compared to students with normal weights.

Promoting healthy options for an after school snack is a great way to encourage healthy eating habits in your children. For optimal health only six packets of sugar per day are recommended. Some juice boxes can contain up to 18 grams of sugar. That is five whole packets of sugar in one drink! Just one soda contains at least ten packets of sugar. It is important to be conscious of the calorie and fat intake from our after-school snacks!

Here are a few options with less than 250 calories, less than ten grams of fat and twenty grams of sugar.

Fresh fruit and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are always a great option for children. Sliced apples, bananas, oranges, blueberries, grapes, strawberries, and more are a great snack. Vegetables such as celery, bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots are perfect to set out also!

Canned fruit: Dole fruit in 100% fruit juice is a great snack. They offer mandarin oranges, tropical fruit, diced peaches, mixed fruit, and pineapple.

Baked Chips: Chips are easy for on-the-go snacks but can add a lot of extra sodium and fat to your child’s diet. Switching to baked chips is an easy way to reduce their sodium and fat intake and still keep them happy.

Kashi granola bars: Granola bars have been staples in lunch boxes, gym bags, and after school snacks for decades. Kashi and Special K granola bars have a variety of options that are a delicious, healthier option.

Water: This is the best way to help make sure children are not consuming empty calories. You can add fruit to it to make it even more delicious and fun!

Low fat or non-fat milk & 100% fruit juice: While water is the number one choice, low fat or non-fat milk and 100% fruit juices are better options than soda.