They won’t spoil family meals

Family dinner time is 2 hours away. Your children have come home from school, and their stomachs are rumbling.

You want to give them a snack. But you know that if they eat too much, a snack may spoil their appetite for — and their interest in — your family dinner.

What type of snack will alleviate their hunger without disturbing your dinner plans? Can you help your children learn to choose good snacks?

Here are some suggestions for healthy snacks from nutrition educators with the West Virginia University Extension Service.

Choose fruits and vegetables first 

Instead of letting your children reach for a high-fat, high-calorie snack that may spoil their appetite, serve up tasty fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients but low in calories. Also, fruits and vegetables are easy to prepare. Just wash and eat.

Stock your refrigerator with apples, grapes, celery and carrot sticks. How much is enough for one serving? A good portion size that won’t spoil a dinnertime appetite is one-half cup of chopped fruits, one-half cup of chopped vegetables, or one medium-sized whole fruit or vegetable.

Add some protein    

Is dinner going to be a little later tonight? Add a little bit of protein to their snack.

Dip celery sticks or apple slices into 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter.

Dice or slice some cheese. A 1-ounce portion of cheese is about the size of 6 dice.

Pass out nuts. A 1-ounce serving of nuts is another option for a protein source.

What did they eat already?

Before choosing what to serve for a snack, consider what you and your family have already eaten throughout the day. Did fruits and vegetables get forgotten in the daily hustle and bustle? Then, a before-dinner snack might be a way to work those fruits and vegetables into the day’s menu.

Were snack cakes and sodas the majority of the snack foods? Maybe the calories have already added up throughout the day, making the before-dinner snack unnecessary.

Be prepared: Always plan ahead

Just a little regular planning pays big rewards when you need snacks. Take stock of what is available in your house. Plan for those times when your family may want a snack between meals. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are easy to prepare and won’t spoil appetites for those important family meals.

Be mindful of portion sizes: One-half cup of chopped fruits and vegetables is just the right size to ward off hunger pangs. Add a little protein if mealtime is delayed: a serving of peanut butter, cheese, nuts or hummus dip is quick and tasty way to add protein to a snack.

Banana Bobs

1 large banana cut into ½-inch slices

¼ cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

2 Tbsp. oat-and-honey granola cereal

Divide the sliced banana pieces between two plates. Place 2 Tbsp. of yogurt onto each plate. Place 1 Tbsp. of granola cereal onto each plate.

Use fork to pick up a slice of banana and dip into the yogurt, then into the cereal. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Recipe by: Oregon State Extension Service

Yogurt Popsicles

1 quart low-fat vanilla yogurt

1 can frozen orange juice concentrate (6 ounce can)

Stir both ingredients together.  Spoon into 24 popsicle molds or small waxed paper cups. Insert wooden craft sticks in the center of each popsicle.

Freeze about 2 to 3 hours depending on the size of the popsicle. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours.

Recipe by: Oregon State Extension Service

Yogurt Parfaits

4 bananas

24 ounces low-fat vanilla yogurt

2 cups low-fat granola

Peel and chop bananas. Take half of the fruit and split it between the bottom of 6 cups or bowls. Take half of the yogurt and split it between each cup or bowl, placing it on top of the fruit. Sprinkle each cup with ¼ cup granola. Repeat layers. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Option: Drizzle with honey and top with chopped nuts.

Option: Try other fruits, such as strawberries, apples, oranges, etc. (Use 2 cups fruit for the recipe.)

Option: Use different flavors of yogurt, such as lemon or strawberry, or plain for less sugar.

Honey is not recommended for children under 1 year old.

Recipe by Oregon State Extension Service

After School Hummus   

1 can (15 ounces) reduced sodium garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

2 medium garlic cloves, minced, or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1½ Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 Tbsp. oil (vegetable or olive)

⅛ tsp. ground black pepper

½ cup plain nonfat yogurt

Use a blender or food processor. Combine garbanzo beans, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, oil, and pepper. Blend on low speed until the beans are mashed. Stir in yogurt with spoon.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight so the flavors blend. Serve with pita chips, crackers, or fresh vegetables.

Recipe by Iowa State Extension Service

Pumpkin Fruit Dip

1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin (about 1¾ cups cooked pumpkin)

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese or plain yogurt or low-fat cream cheese

¾ cup sugar

1½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, ricotta cheese or yogurt, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until smooth.

Serve with apple slices, bananas or grapes. For a smoother texture, use a hand mixer or food processor to mix ingredients.

Recipe by Oregon State Extension Service

Popcorn Trail Mix

6 cups popcorn (air popped)

2 cups Chex (chocolate flavored)

2 cups cereal (toasted oat)

2 cups pretzel twists

2 cups shredded wheat (honey flavored)

1 cup peanuts (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or bag.

Recipe by Iowa State Extension Service

“Bugs on a Log” Snack

Choose a “log” option, top with a spread and sprinkle with a “bug.”


Celery, cut in 3-inch pieces

Apples, quartered and cored

Carrot sticks, cut in 3-inch pieces


Cream cheese, low-fat, fruit flavored

Cheese, low-fat with pimiento

Peanut butter

Egg salad


Raisins, regular or golden

Whole-grain cereal, unsweetened

Sunflower seeds

Peanuts, chopped

Recipe Source: NDSU Extension Service

Cinnamon and Sugar Apple Chips

2 apples, cored and sliced ⅛-inch thick

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1½ Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Add the sliced apples to a large bowl; then coat the apples with the cinnamon and/or sugar. Either spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper and line the apple slices flat on the pan. You may need to use 2 pans so that they are not overlapping.

Bake 2 to 3 hours until the chips are dry, yet still soft. Allow to cool completely before placing them in an airtight container.

Recipe Source: NDSU Extension Service

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