(BPT) - Whether they're in a club or after-school program, play on a sports team or go straight home, when the school day is done, all children have something in common - they could use a good snack!
Children need healthy fuel after school, but often can be picky about what they'll reach for. Parents can struggle to find snacks that are portable and provide the protein and nutrition kids need, plus deliver on the flavor and fun factor that will ensure their kids eat the snack instead of tossing it in the trash.
Hungry for snack ideas? Here are some tips for choosing snacks that parents can feel good about to help keep your kids going when the school day ends:
* Pack in protein - Protein is a vital component of a balanced diet, especially for the developing bodies of young children. Choosing a high-protein snack can also help children avoid the energy crash that occurs after consuming sugary snacks. Look for protein-rich snacks like Nature Valley Protein Chewy Bars, which offer 10 grams of protein and are available in kid-friendly flavors like Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Nut.
* Whole grains are great - Whole grains offer a host of healthful nutrients, including B vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants, according to HealthLine. Children can get whole grains from many sources, including whole-grain breads, but cereal can be a very kid-friendly option for whole-grain goodness. Create your own small treat bags of cereal for on-the-go snacks. Options like Cheerios are made from whole grain oats, so they pack 24 grams of whole grain per serving - about half of the recommended daily allowance.
* Drink up, drink wisely - At the end of the day, kids thirst for something to go with their snack. Before letting kids reach for a juice or sports drink, remind them that water is the best beverage for everyone, regardless of what they do after school. Nothing hydrates like H2O, but if your child doesn't like the taste of plain water, you can find many sugar-free, lightly and naturally flavored waters to tempt their taste buds.
* Calcium is key - Young bones do a lot of growing, and calcium is essential for bone growth. Children can benefit from snacks rich in calcium - which are, coincidentally, often also rich in protein - such as cheese and yogurt. String cheese or yogurt variations like E-Z open Go-Gurt are calcium- and protein-rich snacks that are also kid friendly, and easy to enjoy on the go during the busy school year. Put a frozen Go-Gurt in your kid's backpack in the morning and it will stay cold until after-school soccer practice.
Numerous studies show after-school activities benefit kids physically, mentally and socially. Choosing the right after-school snacks can help ensure kids get the most enjoyment and nutritional benefits after the school bell rings.