(BPT) - "How was your day," you ask your child after school. Rather than hearing a funny recess anecdote or story about a tough test, she murmurs back, "I'm hungry."
School days are long, and if your child participates in after-school activities, they're even longer. Busy kids need plenty of fuel to keep their bodies and minds going.
"Considering most kids get just 20 minutes to eat lunch, and some as early as 10:30 in the morning, after-school hunger becomes a big problem," says Laura Fuentes, cookbook author, food blogger and founder of MOMables.
Fuentes developed five simple tips to help fight after-school hunger and keep kids going until dinnertime.
Tip 1. Plan ahead
Adding extras to lunch keeps things interesting for kids, plus helps them feel full for longer. Plan ahead to keep hunger pangs at bay all day.
"By adding premade frozen smoothies inside my kids' lunchboxes, I'm able to keep their lunch cool, plus they quench thirst and satisfy hunger at the same time," says Fuentes.
Tip 2. Have portable snacks ready
A balanced snack that can be eaten on-the-go is a life saver. Pack the pantry with wholesome options that both parents and kids love. Additionally, don't overlook fresh fruit that is both healthy and portable.
"I love pairing Lance Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers with apple slices," says Fuentes. "They offer up to 5 grams of protein, plus are made with real peanut butter and cheddar cheese — a combination kids just love."
A snack like Lance Sandwich Crackers, which also offers gluten-free and whole-grain options, is conveniently wrapped in individual packs, making on-the-go snacking easy between activities. Learn more at www.lance.com.
Tip 3. Pack a balanced lunch
Balancing the lunchbox can help ensure kids stay satiated longer. Make sure to include protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables in every lunch you pack.
"School lunch breaks are shorter than ever, so cutting up foods into smaller pieces can make it easier and quicker to eat," Fuentes says. "Additionally, dividing the foods sent to school in multiple containers distributes the food for different break periods."
Tip 4. Make a wholesome breakfast
Many kids come home starving because they haven't eaten enough to fuel their day. Making breakfast part of your morning routine is essential for setting kids up for success.
"Two of my favorite easy and portable breakfast ideas that can be made ahead of time are quick breakfast burritos and overnight oats," says Fuentes. "They provide just the right amount of fuel and protein to help kids focus in school."
Tip 5. Rule out thirst
"Since thirst can often masquerade as hunger, it's important to have water available at all times," Fuentes says.
Try tucking an extra water bottle in your kid's backpack and offer a cup immediately when they get home. To encourage kids to drink more water, add a touch of flavor and color by placing fresh orange slices or berries inside their cup.
After-school hunger doesn't stand a chance with these smart tips. Try them out today and watch kids come home happier and feeling healthier than ever.