Give your kids a body boost. Provide energy-packed, after-school snacks that contain a good chunk of the day's nutrition.
Kids have small stomachs, but high calorie needs. Seven to 10-year-olds require about 2,000 calories a day to cover growth, play and study needs.
It's a rare youngster who can pack all that food into three meals, or go the distance between lunch (in some schools as early as 10:30 a.m.) and dinner (in some homes as late as 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.).
Well-chosen snacks can make a significant contribution toward your child's protein, vitamin, mineral and fiber needs. The right portions, well-timed, will actually improve dinner interest. And your concerned involvement will help meet your child's emotional needs, as well. (How's that for a "quality time" investment?)
Improve the impact of the snack plan by talking it over with your child ahead of time. Suggest a variety of acceptable foods, then let your child decide which you will buy, and which he will eat on a given day. Discuss portion without destroying dinner appetite.
(All of this presupposes, of course, that your cupboards aren't packed with "empty calorie" or high-fat junk foods that invite a low nutrition pig out.)
If you have "latchkey" kids, decide on the snack the night before. Perhaps portion or pack it then. If at all possible, make a phone call home at snack time to improve the emotional connection.
Snack foods should be pretty basic and close to natural. Choose from whole grain breads, cold cereals, low-fat dairy foods, fruits and vegetables.
Here are some ideas to prime the pump. Brainstorm with your kids to build a list of family favorites.
* Good old-fashioned cookies and milk. But choose lowfat cookies such as fig bars, vanilla wafers, graham crackers or animal crackers. Also, Nabisco Devil's Food Cakes and FFV Devil's Food Trolley Cakes are very low in fat. Most of the time, choose cookies containing less than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories. And choose low-fat milk, either white or chocolate.
* Cinnamon raisin bagel and a box of apple juice.
* Banana and a carton of nonfat yogurt.
* Part-skim mozzarella string cheese and an apple.
* Raw vegetables and low-fat cottage cheese-based dip
* Whole grain crackers and Alpine Lace cheese.
* Cinnamon graham crackers and natural applesauce.
* Celery stuffed with peanut butter and raisins.
* Pretzels and milk.
For a free copy of "10 Tips To Healthy Eating For Kids" send a self-addressed, stamped, business-sized envelope to: Kids Tims, P.O. Box 1144, Rockville 20850.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.