After-School Snacks That Can Double as Dinner

Sometimes kids need an after-school snack that sustains them for the evening.

When it comes to after-school snacks, a handful of chips or a cookie doesn't cut it, especially for my busy tween and teen. They often have just an hour or two of down time after school before going off to music lessons, sports practices, or other activities. And since those activities often happen during dinner time, my kids need an after-school snack that is just as filling and nutritious as an evening meal.

Younger children, too, often need a substantial mid- to late-afternoon snack. Their small bellies just require more frequent feeding--but of course, it's best to fill them with nutritious nibbles like these.

Make-Ahead Muffins

Girl eating muffin for after-school snack
Robert Kneschke / Getty Images

Many kids love muffins. There's just something about their kid-friendly size, and you can pack them with tons of nutrients. Plus, they are portable and easy to make in big batches. Freeze and then thaw on low power in the microwave.

Barbara Brandt is a curriculum developer, mom, and author of Your Kids: Cooking! A Recipe for Turning Ordinary Kids Into Extraordinary Cooks (buy the book and DVD set at Amazon). She suggests two simple muffin recipes, one sweet and one savory. Serve with a glass of milk and some fresh fruit or vegetables for a filling snack that offers protein, fiber, antioxidants and energy-boosting carbs.

  • Banana Oat Muffins: Mix 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats, 1 cup yogurt, 3/4 cup sugar of your choice, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 2 ripe bananas. Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes. Brandt says: "These muffins are an easy-to-make delicious snack full of whole grains, dairy, and fruit. Add some nuts for some added protein, or chocolate chips just because! Get creative and add things like diced apples, raisins, cranberries ... whatever your kids like."
  • Cauliflower Muffins: Shred one head of cauliflower in a food processor and then fry with a little olive or coconut oil for about 7 minutes (until slightly softened). Mix with 2 eggs, lightly whisked; 1/2 cup almond meal; 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese; and 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt. Place mixture into greased muffin tins. Bake at 400°F for 30-35 minutes or until the tops are browned and crispy. Brandt says: "Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that can be used in all kinds of ways for low-carb baking and cooking. If your kids like bread and biscuits, these muffins provide a healthier alternative. You could also add chives, rosemary, bacon bits or other flavorings of your choice."

Crudité Tray

Variety is your friend here: Let kids mix and match their own after-school snack from an array of healthy choices. If you have time to cut or serve them in a fun way, even better. But finger food is the main appeal here.

  • Raw vegetables: Carrots, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and so on. Also try steamed or boiled edamame pods.
  • Cheese: Small cubes (cutting up a string cheese stick is easy) or thin slices
  • Fruit: Slices or chunks of apple, melon, banana, pear, or tangerine; berries; dried fruits
  • Nuts: Cashews, almonds, peanuts and other nuts are a good source of protein and healthy fats, but a choking hazard for kids under 5, and of course hazardous to kids with certain allergies.
  • Crackers: Opt for whole-grain, low-fat versions if you can. Pretzels and popcorn are also popular.
  • Dips: Try guacamole, salsa, or a yogurt-based dip so you're adding more nutrients than fat.


Okay, the word is not exactly inspirational, nor is the idea. But I urge you not to forget about pre-made snacks just waiting for you to serve. That's what leftovers are, right? Break out yesterday's dinner, warm it up, and you are done. Or, use leftovers to make new dishes, or to fill out a sandwich or soup.

Breakfast for Snacktime

My teen daughter often comes home from school and scrambles herself an egg or two, or blends up a fruit smoothie. Lots of breakfast dishes make fine after-school snacks.

More »

Beautiful Bites

Here are two more options from cookbook author Barbara Brandt. They have the bite-size appeal of chicken nuggets or tater tots, but with a lot more nutrition. As with muffins, pair with some fruit for a well-rounded snack.

  • Broccoli Cauliflower Quinoa Bites: Chop and steam 2 cups each of broccoli and cauliflower florets. Pulse the steamed cauliflower in a food processor to make crumb-size pieces, then cool. Combine the following in a bowl: 3 eggs, beaten; 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese; 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese; 1/2 cup cooked quinoa; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix in the broccoli and cauliflower. Press mixture into greased mini muffin tins and bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes until golden.
  • Spinach Bites: In a large bowl, combine 20 ounces frozen spinach (thawed and thoroughly drained), 1 box chicken flavor stuffing mix, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, 8 ounces mozzarella cheese (finely grated), 5 eggs (lightly whisked), 1 onion (finely minced, or grated), 1/2 cup melted butter, and 1 tablespoon each of oregano and basil. Mix thoroughly, then form into small balls. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes.

After-School Child Care

If your child is enrolled in an after-school child care program, you may have little control over what snacks he is served. This link takes you to suggested guidelines for snacks in after-school programs. You can share them with your program provider and ask that they be implemented. Or, if possible and permitted, pack your child his own healthy after-school meal.

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