Snacking to satisfy hunger and health


Growing children need snacks. Their nutrient needs are often not met by meals alone. Healthful snacks provide extra nutrients in your children’s diets that can be missing at meals due to busy family life.

And face it, little tummies simply can’t make it from one meal to the next without something to"tide them over.” With back-to-school time here, let’s explore the role of after-school snacks.

After a long day at school, children are often hungry. Their lunch break may have been 3 or more hours ago and after-school activities like soccer or gymnastics are physically demanding and burn plenty of calories.

So what are kids snacking on?

According to the NHANES III study, the top foods children snack on are soft drinks, cookies and salty snacks such as potato chips, corn chips and popcorn. The rest of the list contains other not-so-nourishing items. And the trouble is, many of these highly processed foods are consumed while sitting in front of the television or computer screen. Extra calories can add up quickly when a child’s attention is on something else.

What to look for

Protein and fiber-rich snacks will keep your children satisfied longer, according to dietitian Kindy Peaslee, RD. Protein provides satiety and fiber adds bulk and texture, both important for a satisfying snack.

Peaslee, who has a recipe Web site for parents at, recommends smart snacking. Researchers have found that when kids are forbidden to eat snacks, snacking becomes more desirable. So have a snack plan for your family that will help children maintain energy and control cravings. It’s just a matter of learning how smart snacking works.

We often think only of food snacks. Drinkable beverage snacks can add many missing nutrients to your child’s diet. For example, if your child needs more dairy try giving a glass of low-fat milk or make a fruit smoothie that you can share.

Going overboard?

Highly processed foods, foods that are fried, sugary foods and drinks, even 100 calorie packs, are best left to once-in-a-while snacks. But don’t make the mistake of creating a snack monster by banishing all the so-called junk in the house to avoid temptations. Banning all sweet and salty indulgences can actually backfire by making them all the more desirable when kids are away from home or out with friends. Consider allowing some"goodies” in the home, but put limits on the amount and where they’re eaten (at the table, not in front of the TV or computer screen).

Parents can serve as positive role models for children and adolescents by improving their own eating and physical activity habits, including snack time. By keeping your refrigerator and cupboards stocked with tasty, healthful choices, it will be easy for you and your children to grab satisfying snacks that provide essential nutrients.

Some healthful after-school snacks

Apple wedges with peanut (or other nut) butter

Whole wheat wafers with chunky vegetable dip

Baked tortilla chips and salsa

Vanilla yogurt with fresh or frozen berries

Almonds mixed with dried fruit

Mozzarella cheese sticks and grape tomatoes

Cheese wedges and crackers

Fresh vegetables and dip

Fresh fruit

Celery with peanut butter or cottage cheese

Fig bars

Yogurt with granola

Guacamole with whole grain tortilla chips

Carrots or pita bread with hummus


Farfalle with Tomatoes and Corn


1 box Barilla Piccolini Mini Farfalle

2 pounds plum tomatoes (may substitute 28 ounce can diced tomatoes)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. chopped onion

1 can corn (15.5 ounces), drained

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

4 leaves basil, chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

Place the tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds to blanch; peel the skin, remove the seeds and chop.

In a medium skillet, sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Add tomatoes to the skillet and simmer for three minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add corn and sauté for two minutes.

Drain pasta and toss with sauce.

Stir in cheese and basil before serving.

Nutrient content per serving: 450 calories, 10 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 70 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams dietary fiber, 18 grams protein, 390 milligrams sodium, 25 percent DV vitamin A, 30 percent DV vitamin C, 20 percent DV calcium, 15 percent DV iron. Recipe courtesy of

Dear Good Sense Eating

Do you have snack suggestions for"in the car” on the way to practice?

Megan B., Schaumburg

Think portable and mobile snacks for in the car. Sip a cool fruit juice box with pretzel sticks or spoon some light dill vegetable dip into a plastic cup and add crunchy vegetable sticks, cut the veggies to fit the cup (use a tall cup), cover with a lid (be sure to keep it chilled). Nuts or trail mix are also car-friendly.

Christine M. Palumbo, RD, is a Naperville nutritionist who enjoys a late afternoon snack every day. She can be reached at (630) 369-8495 or

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