Easy After-School Snacks

by Ingrid Ougland ***

Every morning I send my son off to school with a lunch box filled with nutritious and tasty foods. Between the time he gets on the bus in the morning and the time he gets home, I have no idea what happens to this carefully constructed meal. Does he trade it for whipped cream filled and preservative laden treats? Is it stuffed in his desk in favor of the endless classroom supply of goldfish crackers? Most likely the contents sit idle during the 20 minute lunch period in favor of a heated Minecraft debate, then tossed in the garbage on the way to recess.

Colorful cut vegetablesOne thing is certain, my son comes home “starving” and if I don’t have a healthy snack immediately ready for consumption, my kitchen will be hit by a 10-year-old tornado in search of potato chips. For this reason, I am very careful to choose an after school snack that can help make up for his lack of lunchtime nutrition.

Beth Olenchek, with Virginia Mason’s Nutrition and Fitness for Life and Community Benefit programs, told me that one of the most helpful things parents can do to create healthy eating patterns is to structure meals and snacks — this means teaching kids to eat healthy meals with a variety of nutritious foods, healthy snacks at snack time, and limiting high-fat, high-sugar treat foods.

“Without this structure, it’s easy for kids to make unhealthy choices,” says Beth. “When kids skip meals or don’t eat enough of what’s served, they overdo it at snack time and aren’t hungry for the next meal. This often leads to kids eating too little of the right foods and too much of the wrong ones.”

Beth also suggests getting your kids involved as you plan the week’s meals and snacks, go grocery shopping and cook meals. “Let them choose some healthy foods and get those foods on the grocery list. Talk about what will be served at snack time and stick to that plan,” she says.

Below is a list of snack you can try with your kid:

  • Dried fruit, served with nuts or sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Frozen desserts, such as nonfat or low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt, fruit sorbet, popsicles and fruit juice bars
  • Air-popped popcorn with parmesan cheese
  • Pre-chopped veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, carrots or celery) with light ranch dressing or hummus
  • Whole-grain breads and crackers (compare labels and look for products with the highest fiber content) served with 100 percent fruit spread, low-fat cheese or natural nut butter such as peanut, almond, cashew or sesame seed (known as tahini).
  • Quick smoothie: Blend together low-fat milk, sliced or frozen bananas, peanut butter and one-half teaspoon vanilla extract.

One more thing to note: Children of preschool age can easily choke on foods that are hard to chew, small and round, or sticky, such as hard vegetables, whole grapes, hard chunks of cheese, raisins, nuts, seeds and popcorn. It’s important to carefully select snacks for children in this age group.

Ingrid Ougland is Virginia Mason’s community benefit manager.


Simple Changes at First Can Lead to Lasting Weight Loss

I am one of the millions who have resolved to lose weight; a resolution easily broken last year with my first visit to “French Dip Friday” at my favorite lunch establishment near work. It is very easy for me to say yes to fries when I’m already eating a meaty, cheesy sandwich. Unfortunately, my pants have begun to say no to my waistline, so something needs to be done.

“The best way to lose weight is a lifestyle change with diet and exercise,” says Nicholas Moy, MD, a primary care physician at VM’s Seattle Main Campus. “But that is also the hardest to do.”

Eat an apple as a snack.

Eat an apple as a snack.

Using a popular fad diet may result in rapid weight loss, but most people will find those types of diets unsustainable over time. The best way to lasting weight loss is gradual changes over time. One to two pounds per week is a great goal. Dr. Moy suggests these tips to start:

  • Cut down your portions to what a portion should be: nothing larger than a salad plate.
  • Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, but do it in a way that is sustainable to your lifestyle. Snack on an apple or pear one or two days a week, and add an extra serving of vegetables at dinner time two to three days a week.
  • Cut back on unhealthy snacks like chips, crackers and cookies, but also do it slowly. So instead of a bag of chips every day, cut back to every other day. If you eat two cookies a night, cut back to one, and then eventually one every other night.
  • Don’t drink your calories from things like soda and creamy coffee beverages. Water is the best beverage choice when trying to lose weight.

“As you get used to those small changes, keep adding to them as time goes on, which makes the changes not so drastic,” Dr. Moy advises. “If on the other hand you have difficulty sticking to changes, a structured program like Weight Watchers or a support group like Overeaters Anonymous can be helpful and keep you on track.”

And speaking of keeping on track, I’m also planning to track what I eat. It’s been proven that women who keep food journals consistently lose about six pounds more than those who don’t.

And although I’m focused on what I’m eating to lose weight, I will eventually start adding exercise to my routine. Mónica Guzmán’s column last weekend in Sunday’s Seattle Times gives a great rundown of apps and hardware to help obtain fitness goals. (I may even try the Zombies, Run! app to help incorporate some exercise into my resolution to lose weight – if I’m going to make a lifestyle change, it might as well be fun.)