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Healthy after-school snack ideas for kids

Red apples on a wooden table. Delicious and

Red apples on a wooden table. Delicious and healthy fruit. (Credit: iStock)

You may want to rethink your kids' after-school snacks. According to new research, pairing healthful foods together, such as an apple with cheese, may satisfy children's cravings and keep them feeling fuller, longer.

Researchers from the Food and Brand Laboratory at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, Ithaca, gave 201children in third to sixth grades potato chips, cheese, vegetables or a combination of cheese and vegetables. The kids were asked to enjoy the snacks until they felt full, while watching a 45-minute cartoon. The research found children who ate the combination snack consumed 72 percent fewer calories compared to those who ate the chips, and they needed significantly fewer calories to feel satisfied.  

"Kids don't like to eat veggies or cheese alone," said Brian Wansink, author of the study and founder of mindlesseating.org and slimbydesign.org. "Pair them together and you have a nutrient-rich snack that's time-intensive and even a little fun."

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Wansink recommends keeping these questions in mind when choosing after-school snacks for kids:

* Is it fun? "Unwrapping, dipping and putting foods together, like a piece of cheese on an apple slice, is fun for kids," he said.

* Does it take a long time to eat? "It takes longer to pair foods than to just sit and eat candy," he said. "Plus, kids who eat snack combinations tend to eat fewer calories."

If your child is used to eating chocolate every day after school, don’t take it away forever, advised Wansink. "Just work the snack combos in a few days a week."

Some healthy snack combo ideas include: Portion-controlled cheese, such as Baby Bell or cheese sticks with veggies, cheese and a piece of fruit, crackers and cheese, fruit or veggies with dip.  

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