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Operation After-School Snack: How To Avoid Hangry Kids

Lunchtime at school is far from a lingering, leisurely affair. Between the often questionable (and almost always brown) choices on offer, the 15 minutes allotted for inhalation and the fact that lunch often ends by 11 am, most kids burst out of those school doors with one thing on their minds: Food.

Regardless of how ravenous hunger affects your particular kiddos, you’re wise to arrive at pickup packing some serious snackage. But give them empty sugar-centric calories as a quick fix and within 20 minutes, they’ll be crying famine again. This time, hangrier than ever.

The best way to defuse a hypoglycemic meltdown is to get some protein in them stat - especially when they are straight off to a sport or extracurricular activity and then homework’s on the agenda and dinner is still hours away. Serenity now!

Sure, dates are high in sugar, but wrapped in prosciutto or stuffed with pecan peanut butter or a piece of nutty, semi-firm cheese, they become instantaneous fuel-injectors. Plus, since they come bearing dietary fiber, iron, potassium, B-vitamins and more, they’re a sweet treat already approved by Mother Nature herself.

Higher in protein and lower in fat than beef - and free (by law!) of antibiotics and growth hormones - bison is a meat-eater’s dream come true. Transform it into this portable, tender, perfectly spiced jerky and it’s a snacker’s dream come true. Doubt its kid-appeal? My very own on-again-off-again meat-eater devoured half a bag in one standing.          

While legumes alone might not elicit enthusiasm from small starving scholars, these crispy, salty and slightly spicy chickpeas undoubtedly will. Or, if split peas are an easier sell (who doesn’t love split pea soup?), these crunchy, smoky guys (reminiscent of BBQ potato chips!) are impossible to stop popping. Combined in a baggie with tart cherries or dried cranberries and blueberries, legumes get the huzzah they deserve.     

Air-popped popcorn also makes for a guiltless snack, but it doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of protein or flavor. Bjorn Qorn, popped with the power of sunlight, ups corn’s nutrition quotient via a generous sprinkle of nutritional yeast. Not only does it add four grams of protein per 28 gram bag, but it also adds more than 100% of our recommended daily allowance of B6 (which provides energy and balances blood sugar). Best of all? The yeast adds an umami-rich flavor that tastes just like white Cheddar! Pop goes our hearts.

Granola bars are not all created equal: some contain more sugar than a candy bar. But combine pumpkin seed peanut butter with oats, quinoa, whey-protein and roasted pumpkin seeds like Big Spoon Roasters does in their Apricot Pumpkin Seed PB Energy Bar, and protein grams tower over sugar grams. It’s a one-stop snack that gets the job done and then some.   

Phew, that was a close one. Crisis averted. All the other parents will wonder just how you do it.  

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