Making Healthy After-School Snacks

Food, Home & Family, Hometown Cooking, Kids
on August 13, 2006

"I'm hungry. What's to eat?"

Those words are likely the first you hear from your children or grandchildren when they get home from school. The challenge is finding foods that they like and that are nutritious, too.

With childhood obesity a major health concern across the nation, American Profile asked cookbook author Holly Clegg to develop recipes for healthful after-school snacks. Describing herself as the one-time "queen of whipping cream and butter," the former caterer and Cordon Bleu-trained chef changed her own eating habits and those of her three children years ago. Today, she's the author of 10 cookbooks, including her latest, The New Holly Clegg Trim and Terrific Cookbook (Running Press, 2006). Clegg notes her recipes are "mother cooked and kid approved."

Berry Fruit Dip

Berries, orange and a touch of almond flavoring make this an ideal dip for any fruit.

  • 2 (8-ounce) cartons fat-free strawberry or raspberry yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

1. Combine yogurt, orange rind, orange juice and almond extract, mixing well. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend the flavors. Serve with apple slices and strawberries. Yield: 2 cups.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Dip

This dip—high in calcium and vitamin C—is great with vegetable sticks or pita crisps.

  • 1 (10-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (16-ounce) container reduced fat cottage cheese or silken tofu
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Place peppers, oil, cottage cheese and garlic in a food processor or blender. Blend until very smooth. Stir in basil, salt and pepper. Yield: 3 cups.

Peanut Butter Snack Mix

Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from the peanuts and peanut butter, and fiber in the cereal make this a nutritious alternative to chips. Store in the refrigerator.

  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 4 cups Chex cereal (assorted wheat and corn)
  • 2 cups mini pretzels
  • 1⁄3 cup peanuts

1. Preheat the oven to 175F.

2. Combine honey, butter and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until smooth. Combine cereal, pretzels and peanuts in a large bowl. Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture and toss to coat. Spread on baking sheet and bake for 1 and ½ hours. Yield: about 6 cups.

Perky Pizzas

Here's an afternoon snack that may help you sneak some vegetables into your kids' diet.

  • 4 whole-wheat English muffins, split in half
  • ½ small green bell pepper, cored and sliced into thin rings
  • ¼ cup broccoli florets, no stems
  • 1⁄3 cup pesto sauce
  • 2⁄3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.

2. Place broccoli, green pepper and about 2 tablespoons water in a microwave-safe container, cover with plastic wrap and microwave 2 minutes to soften vegetables. Cut green peppers into 2-inch pieces and break broccoli into very small clusters.

3. Place muffin halves on a baking sheet. Spread each with about 2 teaspoons of pesto and sprinkle with cheese. Place green pepper slices and broccoli on top. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and muffin is crispy. Yield: 8 pizzas.

Southwestern Chicken Quesadillas

Use leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken to whip up these high-fiber snacks.

  • 12 (6- to 8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken
  • 1⁄3 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup fresh corn
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 450F.

2. Arrange 6 tortillas on baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Spread salsa on top of tortillas. In a small bowl, combine chicken, black beans, corn and cheese. Spoon equal portions on top of tortillas. Top each with another tortilla, pressing to adhere.

3. Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until cheese melts and filling is heated through. Use pizza cutter to cut into wedges. Yield: 6 quesadillas.

Chocolate Smoothie

A chocolate smoothie hits the spot for that afternoon slump and provides a jolt of calcium.

  • 1 cup chocolate milk
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • ½ cup frozen vanilla yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons malt powder
  • ½ cup chopped ice

1. Combine all ingredients together in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Yield: 2 cups.

Seven How-to's for Smart Snacking

1. Ask your kids what healthful foods they'd like to have on hand. Buy them.

2. "Walk" your kids through the kitchen so they know where these foods are kept.

3. Keep fresh fruit on the counter where kids can see it.

4. Wash and cut up veggies ahead, so they're ready to eat.

5. Use see-through containers, clear plastic bags or containers covered with plastic wrap so kids can easily see what's inside.

6. Put food where your kids can reach it, perhaps on the lower shelves in your refrigerator, pantry or cabinet. Keep "sometimes" food, such as cookies and chips, stored in cabinets where they're less convenient to reach.

7. Buy food in single-serve containers for grab-and-go eating—for example milk, raisins, juice, fruit cups, pudding and baby carrots.

Adapted from the American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, by Roberta Larson Duyff (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002).