Easy-Peasy After-School Snacks for Every Age

Junk food…it’s what’s for dinner! 

Well, not really. But sometimes it feels like that’s all my kids will eat. Putting together meals and snacks the whole family will enjoy is quite the challenge. Couple that with the fact that my kids come in from school acting like they’ve been deserted on an island without food or drink for a month. 

When my three kids end a long day at school, it truly feels like they can’t shovel in food fast enough. They want full meals! Plus, I have some pretty picky eaters, so I have to be creative with the offerings.

I’ve gotten good at stocking our fridge and pantry with some great items that my kids can “mix and match” to build a hearty snack, and I’d like to pass on some ideas. 

First, let me encourage you to stock the fridge of some staples and easy-to-grab items that are NOT loaded with sugar. You know as well as I do that too much sugar isn’t good for the little minions. Stock your fridge and pantry with protein, veggies, fruit, dairy, and grains that are simple but good for the whole family. 

Some days, you’ll feel more creative and less tired than others so you’ll be able to pull something fun together once you’ve purchased these basics. Other days, you’ll be so totally wiped out and just DONE with it all, that you’ll need to have things kids can manage on their own, no matter their age. 

Essential Items for the Fridge and Pantry

Hearty Grab-and-Go Proteins:

  • Nut Butters (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter)
  • String Cheese
  • Nuts (mix with dried fruit!)
  • Edamame
  • Beef Jerky
  • Yogurt (add your own fruit to cut down on sugar)
  • Cream Cheese (these come mixed with some tasty herbs!)
  • Eggs (boil up several at a time for easy grabbing)

Simple Stack-and-Savor Veggies:

  • Celery Sticks
  • Carrot Sticks
  • Sugar-Snap Peas

Helpful Hint: Buy these pre-cut and pre-bagged when you’re short on time. 

Stackable Grains:

  • Rice Cakes (my kids love the chocolate ones from Sprouts)
  • Pretzel Sticks (dip in cream cheese)
  • Tortillas (roll up with cheese or banana and nut butter)
  • Chex Mix Cereal
  • Crackers/Mini Toasts (spread cream cheese or nut butter, then top with fruit)

Super-Yummy Fruits:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Grapes
  • Berries (try frozen; they make great smoothies!)
  • Raisins

Helpful Hint: Keep a fruit bowl stocked so your kids can grab-and-go. I tell my kids they never have to ask me if they want fruit or veggie snacks; they’re free to take as they wish!

Photo by Alison LaFortune on Unsplash

Snack-Building Ideas

Once you have your essential ingredients, you can either leave these as-is for the kids to be creative, or you can pre-make some snacks. Keeping these on-hand will eliminate the need for sugary, starchy foods that don’t help keep your child full anyway. 

While you can purchase things like bags of chips, granola bars, trail mix, fruit cups, and fruit chews for easy consumption, these aren’t the kinds of snacks you’ll want your child to have every day. The sugar content is too high, and the nutritional value is too low. Keep away from juices, also, because of the sugar content. If you insist on juice, I’ve found the Little Hug Barrels you can buy at your local grocery store to be the best thing on the market outside of water at just one gram of sugar and five calories each. 

So, build your snacks! Here are some ideas:

  • Add diced berries to plain 2% yogurt
  • Smear nut butter on apple slices, top with raisins or drizzle with honey
  • Fill celery with cream cheese or peanut butter or sliced cheese
  • Toss edamame with a little soy sauce
  • Roll a banana nut butter-smeared tortilla drizzled with honey
  • Make a smoothie with fruit, yogurt, honey, and ice
  • Toss Chex Mix cereal with raisins, nuts, and some melted nut butter (sticky, but tasty!)
  • Top mini toasts or crackers with sliced cheese and beef jerky

The ideas are endless! Stocking the fridge doesn’t have to be hard; it just takes a little bit of planning. While I’m at it, I’d like to plug online grocery shopping if you’re short on time. If you’re juggling a lot, let someone else shop for you. Then all you have to do is share ideas with your kids and let them fill their tummies with fun, creative, yummy snacks that will (hopefully) hold them over until dinner!

Jennifer Slingerland Ryan
Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer is a mom of twins who are sweet as sugar, but just hit that tween stage so all bets are off. Her youngest is...a joy. Let's just stop there. Most days you can find her in her office seeing clients, doing laundry, loading or unloading the dishwasher, or catching up on the latest episode of Real Housewives of (Insert City Here), Walking Dead or This Is Us. She is a tree-hugging country girl from West Texas who reads, writes, and teaches about human development and families as a hobby and profession. You can read more from Jennifer at her therapy blog, ichoosechange.com