How to avoid the after school slump (and grump) with these fruit and veggie snacks

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by Lisa Byrne

Lisa is the bestselling author of Replenish and founder of WellGrounded Life. She's got a big-hearted vision of a world where moms are fully equipped to live calm, healthy, and vibrant lives. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, three kids, and 110 pound yellow lab.

There is just something about that after school hour that can get dicey. It’s a natural lull in the day, and this low energy often means a mood crash.  And if you have kids in school, the transition home from school just adds to the perfect storm.

I’ve come to know the 3 o’clock hour as ripe for low energy, grumpy moods, and a major temptation for some serious snacking. If this sounds familiar, choosing the right mini-meal at this time of the day is crucial for a more pleasant transition into the evening hours.

I keep a list of healthy, veggie-focused snacks on the refrigerator.  Hungry and grumpy are not the best times to rely on your creative powers to think of an energizing snack. 

Here are nine ways to make snacking healthy for everyone.

1. The fruit and veggie snacking plate

Deceptively simple, the trick is to just do it.  I’ve never cut up a plate of bite-sized raw fruits and veggies without the whole plate eaten clean.  If it’s in front of you, you’ll happily snack on it.

You could also include a little bowl of healthy ranch dressing.

2. Veggie quesadillas

These can be doctored up with layers of chopped veggies between the cheese and beans—excellent options are red bell pepper, spinach, corn, and onion.

3. Wrap hors d’oeuvres

I start by spreading cream cheese on a whole wheat or corn tortilla. Then I layer toppings that I know our family enjoys, such as sliced turkey breast and thin strips of red pepper, shredded carrot and raisins, avocado, and cheese. Mix and match to see what your kids will like. 

Once the wrap is rolled, cut them into bite sized sections.  Pop in a toothpick and you have a healthy, quick snack.


Photo by suxxle

4. Green smoothies

You don’t need much to make a delicious and nutrient-packed smoothie. Some frozen berries, water and dark leafy greens are the basics. Here’s a quick video where I share some of my favorite green smoothie tips.

5. Hot, air-popped popcorn

If kids just want that traditional snack-y feel, I opt for fresh, hot-air popped popcorn. Sprinkle with some butter and parmesan for a yummy snack. Even better, shake a little nutritional yeast on top. It tastes cheesy and is loaded with great nutrition, especially for kids who don’t eat much meat.

6. Pizza triangles

Homemade pizza freezes well, so I’ll often make an extra pie and freeze it in small triangles—these are great for quick reheats in a toaster oven. Healthy toppings are diced summer squash, black olives, spinach, or red pepper.

7. Veggie omelet cups

I make simple veggie omelets in muffin tins and then freeze them for quick reheats later. One of our family favorites is “Green Eggs and Ham” with spinach and ham bits.

8.  Berry and yogurt bowls

Simple, sweet and satisfying, layer some berries, grapes, healthy granola, or dried fruit and yogurt in a bowl.

9. Cottage cheese and fruit

Cottage cheese is a great, protein-rich option for kids who like its slightly sweet taste, and it pairs wonderfully with a scoop of apple sauce, some dried fruits, or sunflower seeds. One of my favorite snacks is cottage cheese, raisins, and sunflower seeds.

Parents dread snacking before dinner, but sometimes we all need a little healthy boost at the 3 o’clock hour. If we can get in excellent nutrition when we snack and then shift to a lighter dinner, our metabolism, energy levels, and mood will all benefit.

What’s your experience with the 3 o’clock slump? How do you transition into the dinner hour energized and upbeat?

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Comments

  1. I really like the veggie omelet cup idea! I’m going to have to remember that.

    I usually tend to fall into the sugary snack trap that time of day — these options are a lot better!

  2. I usually hit the slump about 4pm. I try to always pack raw veggies or fresh fruit to snack on at work. Much easier to avoid the never ending sweets platter in the work break room when I have healthy options in my lunch bag. I love green smoothies too although only make these when I am at home. Great info!

  3. Thanks for the tips! I feel like I am in a creative slump right now when it comes to lunches and snacks. Do you have any ideas for dairy-free snacks? This is part of my problem. ;) Most of the easy/healthy snack combos contain dairy and my 1 and 3 year old are allergic to it. sigh.

    • You could do the tortilla rollups with peanut butter and raisins or jelly, apple slices with peanut butter, a couple of small bowls with dry cheerios and diced banana or strawberry, and any of the dairy foods can be replaced with almond, rice or soy substitutes!

      • Jen – We have the same challenge with dairy allergies! We also try to eat mostly vegetarian so it can get interesting … Both kids like hummus with fresh cut veggies or rolled in a tortilla. We also have “powerballs” regularly and you can vary the ingredients — just combine peanut butter, rolled oats, flaxseed and/or chia seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, carob chips and honey. Roll them in bite-sized balls and watch them disappear! :)

  4. Now that the turtle (our 18 mos old’s nickname) is “snacking age” we really try to have healthy snacks on hand at all times. Every couple of days I cut up carrots and apples and keep them at my little guy’s arms’ reach in the fridge. We also have cheese, organic crackers (we’re fond of the Kashi brand), berries and raisins in the house. We’ve found that healthy snacks are the secret to a happy toddler.

  5. It’s not just the kids! 2:30 has always been my lowpoint even in my pre-kid days. If I was ever going to fall asleep at my desk as a 23-year-old, 2:30 was the time!

    Practically, that means that things go much better for the kids AND for me when I plan for 3:00 snack way before 3:00.

