After School Snack Attacks

SONY DSCAfter school snacks are more than just a habit, most kids really need that middle of the afternoon fuel. Afternoon snacking helps refuel kids and may also help them study better. Kids generally eat smaller portions than adults and need to refuel more often.

Good-for-you snacks start with a proper pantry. Stock your refrigerator and shelves with foods that are fast — not fussy.

These ideas for healthy snacks keep fat and calories at bay and maximize whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Best of all, you can make them all in 10 minutes or less.

Some ideas include:

  • Toast one-half of a whole-wheat English muffin. Top with Canadian bacon, a tomato slice, and low-fat cheese. Microwave until the cheese melts.
  • Mash a half banana into peanut butter and spread on a whole-grain bagel. Be aware that large bagels can have up to 400 calories each, so choose a small — 2 ounce — bagel.
  • Mix cold leftover chicken or convenience-type chunk chicken with seedless grapes, sunflower seeds, plain yogurt and a dash of curry powder. Stuff into a hollowed-out green pepper or whole-wheat pita pocket.
  • Spread one-half of a small cinnamon-raisin bagel with part-skim ricotta cheese. Top with apple slices.
  • Layer soft mini corn or flour tortillas with shredded low-fat cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. Microwave until the cheese melts. Slice into bite-size pie shapes.
  • Spread a brown rice cake with ricotta cheese and fresh strawberries or low-sugar, spreadable fruit. Or try spreading it with herbed goat cheese and sliced olives.
  • Top a baked potato with plain yogurt and Cajun seasoning. Don’t like spice? Top with cottage cheese.
  • Spread raisin toast with apple butter.  Serve with a string cheese stick.
  • Spread a slice of whole-grain crispbread (Wasa crispbread, Ry-Krisp, others) with fruit-flavored low-fat yogurt or 100 percent fruit jam.
  • 100% Whole Wheat crackers with mozzarella or low fat cheese
  • Make regular oatmeal in the microwave and top with dried fruit and skim milk.
  • Serve low fat graham crackers with peanut butter with a glass of milk, dried fruit mixed with sunflower seeds.
  • Make a sandwich of a whole wheat tortilla rolled around low-fat cheese, salsa and lettuce.
  • Baby carrots and dip in low fat salad dressing.
  • Pop popcorn and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  • Blend nonfat yogurt and frozen mango chunks into a smoothie.
  • Peel bananas, wrap in plastic and freeze.
  • Berries, 1 tsp ground flaxseed and 1 cup plain yogurt.

How to Get the Whole Family into a Healthy Lifestyle

Make healthy living a family affair and lead your family down the path of exercise and proper diet.

It makes it easier if everyone is on the same page as far as lifestyle is concerned. It is difficult for one to eat healthy if two or three others have fast food and junk around.

Families doing exercise and healthy eating together are going to be more supportive… doing things, having common goals for a family is very important. It helps bring the family together whatever those goals are.

Top tips for fine-tuning your entire family’s well-being.

Set modest, simple health goals. Take baby steps so your cooking slowly evolves from fattening to fit. Incorporate fruits and fat-free snacks into children’s diets. Also start slow with light exercise such as walking for a few minutes, a couple of times a week and gradually increase the frequency and duration.

Get the kids involved. Let them find healthy, kid friendly recipes and help them learn how to prepare them. Kids love to make meals that involve creativity. Spring Rolls, Taco Bowls (brown rice or quinoa, chicken, fajita vegetables, tomatoes, salsa, reduced fat sharp cheddar), Kebabs, Salad Bar Night are all popular.

Reinforce healthy behavior. Don’t get discouraged… even if your family won’t eat every morsel of the healthy meal you’ve made. Be pleased with even the smallest progress.

Focus on motivation. Encourage your children to be more like their favorite sports idol. All professional athletes have fitness trainers and registered dietitians because optimal exercise and nutrition helps performance.

Go public. Commit to a walkathon or another event involving a large group of people. Such events are great motivators because they get you to train.

Associate health with favorite activities. Your husband loves golf and your daughter loves cheerleading? Use these loves to get them to exercise. Knowing that exercise will help them to excel at their favorite activities is a great way to get them motivated.

Exert influence, not control. Don’t force exercise and healthy eating down the throats of your loved ones. They will be more inclined to change their lifestyle if they think it’s their idea.

Lead by example. Be a role model. If you make healthy lifestyle changes, your family is likely to follow suit.

Make it easy for your family to be healthy. Don’t obstruct attempts to be healthy. If your kids want to play soccer with the neighbors, let them. Disguise exercise by suggesting you and your children walk down the street to see what the neighbors have done to their house.

Do activities together. The family that walks together, talks together. Plan activities that will spawn healthy bodies AND healthy relationships.


Helping Your Child Be at a Healthy Weight


Kids come in many shapes and sizes. Their rapid growth and development take place at different ages and proceed at different rates.

Pressuring kids to lose weight can be counterproductive and can lower their self-esteem, which can be very fragile at this time in their lives. Let your child know you love him or her no matter how he or she looks. Besides, dieting can be harmful during an adolescent’s rapid growth.

Do encourage an active lifestyle. Activity helps control weight, but more importantly, it helps kids feel good about themselves. While some sedentary activities (like doing homework) can be positive, the typical teen watches television more than 20 hours per week; others spend lots of time at the computer or listening to music. Ideally, kids should engage in vigorous activity for 30 minutes, 4-5 times a week, but even some activity is better than none.

Taking responsibility for food choices is one of the many ways kids assert their independence. Some of the best ways you can help your child are by providing a variety of healthful foods at home; being a role model for healthy eating, exercise and lifestyle habits; and showing your kids love and support.

Here are some specific guidelines for the care and feeding of kids:

Let your kids be responsible for what and how much he or she eats.

Foster self-esteem and self-confidence by recognizing accomplishments not related to weight or body size.

Offer to prepare breakfast or have fast, nutritious breakfast foods available.

Be sure that foods you prepare are not high in fat, sugar and salt.

Encourage family meals but avoid stressful conversations at the table.

Teach them to make wise food choices by including them in menu planning, grocery shopping and meal preparation.

Make lifestyle changes without fanfare. Prepare low-fat and lower calorie meals the whole family will enjoy. Stock the         fridge with individual bottles of water, juice, and healthy snacks like non-fat yogurt.

Have a variety of healthful snacks on hand (fortified whole grain cereal, fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables and reduced-fat dips, cheese, pretzels, air popped popcorn, reduced-fat or skim milk and yogurt).

Support (but don’t pressure) participation in sports, exercise or other physical activities. Provide transportation and  help with expenses.

Take walks or bike rides together.

Plan active family outings such as ski trips, hiking or swimming or shoot baskets together at a neighborhood gym or  park.

Discourage diets, especially for kids. Learn the signs of eating disorders.

Set a good example; make eating well and exercising a part of your lifestyle.

Strive to be non-judgmental when talking about body shapes (your own and others).

Be patient and positive and keep the lines of communication open.