The kids are back in school and I’m curious…which camp are you in?

Camp A:  Thrilled to have your child back in school.

Camp B:  Sad to have your child back in school.

I’m a mix of both to be honest.  Sending Sienna off is great for so many reasons, including seeing her grow in so many ways (she learned how to count in French on day one!).

But being in school is also synonymous with afternoon hunger pangs.  That 3pm to 5pm window isn’t my favourite part of the day. The kids are hungry (likely a little cranky too) but dinner time is around the corner.

Then parents are scrambling to shove something in their mouth to stop the whining and be able to focus on dinner prep.  The key (and challenge) is finding the right after-school snack.

healthy after-school snacks

What makes a healthy after-school snack? 

Lunch was hours ago…

Dinner is hours away…

Your kids will need something to keep them satisfied and provide solid nutrition.  It will also need to be exciting so that they want to eat it!  You may also have some dietary issues to contend with, like a ​gluten-free or dairy-free member of the family or someone who has food allergies.

You probably have an entire pantry full of packaged snacks that are ready to eat — because what parent doesn’t?  Not only are those snacks not likely the healthiest stuff on the planet but they could also be costing you quite a lot of money in the long run.

These days, kids consume cookies, cakes, cereal bars, rice snacks, breads and pastries after school.  All in all, these are high-carbohydrate, nutrient-poor snack food choices, which are likely to be leaving children at risk of overeating and weight gain long-term.

Ideally a child’s snack will keep them full for 2-3 hours and offer some positive nutritional properties.

Nutrients such as fibre and protein will help to keep kids full, while calcium and iron will support optimal growth and development.

Coconut Yogurt Bark

The goal with after-school snacks:

Here’s what we are trying to achieve in that 3 to 4pm window:

  • Give your kids just enough food to take the edge off.

  • Use it as an opportunity to introduce your kids to new foods (because they are hungry).

  • Use it as an opportunity to get nutrient-dense foods into them (also because they are hungry).
  • Ensure your kids still have an appetite for dinner.

If your after school snack is at 4pm and your family eats dinner at 5pm, I wouldn’t suggest something too sweet or filling. But if dinner is at 6:30pm than something more substantial works well.

So here are 10 of my go-to after-school snack ideas – solutions for those times when you want to give your kids something healthy but satisfying at the same time. Keep your rotation of healthy after-school snacks fresh and exciting with these easy, gluten and dairy-free snacks. I believe in keeping it simple, fun and delicious!

10 must try after-school snacks

Berry Blast Smoothie

Energy Boosting Smoothies

The gluten-free oats in this smoothie will help to stabilize your kids’ blood sugar before dinner rolls around and the berries will give their brains the boost they need to perform well in school.

Protein Powder Cookies

3 ingredient gluten-free cookies

These easy-to-make cookies combine healthy fats, fibre and protein that will help to satiate your kids long enough until dinner is ready. Try my favourite protein powder Sunwarrior when making your next batch (use PROMO CODE: BINNS to save 10%!)

Homemade Granola Bars

after-school snacks

These pack a nutritional punch using super foods like chia and hemp seeds. The chia seeds contain calcium, protein, omega-3’s and fiber while the hemp seeds add healthy fats, manganese and iron to these snacks.  Try these hemp seeds the next time you whip up batch.

Hummus with Cut Veggies

Kids love dips, which is why I always have a bowl of hummus handy for after school. The tahini provides a great source of iron and selenium while the chickpeas provide lots of fibre for healthy digestion.  For the veggies, try snap peas, bell peppers, cucumber, jicama, carrots…and so many more options!

Healthy Trail Mix

after-school snacks

Your kids will love the variety in a bowl of trail mix! Nuts provide a load of nutrients including vitamin E, magnesium, selenium and fibre combined with healthy fats to curb their appetite until dinnertime.  Try adding in these cacao chips  and get creative by adding in other pantry items.

Ants on a Log

after-school snacks

A fun, quick, crunchy snack that your kids can help you to make. By adding pumpkin seeds, you get a good dose of magnesium which can help with your kids’ growing bones

Cinnamon Apple Chips

These apple chips are full of antioxidants and fibre. Your kids will love them because of the crunch they make when they bite into them.  Try this organic cinnamon powder when baking your next batch!

Apple and Almond Butter Bites

These mini bites are fun to make and eat and can be done in under 5 minutes! For the healthiest version, try out this organic almond butter from Nuts to you Nut Butter.

Avocado Banana Cookies

Dairy-free gluten-free healthy cookies for toddlers

Avocado’s have to be one of my favourite foods because they are loaded with so many health benefits. By combining them with bananas, the avocado banana cookies pack a potassium punch that can help your kids recover quickly from after school sports.

Banana Sushi Bites

After school snacks

Nothing could be more fun than making these banana sushi bites with your kids! By using a few staple ingredients from your pantry, like chia seeds, you can have a nutritious after school snack for your kids in no time.

Now that you have your arsenal of healthy snack ideas, here are some smart snacking tips to make after school snacks a breeze:

after-school snack

Tips for Smarter Snacking

  • Get kids involved in choosing and prepping their own snacks so they’ll be more likely to eat them
  • Make it easy to choose healthy food over junk food by keeping bags of cut fruits and vegetables front and center in the fridge
  • Prep tubs of high-fiber dips to last through the week
  • Make and freeze baked goods in batches, and defrost enough for the coming week. Easy freeze tip: Space them out on a baking sheet, freeze until hard, then store in bags
  • Bag up non-perishable nutritious snacks for kids to take to after-school programs
  • Support good after-school patterns by encouraging children to always sit at the table to eat their afternoon snack, after getting changed out of their school clothes
  • Get into a habit of offering your kids something that will take some time to chew first, such as an apple, carrot or other crunchy fruit or vegetables to help take the edge off their hunger

Happy snacking!