When the hours between lunch and dinner seem to stretch on forever, and noon's sandwich has disappeared to leave in its wake only a grumbling hunger, there's only one thing to do.
But some snacks are better than others. While a bag of potato chips or a candy bar might sound tasty, they lack the nutrients to fill you up so you can last until dinner.
"When you want to grab a snack, you want something that will be fulfilling," Whatcom Farm to School coordinator Mardi Solomon said.
Farm to School recently worked with Ferndale High School students to come up with some fun, healthy snack ideas. Some of their treats are included below.
Kale chips can be a great substitute for salty, fatty potato chips. The basic ingredients are simple: kale, olive oil and a pinch of salt, baked in the oven at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. There's plenty of room for flavor exploration too; just sprinkle them with your favorite seasoning, whether it's garlic, curry powder or a little chili. Students mixed the recipe up by using root vegetables such as beets and sweet potatoes and drizzling them with honey.
"They're delicious," Solomon says. "I'm telling you, my children fight over kale chips. They're really good. They're very satisfying in that salty, crunchy way you want in a snack."
Granola takes some time to make, but once you've made it you can store it and have it over the course of weeks. This versatile snack can work for breakfast with milk or yogurt, or even as a nutritious dessert. Mix up oats, chopped nuts and seeds and stir with oil and a sweet syrup like honey that has been cooked over a low heat. Spread the mixture out on a pan and cook about 30 minutes at 350 degrees until golden, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Once it's out of the oven, add in your favorite dried fruits.
You can also use nut butters and ground dates instead of oil to make granola into bars that are a great grab-and-go snack.
"The nuts and seeds and grains and fruits that are in the granola give you the mix of energy food and the sweet and crunchy satisfying snack option," Solomon says. "You have a snack that's going to sustain you over a long period of time. It really keeps you going."
HEALTHY BANANA MUFFINS
Muffins are another snack that take a little work on the front end to mix together and bake, but once they're done they make a perfect portable snack. You can start with a basic banana muffin recipe using whole wheat flour, then add more fruits and nuts (raisins, apricots, walnuts, you name it) or even some flax seed to pack an extra punch. Solomon's kids haven't even noticed that she's been sneaking flax seed meal into the banana muffins they love.
"Muffins are a great way to sneak in healthy grains and fruits," Solomon says.
Your basic hummus recipe calls for garbanzo beans, roasted tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic blended together in a food processor. Some students in the snack contest got creative, though, and used black beans and lime juice to put a southwestern spin on this Middle Eastern dip. Pair it with carrot sticks and bell pepper slices, or cut up pitas into wedges and toast them for homemade pita chips.
Smoothies are a great snack for warm afternoons. Just cut up some banana, and add whatever frozen fruit, juice, milk or yogurt you've got into the blender and watch it swirl into something delicious. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even add a little kale or spinach, though it's easier to sneak those veggies in when you've got strong fruit flavors like banana or pineapple juice to balance them out. This is a quick and easy snack that's fun to play around with.
"You throw everything in the blender, grind it up and you're done," Solomon says.
FRUITS AND VEGGIES
"You can't do better than just plain fruits and vegetables," Solomon says.
To make it accessible for kids, keep bags of cut up veggies in the fridge. Chop up celery, carrots, bell peppers or cucumbers - whatever your kid is into - and keep a few snack-sized portions in bags ready to go. The same goes for apple slices and orange segments. Add a little container of yogurt dip for the fruit, and hummus or guacamole for the vegetables, and you've got yourself a picnic.
It's essentially fruit salad on a stick, and kids love to eat it. Just cut some of their favorite fruits into chunks - watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes, strawberries and kiwis are all just a little more fun to eat when they're on a skewer.
"It's like you get to play with your food and then eat it," Solomon says.
ANTS ON A LOG
This classic kids snack is an oldie but a goody. Just swipe some peanut butter onto a stick of celery and sprinkle on some raisin "ants," and you've got a yummy little treat that can give kids a little protein and veggie punch. For a savory option, try topping your celery with cream cheese mixed with herbs.
WRAPS AND ROLLUPS
If you've got lunchmeat and sliced cheese, then you've got yourself a protein-packed snack. Lay down a piece of ham, turkey or roast beef and then top it with your favorite thin-sliced cheese and roll it up. If your kids like spicy mustard, you can add a layer between meat and cheese for an extra zip. Cut them up into bite-sized pieces and serve them up for a quick finger food.
"That's one where you can make a bunch ahead of time and have them ready to go," Solomon says.
Go to the bulk foods aisle at the store and pick out some nuts, dried fruits, maybe some yogurt-covered raisins and sesame sticks and add in little pretzels and some Cheerios. Then mix them up and separate them into portions to grab and go. Kids can munch on them throughout the day. It's their own custom trail mix.