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Healthy Snacks Provide Fuel for School

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Three children are sitting down eating apples and smiling.


With the beginning of a new school year right around the corner, many children will be depending on snacks to get them through the day.


It’s always good to start the day with a healthy breakfast, and schools provide a healthy lunch. However, between sports practices, club meetings, completing homework assignments and other after-school activities, snacks can help students make it through the day without feeling hungry, said Jenni Klufa, Oklahoma State University Extension associate state specialist for youth programs.


“Our schedules can become very hectic once school resumes and most children will begin after-school snack routines,” Klufa said. “The purpose of snacks is to fill gaps in nutrition between meals, but oftentimes, snacks are treated as indulgences instead of healthy choices. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional cookie or piece of candy, snacking is a good opportunity to eat nutrient-rich foods. Sweets should be the exception, not the rule.”


Students will need energy to get through after-school sports practices, band rehearsals and other activities. Snacks that include whole grains, are high in protein low in sugar and low in fat will provide the needed nutrients for students to thrive. Choose fruits and vegetables that come in a variety of colors.


Parents of younger students may be asked to sign up to bring snacks to school if the classrooms observe a morning or afternoon snack time. Klufa encourages them to choose healthier, less sugary options such as cheese sticks, trail mix, pretzels or even baby carrots and apple slices. 


“Healthy snacks during class will help keep the students focused on learning,” she said. “They burn up energy not only on the playground, but in the classroom as well. So, it’s important to keep students properly fed to enhance their learning experiences.”


It’s no secret that fresh fruit is a great choice for snacking. Fruits offer nutrient-dense calories, which means they are full of minerals and vitamins that we need without added or empty calories. Whole fruits such as apples and bananas are portable and can be tossed in a backpack. Peel oranges ahead of time to make them even easier to consume while students are on the go. 


“For an extra kick of nutrition, include a pack of nut butter to go along with the fruit. This will help ensure your children have the fuel they need to perform at their after-school activities,” Klufa said.


When it comes to beverages, water is the best choice to stay hydrated during activity. Some 100% juice on occasion is fine but be aware of calories, especially in other sugary beverages. Children can easily consume a lot of extra calories and sugar just in their beverage choices.


Students who may not have after-school activities still are likely to need a snack to tide them over until dinner time. Make a list of healthy options and let the child choose which snacks to have at home. Whole-grain cereal bars, whole fruits and vegetables, string cheese, nuts and raisins are good choices. Make popsicles from 100% fruit juice or yogurt. Pretzel sticks or veggies dipped in hummus are also a great choice.


“Just like buying the right back-to-school supplies, be sure to stock the kitchen with healthy snack options,” Klufa said. “Parents can certainly make a difference if they are a good role model and make healthy food choices, too. Having healthy snacks for children is just one way to make sure they have a great school year.”

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