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Dippity Do: Easy After-School Snacks

CDKitchen Cooking Columnist Christine Gable
About the author: Christine Gable
Culinary enthusiast; kids cuisine and slow cooking; magazine recipe developer; professional writer. Her simple recipes are great for family dinners.

When your kids get home hungry and tired after a busy day of school, what do they need most? Well, besides a welcome smile and hug and a listening ear, they probably need a healthy protein boost to pick them up after the tests and tribulations of their day.

Although June Cleaver may have had her Leave It to Beaver family noshing on homemade cookies and milk daily, today’s watch words are working parents and strained schedules—not to mention sugar, fat and carbs. Add to that the challenge of grocery shopping in mega-stores filled with a gazillion choices of prepared snacks, chips, pretzels and fruit roll-ups and my head hurts just thinking about it.

That doesn’t help when it comes to snacks—the kids are hungry (NOW) and my mind is blank—other than the stale pretzels and week-old popcorn that have found their way to the front of the snack shelf.

If working in whole grains and 5-A-Day seems to be a pipedream, perhaps some new inspiring ideas are all you need.

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It’s not just you either: Kids are living on snack food and pizza (yes, me too—did you happen to see my recent column on pizza?). A recent study published in the June 2005 Pediatrics stated: “Snacks, desserts, and pizza collectively accounted for approximately one third of the daily energy intake of these children” (in reference to the 3-year-olds studied). “Without proper guidance, such an eating pattern, left unchecked, could lead to possible displacement of dairy foods, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains from the diet.”

Hel-lo? That’s certainly not what our ancestors ate—hunter/gatherer lifestyles were not only rich in outdoor activity but in wild foods of much larger variety than we eat today. And, remember, we’re just shooting for 5-A-Day.

The researchers concluded with some sobering news: “A snack/dessert-laden diet is typically high in refined carbohydrate, salt, sucrose/fructose, and hydrogenated shortening (an ingredient especially predominant in crackers, cookies, chips, snack cakes, etc) and is associated with high trans fatty acid intake and kilojoules and imposes a high glycemic load. Such an eating pattern is associated with obesity, elevated LDL-C, and insulin resistance and foreshadows development of metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.”

Doesn’t sound good, huh? I know that I certainly don’t want to think of my kids dealing with such serious health issues at such a young age—and I’m willing to put in a bit more planning and effort to get them started on the healthier path to a lifetime of better choices.

As the researchers optimistically conclude: “Targeted emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nonfat dairy, and whole-grain foods as snack foods could potentially help to improve both the nutritional quality and energy balance of children's dietary intake and perhaps prevent the development of these cardiovascular disease risk factors.”

One great way to boost their 5-A-Day is to make fruit and vegetables fun for the dipping. Combining fresh fruit or vegetables with a protein-rich dip is a fabulous way to satisfy the munchies with crunchies that are both healthful and satisfying.

This dip is versatile and simple—and can be used with any nut butters available. If you or your kids can’t do peanut butter, try soy nut butter, cashew butter, almond butter or even sesame butter, made from sesame seeds.

For dipping, try the ever-popular apple, cut in slices or cubes, or perhaps pear or banana.

Nut butters not work for your crowd? You can also create an easy, creamy dip with yogurt. A perfect base for a delectable dip, yogurt complements an extensive variety of fruit, from cherries to peaches. For a tropical twist, try pineapple or mango chunks and kiwi slices. Smooth and satisfying—and just enough to get your kids over that mid-afternoon hump to dinner and the activities of the evening.

Next week: More Snack Ideas with Whole Grains

After-School Nutty Fruit Dip

After-School Nutty Fruit Dip

Made with fruit, nut butter, milk

get the recipe

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