Kitchen Focus

If the first things your kids reach for when they come home from school are candy and soda, you are setting yourself up for trouble at dinner time and health problems galore for your youngsters. Instead, try to encourage them to eat right by having healthy snacks available for them. You might even want to organize them so that they get different snacks each day of the week.

Snacks that are ideal for after school should be fairly small and ideally include a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat ... or at least two of the three. Some examples include:

  • peanut butter on apple slices
  • ranch dressing with vegetables sticks
  • an English muffin spread with tomato sauce and topped with cheese before toasting
  • granola bars
  • small amounts of fruit and cheese
  • steamed soybeans -- leave them in the pods ... they are fun to open!
  • popcorn
  • yogurt with fruit or cereal mixed in
  • a snack mix consisting of cereal, peanuts and mini M&Ms

One of the most important things to consider when putting together snacks for your kids is that they will be eating dinner in a few hours, so keep the snacks small. It doesn't take much to curb hunger and you can easily ruin an appetite if you are not careful.

Before I leave you to your plans, here are a couple quick recipe ideas for keeping hunger at bay without ruining a healthy dinner:

Peanut Butter Nuggets

These are delicious, sugar free treats that are no bake. What more could you ask for?
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice concentrate, thawed

Combine the peanut butter, milk powder and coconut in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the oats, ground cinnamon, wheat germ and apple juice concentrate.

Shape into 1 inch balls. Chill thoroughly before serving. Store the bars refrigerated.

  • Yields: 30 bars
  • Preparation Time: About 10 minutes

Spiced Peach Oatmeal Muffins

  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted and diced fresh peaches
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line them with paper muffin liners.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, buttermilk, brown sugar, applesauce, molasses and eggs. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Stir the flour mixture into the eggs mixture, just until moistened. Carefully fold in the peaches. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups.

Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes. While the muffins are baking, combine 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. After 15 minutes of baking, remove the muffins from the oven and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Return to the oven and continue baking for 3 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

  • Yields: 1 dozen muffins
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes
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