Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Snack Battle: 10 Smart Choices for After-School Snacks

After school snacks have long been a battle in our house.  Both of my teenagers eat lunch very early at school and I rarely have dinner ready before 6PM.  When they arrive home, they want to stuff their face to satisfy their deep hunger.  I want them to eat something small yet satisfying and healthy so that they are not full when I finally get dinner on the table.

I tried having minimal options in the house.  Then I tried leaving out one specific snack for the kids to eat after school.  This left me with two hungry and grouchy kids.  I tried talking with my kids about making smart choices and then leaving them on their own to decide what to eat with all options open (including the Doritos and ice cream that my husband loves).  While my kids took full advantage of all options, I was left grouchy at what I deemed their lack of self-control and poor choices.

When I thought about it, there are two main goals that I have for my kids when it comes to their after-school snacks:
1) That they eat something healthy.
2) That they learn to make their own smart choices when it comes to snacking.

I spent an evening researching healthy snack options.  While I read about a lot of great snacks, I had to be realistic.  My kids are not going to eat veggies dipped in hummus.  A handful of almonds is not going to satisfy their hunger.   Keeping that in mind, I came up with a new idea that gives my kids the freedom to make their own choices while making sure that the options available to them are ones that they will like and are healthy.

We've been following this plan for two weeks now and have found success!  I'm no longer greeted at the door with hungry whiners.  I'm no longer finding piles of wrappers next to the couch and empty bowls stacked on the end table.

There is a list of these ten snacks posted in our kitchen.  With seven of the items, they can pick two. If they choose one of the remaining three, they can only have one item.  I know that I will have to begin to change a few of the items week to week so that my kids don't get bored, but for now things have stayed the same.

Here is our list of 10 Smart After-School Snacks for this week!
My kids can pick two of the following:
1) YoCrunch Yogurt Cup - Chips Ahoy is their favorite flavor
2) Pretzels - pre-portioned baggies (28 sticks = 110 calories)
3) String Cheese - 1 stick
4) Microwave Popcorn - Orville Redenbacher 100 calorie bag
5) Hard-boiled egg
6) A piece of fruit - We usually have apples, bananas and oranges on hand.
7) Bowl of Cornflakes - (1 cup = 100 calories) I recently got rid of the HUGE cereal bowls we had and bought smaller bowls that perfectly hold the appropriate serving size.

Or one of these:
8) Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich
9) Easy Mac & Cheese
10) Mug of Hot Chocolate
Some of the snacks my kids can choose from when they get home from school.
JJ and Ellie like having the freedom to choose their snack.  I am confident that they are making wise choices because there is no other options but healthy.  Surprisingly, no one has complained that the chips and ice cream have disappeared (not even my husband!).

I think that one of the keys to the success of this snacking strategy is that they can have two things in some cases.  Pretzels with string cheese.  Yogurt and a banana.  Popcorn and pretzels.  Cereal with fruit.  One small item doesn't seem like enough.  Getting two feels like a lot more food.

My husband and I often debate about if I am babying our kids by making things so simple for them. His point is that our son is going to be heading off to college in two-and-a-half years and I am not going to be with him making him lists of healthy food choices.  My point is that our children obviously do not know how to make healthy snack choices because they are not doing it.  I view this as a method of teaching them how to make smart choices.  Eventually the lists will disappear.  Eventually they will automatically reach for the fruit or pretzels over ice cream or Doritos.  Just like they now grab water and don't even ask if they can order pop in restaurants.

The snack battle appears to have come to an end in our household.  The kids are happy with the choices that are available to them.  I'm happy that they aren't complaining and aren't full when it comes time for dinner.  We all came out of this battle victorious!