    That picture (of smokin’ hot habanero peppers) cracks me up! Is this an April Fools snack?

  6. What great ideas. I have been reading alot about whole food diets, and have been trying to think of ways to make nutritional snacks fro my kids. This helps!

  7. YES, our kids fall apart after school. They’ve been working hard and staying on their best behavior all day, and then they get home, and are hungry! Perfect storm.

    When you say, “healthy ranch dressing”… I know it’s possible to make this, but if I want to go for convenience, can you recommend a brand that isn’t chock full of hydrogenated soybean oil and MSG? My kids love ranch dressing, but I shudder at the ingredient list on the common brands!

    Thanks for the wonderful tips!

  8. Love these ideas! I’ll have to try the veggie omelets when our hens go nuts laying eggs. And cottage cheese with tomatoes and salad dressing, or peaches is a favorite. I’ll have to try the raisin/sunflower combo!
    Here are my 8 favorite healthy snacks that I turn to when I’m working and when my kids’ tummies are rumbling:

    http://fitfamilytogether.com/8-healthy-snacks-that-will-keep-you-going

  9. Thanks for the tips! I get off work at 3:00, so I’m the one who’s feeling grumpy! I’m glad you’re focusing on veggies and fruit (a bonus for my vegan family). I agree that a veggie snacking plate will get completely devoured if left out.

  10. Great ideas. I think I’ll give my daughter some popcorn with parmesan cheese after school today.

  11. Thanks for the great ideas!! With the pizza, do you freeze it before or after baking it?

  12. I love love love all of these ideas. Any chance you have a link for the Veggie Omelet Cups idea?

  13. These sound good for grownups too!

  14. A lot of really good recommendations here. We’re big on hot-air popcorn (indeed, with nutritional yeast – it’s my daughter’s favorite), and veggies dipped in hummus, and green smoothies. I do the berries and greens ones regularly, but another one that I recommend is bananas and dates (with some shredded coconut) and LOTS of spinach
    - 2 frozen bananas
    - 5 dates (pits removed)
    - 4+ cups of spinach
    - 3 cups of water
    - Optionally 1/4 cup shredded coconut

    It’s a beautiful emerald green, and SO delicious!

  15. oh these fruits and veggies are a great help. with some extra efforts(a little) like cutting and dicing perfectly, my kids sure like to eat them a lot more. such good impact on the mind. keep up the good work.

  16. such great effect with the fruits and veggies perfectly cut and diced to kids choice. my wife is much more relaxed in the after school hours. the general mood crushes have now transformed into light crunchy moments she says.

  17. I serve beans for an after school snack – in hummus, in a cup or on a tortilla with salsa. They’re inexpensive and so good for kids – well, for everyone! I soak 6 cups dried beans and cook them in my crock-pot to freeze or process. (The yield on 6 cups of dried beans equals about 15 cups cooked.) Plus, kids love to sing the song…beans, beans the musical fruit…

  18. Oh, where was this when I just downed one too many chips?? Taking note for tomorrow ;)

  19. Awesome ideas! This will be a great snack to serve to my children after school.. Healthy and delicious! :)

  20. Love these ideas and inspires me to not give into goldfish or pretzels every time. We do pistachios pretty regularly around here and that seems to go over well. We also do apples with peanut butter and celery with peanut butter. I love the idea to post the list on the fridge. Thanks!

  21. avatar
    Sally Thompson says:

    Thanks for this great ideas.. This will be a great snack to serve to children!

  22. Some great ideas here! I like that you included some with protein as well. We tend to have blood sugar issues around here and eating a bite of protein every few hours keeps it stable.
    We love smoothies and they seem like a real treat! You don’t have to tell them it’s good for them, lol!
    Bernice

  23. Sounds great..we have this issue daily.

  24. While my son is too young for this issue (his appetite swings between mashed banana, pureed pumpkin and the breast) my hubby is a shocker for walking in the door after work, going straight to the cupboard and attacking greasy chips, any biscuits (cookies) we may have and anything else he can lay his hands on.

    These recipes have given me inspiration! Thanks!

  25. Love the pizza triangle idea! I’ll have to make an extra pizza and try them out next time we have family pizza night. Thanks!

  26. Veggie Omelet cups are a great idea. The cup shape will make this snack so very appealing.

  27. so glad I found your site (found thru twitter). I will definitely be trying many of these ideas ! thank you so much. just became your newest follower.

  28. Really great ideas! I’m saving this to my home page. There are so many schools in our area that my kids school doesn’t get out until 4! by then it’s almost dinner time so snacks are always an issue.

  29. Raspberries make great snacks. They are very nutritious and high in anti-oxidants.
    I began a website devoted only and entirely to raspberries, including 100′s of recipes with pictures, nutritional information, growing information and more! Find snack recipes made with healthy raspberries free to use!

  30. Thank you so much for the great ideas!

  31. Great ideas! I love to get the kids to pick out some veggies then we chop them up straight away and place them in bright coloured boxes and they always have snacks! I find when they are involved in some choices the veggies tend to get in them!

  32. Love these ideas. Lately we’ve been letting our eldest son make some of his own “healthy” choices for his lunch and after school snack. Our promise…to have items for him. His promise to choose it. However recently I’ve seen his “choosing” has not happened. So as with each of us learning a new skill, a refresher is needed.

    With these new ideas I think he and I will be back on track of keeping moods up and tummies happy. Thanks for the refresher.

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