Nutrition Corner: After school snacks — do they measure up?

August 31st, 2017 1:20 pm

Labor Day brings mixed feelings of back to school. I hear parents say some children are anxious to go back, while others are not. While you are enjoying one of the last weekends of summer, this is a great time to get organized for the new school week ahead. Don’t forget to include planning those after school snacks.

After a long day at school, including after school sporting events, the mind and body need to be re-energized. Snacks are a great way to get those nutrients and give you more time to prepare dinner.

High salt or high sugar snacks are OK on occasion, as all foods fit, however, if we are going to ensure that our kids feel their best it’s important to look for those snacks that give us nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals.

Leftovers from last night dinner works well as an after school snack. Make extra to ensure there is one or two servings left. Leftover veggies, salad and shredded cheese makes a quick wrap. Add a glass of low fat milk and see your students’ energy level come back to life.

MyPlate is an excellent guide to check to see if the snacks you serve have enough nutrients. Does it contain a vegetable, fruit, whole grain, protein or dairy? It certainly does not need to contain all the groups, however more, it’s extra nutritious.

Vegetables and fruit make great snacks. Carrots, cucumbers and green pepper strips, dried fruits and vegetables like dried peas or chickpeas can make great snacks, as well.

Snacks can also include whole grain foods. Food manufactures use whole grains to make popular cereals. Check to see that whole grain is the first ingredient. If it is the second, most likely the cereal contains 50% or less of whole grain.

Snacks can also include foods from the dairy group. Yogurt, low fat cheese and low fat milk can be good sources of protein and calcium along with vitamin D.

Last, but not least, protein. Protein is the nutrient which usually gets left out of a snack. Great protein snacks are nuts and beans such as dried peas and garbanzo beans and milk.

Plan out your family’s after school snacks this school year. Set aside time on the weekend to hold a family discussion. Check to see how it measures up to MyPlate.

This snack recipe included black beans which are a great source of low cost protein and fiber. Serve on tortilla triangles.

Black Bean Salsa

1 can black beans, canned, drained and rinsed (15 ounce can)

1 bell pepper, green (diced)

1 red bell pepper (diced)

1 onion (diced)

2 cans diced tomatoes (canned, drained)

2 cloves garlic (diced)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried cilantro

3 tablespoons rice vinegar (Can use other vinegar such as red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar)

Tortilla whole grain- cut into 4 triangles

Cucumber circles

Drain and rinse beans. Put beans and tomatoes into large mixing bowl. Dice peppers, onion, and garlic. Add to mixing bowl. Mix cumin, cilantro, and vinegar. Pour on top of beans and vegetables. Stir well.

Serve on tortilla triangles by placing small amount in center and roll up or top cucumber circles. Enjoy!

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at